Where can Paul Gallen drink in peace?

When will NRL players learn? Once again it’s the Cronulla Sharks’ Paul Gallen in trouble for an off-field incident; and it really doesn’t matter whether he was the instigator in this situation or not because he simply shouldn’t have got himself into a situation such as this.

Some NRL players hit the booze and cause trouble, others are simply victims of idiotic behaviour by bystanders – but either way it’s usually booze and late nights that stir up the trouble.

We are generally seeing the same players caught up in the trouble net. For Paul Gallen it’s at least the second incident we know about. Gallen was involved in a brawl with a teammate after their golden point win over the Eels late in the 2007 season. Again it was alcohol fueled and a late night romp – a recipe for disaster for any budding NRL player.

The advice couldn’t be more simple. It’s not a matter of totally walking away from the drink and the nightlife; either do it with control or simply fly to Melbourne or Adelaide where 90% of the NRL players would not be recognised by locals.

Seriously. Interstate flights are cheap, convenient and NRL players could have a big night with the comfort of knowing they won’t end up in the papers the next morning. The chances of the public causing trouble for NRL players in Melbourne or Adelaide is next to zero – because they won’t be recognised; meaning they would just be another pub or club patron.

So Mr Gallen, if you want to keep getting on the drink and having the big nights without the public causing trouble – get yourself into a frequent flyer program and start calling an inter-state pub your local. It might just be the best move you make of a weekend and just might pro-long your career.

Steve Folkes: The Future

With the Bulldogs working through tough times in 2007 to scrape into the NRL Top 8, their eventual humiliation by arch rival Parramatta put the heat squarely back on the club and Premiership winning coach Steve Folkes.

With fans and officials searching for answers, reports suggest Steve Folkes confronted his players and offered his resignation if they felt new blood in the coaching ranks would assist the Bulldogs in the years ahead. A brave and bold move by the dedicated coach, a move that was dismissed quickly by Dogs players as they put a forgettable 2007 behind them.

Steve Folkes has reportedly said his future really holds only two options, either retirement from coaching altogether or the possibility of starting afresh, ideally coaching the St George Illawarra Dragons.

Folkes, a passionate family man lives only 20 minutes from his Belmore base and the shift to St George would not add too much time to the journey. Folkes is also a known fitness man and continues to involve himself deeply in training drills with his players – keeping him sharp and focused, and certainly seeming along way off retirement.

The match-up of the Dragons with Steve Folkes is an interesting one. The raw potential of the Dragons has been questioned under rookie coach Nathan Brown – the thought of a more disciplined and hardnosed Dragons under Folkes is certainly something that would strike fear into opposing NRL teams.

Folkes has achieved plenty at the Bulldogs, culminating in a well deserved premiership in 2004; after a long reign a change could be a good thing for coach and club. It seems the quality of the first half of 2008 for the Bulldogs will ultimately determine the future direction for the talented Steve Folkes.

South Sydney Sponsor Situation

My how the tables have turned in Bunnyville. The previously struggling South Sydney Rabbitohs now able to pick and choose major sponsors and they dump Firepower as the no.1 club sponsor only 1 year into a 3 year deal.

There has always been plenty of speculation about the secretive Firepower company. The fuel additive business outlaying huge dollars on most areas of Australian sport including: Basketball, V8 Supercar Racing and AFL sponsorship.

As investigations by ASIC into Firepower ramped up; Souths moved quickly to distance themselves and other sponsors from the company in question. Reports suggests several other Souths sponsors were uncomfortable with the Firepower association.

For the Rabbitohs of yesteryear, this would have been a huge hurdle. Regularly struggling for top line sponsorship – the Bunnies would have buried their head and hung onto the 1 million per year support money.

These days, not only can Souths tear up sponsorship deals they aren’t happy with – but they are able to replace the deal with a new one at double the price. Life looks much better at the top doesn’t it? With the likes of Peter Holmes a Court and Russell Crowe steering the ship around, business nous and access to high level media coverage (even in the off-season) is much greater.

With a finals berth in 2007 and regular TV and print media coverage, the Bunnies are now very lucrative to companies wanting their name associated with a popular and recognizable brand that is regularly in the public eye.

For potential new sponsors; the chance to get on board with the ‘peoples team’ and one with ‘underdog’ values is also very powerful. Association with a brand like the Rabbitohs can really enhance how the public feel about a sponsor company.

Roll on Souths fans, it seems like your club is continuing to grow and grow. Most definitely “The Nips are Getting Bigger!”

Telstra Stadium, Homebush

Telstra Stadium must be offering some serious incentives to NRL clubs, as the Homebush based former Olympic Venue continues to lure big matches away from traditional NRL home grounds.

The Parramatta Eels are the latest NRL team to be swayed by the Telstra Stadium carrot. The Eels have signed an agreement to play two big matches at the venue next year. The Eels choosing to forfeit their traditional Parramatta Stadium homeground against arch rivals the Bulldogs and Dragons next year.

The move to Telstra means essentially the Eels are playing their home game against the Bulldogs, at Canterbury’s home venue. The move has divided Eels fans, with half applauding the move to house a larger crowd, but the remainder furious over losing their home venue advantage.

With dollars playing a large part in enticing the NRL clubs into Homebush, the continued discounting by Telstra Stadium is working well as a total of 34 NRL matches will be played at the former Olympic Venue in 2008.

Kangaroos Big Win – Good or Bad for League?

It was a comprehensive shut-out of the Kiwis. The Australian Kangaroos again proving too good for the NZ Rugby League side.

A scoreline of 58-0 really hurts the international game of Rugby League though. With arch enemy Rugby Union in a massive hole, it’s a shame the League World couldn’t throw up a close, riveting encounter for the world to see.

The Wallabies are lacking quality players, coaching and silverware – it was a perfect time for the Rugby League boys to step up.

The sheer quality, skill and depth of the Australians are belting the likes of NZ, England and others regularly and it will raise concerns over the upcoming League World Cup.

While the Aussies would be proud of their massive win on foreign soil, the Kiwi supporters already hurting from All-Black failure would be disgusted with the Leaguies and yet again will shun the 13 a side game.

Australian power brokers seriously need to invest in the rest of the World to ensure that Rugby League can once again be a powerful world-wide sport.

Michael Robertson Sausage Dance

Manly’s Michael Robertson has been caught doing a ‘flashdance’ during a Steve Menzies FOX Interview shortly after their Grand Final loss. Exposing himself in the video below; as Menzies discusses the Eagles horror loss, Robertson can be seen in the right hand corner of the screen doing a sausage dance.

Come on Michael it’s bad enough you just got walloped in the Grand Final, let alone walk the sausage or should we say thrust the sausage in our faces!

Check the footage out below:

NRL Players Exposed in 2007

Looking back at 2007, not only did the NRL produce some spectacular Rugby League with the likes of boom rookies; Israel Folau, Kris Inu and Jarrod Mullen showing their wares – many other players will be remembered for their exploited weaknesses this year.

With NRL Rugby League teams continuing to get closer in talent and facilities each year, naturally every team is studying hard to exploit the weaknesses available in some players. Hours of video training allow coaches and assistants to pin-point possible players to target and will rally their troops to probe at certain positions.

This year the following players were examined and had their weaknesses exposed:

Manu Vatuvei (Warriors) – The big and strong Warriors winger was turned into a bundle of nerves at Parramatta Stadium this year when the Eels continued to bomb his wing without surrender. Wave after wave of bombing raids came his way and big Vatuvei was virtually closing his eyes and hoping for the best as things wore on. All told Vatuvei was directly responsible for 3 tries against his team that night, and would have let in another had a 50/50 video ref call not gone his way. After this match, all other NRL teams began sounding our Vatuvei through attacking high kicks.

Steve Matai (Manly) – The aggressive Kiwi outside back is known for his big hits and elusive running, but in 2007 several teams worked out that his aggression is also his biggest weakness. Matai was regularly sucked in by opposing attacking raids, enticing him to charge out of the line as the attackers passed around him and scored in his corner. Matai did little to curb his habit, preferring to ensure the big hits came off rather than keep his aggression in check.

Eric Grothe (Eels) – A bittersweet year for the Eels winger, the solid speed man hitting his straps in attack and receiving accolades for his form – but also copping plenty of mentions for his questionable line defence and sometimes wavering commitment to Rugby League. Not a noted trainer, Grothe Juniors mindset came through when he turned down a Kangaroo jersey to concentrate on his music.

Benji Marshall (Tigers) – A living legend only 2 years ago when he helped the Wests Tigers to their maiden NRL premiership; Benji Marshall is a walking hospital ward with continual shoulder problems and horrid defence technique for his team. Regularly hidden on the flanks, opposing teams initially bombed him into submission; making the classy pivot look ordinary when trying to defend kicks and the final straw was his effort against Newcastle where his two late lapses cost his team a spot in the finals.

Richie Williams (Penrith) – The former St George pivot moved to the Panthers mid-season but was badly exposed in defence. His one on one tackling needs a lot of work and the Dragons must be stoked to have offloaded the live wire half. Shows promise and elusive attack, but 2007 has left him a major target for opposing runners.

Referee Paul Simpkins Retires

NRL referee Paul Simpkins has followed in the footsteps of Steve Clark this week in deciding to call it quits.

Veteran Paul Simpkins walking away from the NRL Referee ranks to explore promotion in the NSW Police Force ranks.

The NRL will be forced to blood a stack of new referee talent in 2008 with the experienced Clark and now Simpkins walking away; the reshuffle pushes form referees Tony Archer and Shayne Hayne into the senior ranks and they will continue to control the big matches.

Simpkins has been in NRL referee circles since 1996 and while he reached his peak last year; controlling the 2006 NRL Grand Final – Simpkins lost his way late in 2007 when he let several games spiral out of control as he faced confidence issues.

Paul Simpkins leaves the referee ranks as the 4th most capped referee of all time after controlling a total of 284 games over 12 seasons of Rugby League.

NRL Referee Steve Clark Retires

Rugby League’s most senior whistle blower; NRL referee Steve Clark has today retired from the NRL referee ranks.

Nicknamed the ‘Terminator’ by NRL News in the past 12 months, the reliable Steve Clark has quit his refereeing job to take up a development position within the NRL ranks – keeping the experienced League official in the game.

It certainly seems the NRL looks after it’s former whistle blowers with Steve Clark joining the likes of Greg McCallum and Grahame Annesley within the NRL’s official ranks.

Several sources hinted to NRL News throughout the year that Steve Clark would retire, notching up control of over 400 first grade games – many of the current players found it harder to relate to Steve Clark as opposed to the new guard of Tony Archer and Shayne Hayne. Ever the perfectionist; Steve Clark was a referee dedicated to policing the game to the absolute letter of the law. Sometimes this mentality led Clark on penalty spree’s – turning the game into a Rugby Union style match with stoppage after stoppage.

His experience has been rarely equaled by other referee’s and Clarks time at the top speaks volume of his skill and fitness as a first grade referee. A no nonsense referee that never wanted to take the spotlight from the players – Steve Clark will be missed; however his ability will be available to mentor the upcoming referee’s as they come through the ranks. It’s highly likely Steve Clark will be involved with video referee’ing next year, joining the likes of Bill Harrigan and Phil Cooley as the eyes in the sky.

NRL Clubs to Choose Opponents in 2008

In a surprise announcement today, the NRL has hatched a plan in replacement to the current pool system for NRL clubs. In 2008 NRL clubs have the option of ‘choosing’ their opponents for home matches in a ranked order.

Currently under the pool system, the NRL draw is divided into two and teams only meet certain opponents once a year as opposed to twice a season (home and away match-up)

The current system is a little bit of a lottery and in some cases prevents big clashes as higher ranked teams might only meet one another on a single occasion.

With the new announcement today, clubs can choose who they would prefer to meet in home games during the year and the NRL will do its best to accommodate the requests; taking into account fairness and earnings from potential match-ups. The possibility of more local derbies and increased gate takings from blockbuster match ups more often is attractive to both NRL clubs and the NRL administration itself.

Its certainly an interesting move and it will be even more interesting to see the chosen opponents from each club. Will clubs lean towards profit or a smoother path to the finals?

It seems certain that many clubs will shy away from facing the might of Melbourne on more than one occasion. The Storm do not attract a large away crowd and the clash would certainly be a tough one; 99.9% of NRL clubs would be keeping right away from 2 clashes a year with Melbourne.

The same goes for other regional clubs such as the Cowboys. Another talented team that also don’t have a large travel contingent of fans when they play interstate and finally the same goes for the Warriors – yet another strong regional team with limited attractiveness to other clubs.

So this new theory could prove a mammoth waste of time; certainly most of the Sydney based clubs will shy away from the stronger regional teams with limited accompanying fans – meaning the NRL will need to step in a rank teams opponents anyway!

Only time will tell. And everyone is certainly waiting with interest.