Error-riddled England shoot themselves in the foot

The final that we all expected is among us, with Australia and New Zealand facing off in the Four Nations final, after the Kangaroos proved too strong for an error-prone English side.

The English just couldn’t hold onto the ball when it mattered and it cost them with Australia winning the game 34-14.

Luke Lewis has perhaps one of his best games in an Australian jersey scoring two tries. He limped off with an expected corked calf, but is expected to be fit to play against the Kiwis on November 6.

Whilst the final is only set to take place on November 13, the Kiwis and Kangaroos face off before that on November 6, in a game that is being seen as anti-climactic.

England are also playing for pride, as they play a spirited PNG side on the same night, as both teams will be looking to end the tournament on a high.

A combination of English ineptitude and Aussie spark quelled any upset from the English, as the Aussies took a 26-8 heading into the break.

The game was not without its controversy however, after several forward passes were thrown by the Australians, but were not called by the referees.

Despite the win, Tim Sheens sees plenty of room for improvement.

“There will be some changes in respect there’s a couple of injuries but also I don’t think a couple of guys played well enough,” Sheens said.

“I said to them before the game – the 17 guys who started all had experience … a lot of the guys not playing were the rookies and that’s why the senior guys got the chance.

“I played them game one from a point of view of getting them condition, game two was a critical game, we went out with an experienced side, but there’s no doubt there were some fundamental errors in and around the ruck.

“I am concerned about how easy they walked through us in the middle … New Zealand would be licking their lips with the thought of some of the defence in the middle tonight so we’re going to have to be a lot better than that.”

England coach Steve MacNamara admits that his side were their own worst enemy tonight, as they just couldn’t hold onto the ball.

“We made too many errors, simple as that,” England coach Steve McNamara said.

“We were by long way in the game, we were physically very dominant at the start of the game … but we hurt ourselves with some errors which was pretty clear to see and Australia seized on those opportunities at the right period of time.”

Ricky Stuart has supposed blueprint for NSW success

The last successful coach for NSW is primed to make his return to the representative arena as NSW coach, as the state looks to put an end to QLD’s 5-year dominance.

As all are aware, the last time NSW won a series coincided with the last time that Ricky Stuart was coach of the representative team. Whether that is solely coincidental, or there’s some deeper meaning behind it, we’ll never know.

Stuart is nearing the end of a round of negotiations that has lingered for sometime, in relation to talks he has held with NSWRL boss Geoff Carr to officially become the coach for NSW in 2011.

Whilst the deal isn’t yet official, given that Stuart and Carr are nearing the end of advanced negotiations, it is believed that an announcement could come within days.

Brian Canavan, the man who designed a report on the NSW Origin team and general office, revealing the ways in which the whole circa could improve, has had his report heavily analysed by Stuart for the past two weeks, as NSW seek answers to end the 5 years of pain put forth by QLD.

There are two key issues that the NSWRL consider as fundamentally important for any incoming coach that is announced as the official coach of NSW.

It’s a well-known fact that the NSWRL have previously stated that the next coach must have a three-year plan and be willing to be coach of NSW for those three years.

In Stuart’s case however, given that he would be chased by a large array of clubs at any given time, he plans to seek approval from the NSWRL, in so that if a team is on the look-out for a new coach, that he is allowed to pursue that avenue as he sees fit.

“The report asks for a full-time coach wit a tenure of more than one year, which makes a lot of sense, but at the same time, we’ve got to be realistic”, Carr said.

“I’ve always said to Rick that if an opportunity arose to coach one of the top teams and he wants to sit down and take advantage of that, then it’s certainly something we’d consider”.

The other primary issue of discussion was the length of the contract with NSW for Stuart, with a two-year option firming as the most likely scenario.

“I’ve sat down with Ricky and he’s passionate about NSW, he’s the last coach to win with NSW,” Carr said.

“He obviously has a great desire to do it, and Rick has looked closely at what Brian Canavan has put to the board, which is quite a revolutionary change to the way NSW will conduct an Origin series, and he’s embraced that, so we continue to talk.”

The NSW coaching job will be a breath of fresh air for Stuart as only four months ago, his coaching career seemed in tatters, when he re-signed from his position as head coach of the Cronulla Sharks, without a new gig to pursue straight away.

Stuart’s agent Ben Fordham has acknowledged that Stuart is hungry for the success and eager to get on with the role, as well as being more than capable of taking up the challenge.

“Having coached NSW to an Origin victory in 2005 at his first and only attempt, Ricky is obviously extremely interested and committed to playing a role that hopefully will enable the Blues to once again achieve Origin supremacy,” Fordham said.

“This is a groundbreaking move by NSW to appoint a full-time coach and it involves much more detail. Whilst we have made some significant progress during the week, there is still a considerable way to go, before the matter can be finalised.

Carr conceded that after losing 5 straight series, action had to be taken, and decisions had to be made.

“The decision needs to come sooner rather than later. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done prior to the first game,” Carr said.

“Hopefully, we can have a decision soon.

Kiwis put away spirited PNG side with ease

It was the Perrett and Sau’u show in the Kiwis comprehensive 76-12 thumping of a spirited PNG Kumuls side in their Four Nations clash.

An astonishing 6 of the Kiwis 14 tries came from Perrett and Sau’u, whilst former Dragon Jeremy Smith was the pick of the forwards scoring two tries in the win.

Things didn’t start well, and by the time half-time came around, it wasn’t all roses for the PNG side after they trailed 46-0 courtesy of a seven try blitz from a Kiwi side led by Benji Marshall and Isaac Luke.

The half-century came up early in the second half courtesy of a try from Newcastle Knights player Junior Sau’u, as NZ quickly raced away to a commanding 62-0 lead courtesy of 11 straight tries.

This didn’t deter a PNG side full of grit, heart, passion and determination however as they rallied back, and scored two tries on the trot, before NZ re-asserted their authority, eventually taking out the match 76-12.

The win equals the Kiwis highest ever winning margin in their international history, and it was only a determined PNG side that prevented the score from being even higher, as at one stage, it looked as if the score might reach the century mark for the Kiwis.

“It was a very disciplined effort,” Kiwis captain Benji Marshall said. “PNG stuck in there very well and scoring two tries was like winning the World Cup for them.”

“We were disappointed with our effort last weekend (against England) and we wanted to improve. We took steps towards improvement and we’ll definitely be competitive (against Australia).”

“It was very disappointing,” captain Paul Aiton said. “From the time we got here there was something wrong. It just wasn’t right. There was something missing in the dressing room and we never really got going. We’ve got to find that little something that was not here tonight.”

Newcomer Sam McKendry didn’t disappoint amassing 140 metres on debut for the Kiwis.

Marc Herbert signs with Bradford Bulls

Canberra Raiders back-up halfback has signed with the Bradford Bulls in a move that takes the club into double digits in regards to their off-season signings.

Herbert, who is 23 and has limited opportunities at the Raiders with Terry Campese and Josh McCrone in front of him, was released by the Raiders, and officially signed a 1-year deal with the Bradford Bulls.

Whilst there has been a large array of speculation that the Bulls were yet to officially release Orford, the former Manly and Melbourne half publicly stated that he wanted a release from the ESL club, despite having two years left on his contract.

“I am really excited to be joining the Bulls,” said Herbert, who is the club’s tenth new signing for 2011.

“Super League will be a different experience for me and I intend to make the most of the opportunity.

“Having spoken to Mick Potter, I am really looking forward to getting across and into pre-season training.

When the 2010 season started, it was actually Marc Herbert who was the man many believed would lead the Raiders forward and form a strong and invaluable partnership with five-eighth Terry Campese.

This all changed though, when Herbert began playing poorly, and was consequently injured, he lost his spot to current Raiders halfback, Josh McCrone.

Bulls coach Mick Potter said: “Marc is a player I have been aware of for some time. I am sure he will make a very good Super League player and he brings a lot of qualities to the side.

“I have spoken to him at length and outlined what I want him to do for the club. I have every confidence that he will be a big success in the role I see for him and I know he is really looking forward to joining the Bulls.”

Robert Finch’s job in jeopardy

After a somewhat tumultuous season by the referees both on and off the field, referees boss Robert Finch’s position is going to come under heavy scrutiny as he begins talks with NRL Chief Executive David Gallop if he is still the right man for the job.

It is believed that both Finch and Gallop met on Wednesday afternoon at NRL headquarters to discuss Finch’s future in the role, but no decision has yet been made if Finch will indeed continue on his role as referees boss.

Whilst he admitted that he did meet Finch, David Gallop was somewhat reluctant to discuss what they discussed.

When asked if the meeting brought about any conclusion, Gallop simply replied: “Not at this stage.”

He was also asked if he knew what the outcome of the meeting would be, and if Finch would in fact keep his job, to which Gallop replied: “I’m not in a position to comment any further.”

The next meeting is yet to be organised with Gallop conceding he doesn’t know when his next meeting with Finch will be.

Greg McCallum, who is a former NRL Match Review Committee boss and NRL referee is believed to the front-runner for the job.

He has experience in the role having occupied the ESL’s equivalent of ESL referees boss.

Former refs Bill Harrigan and Steven Clark are also believed to be in contention for the role.

Finch has held the position for 8 years, a position that is perhaps one of the toughest to deal with in the entire NRL.

England star denies ESL is lagging behind NRL

One of England’s most talented footballers, Sam Tomkins, has rubbished claims that there is a distinct disparity between the English Super League (ESL) and the National Rugby League (NRL).

In doing so, he also talked up his side’s chances of bouncing back against an Australian side itching to maintain the edge over their archrivals.

Tomkins, who is believed to be the brightest and most talented English player playing the game right now, the 21 year old categorically stated that the brand of footy he is used to in the ESL, is more than adequate when it comes to producing top class players that have the ability to upset the Kangaroos side.

“I think it’s a bit of a myth now that the NRL is a lot further forward than the Super League,” Tomkins told AAP.

“There’s lads playing week-in week-out in Super League and playing well but then they worry about playing against Australia and New Zealand, whereas if we just concentrate on what we do week-in and week-out I don’t think we’ll be far off.”

After a relatively poor performance against New Zealand in their opening Four Nations clash, there were stories abound that the ESL wasn’t on par with the NRL in regards the physicality of the game, with NRL players Gareth Ellis and Sam Burgess the only standouts, both of whom are English.

Whilst many believe that the English will only be able to beat England should the two back-rowers in Ellis and Burgess fire once more, Tomkins believes that the ESL players in the English side are more than capable of rising to the occasion as long as they overcame the distinct mental barrier to re-assert to themselves that they can match it with the best players in the game.

“I think the speed of the game – it’s not quicker than the Super League, certainly not the Tests I’ve played in,” Tomkins said.

“The anticipation of the big step up is worse than what it actually is – when you come into it you’re thinking ‘it’s going to be different, it’s going to be quicker and faster’, but I’ve not found that and I don’t think many people do.”

Despite his young age, Tomkins oozes confidence, and it’s a main reason as to why he is a part of the leadership group for the English despite only having played 7 tests for his country.

There is speculation abound that Tomkins may shift from the halves to fullback, a position in which he excelled at for Wigan this year.

Tomkins says he has no qualms about where he plays, but dismissed talk that he wasn’t willing to put his body on the line as a player against the bigger players.

“I had it all year in the Super League so it’s nothing new, the big fellas having a go at me,” Tomkins said.

“I enjoy the physical side of the game, I’m not someone who shirks their responsibility at the defensive end – it doesn’t bother me and I’ll certainly be expecting it again this weekend.”

If the move materialises, and Tomkins does indeed end up moving to fullback, Storm back-up fullback  Gareth Widdop may seem himself dropped from the side altogether.

Open fan forum with David Gallop

Here’s a list of the questions asked by fans in today’s open forum run by the Daily Telegraph, and the answers provided by NRL Chief Executive David Gallop. Questions will be in bold, DG’s answers in normal font just to differentiate between the two.

There has been a significant debate about changing the rules for origin selection in regards to players who play for emerging nations, do you see a change to the qualifications ruling?
Hi Ben, we need to be careful to maintain the importance of international football and encourage players to play for their country. Any change would have the chance of diluting the importance and status of seeing Benji Marshall play for New Zealand. So I don’t believe there will be a change to the current rules.

Can you please explain why no other NRL club has been audited to the same extent as Melbourne. All fans want to know that every club is playing within the rules and on a level playing field.
Brad, every club is audited on the same basis. There’s some confusion around the audit done by Deloitte at the Melbourne Storm. This was done by the owners of the club. We were involved in discussions with those auditors and expected their findings to be largely accurate. However, our own audit process is the same across all 16 clubs with a pre-season post-season and mid-season audit done at all clubs.

Hey David, I was just wondering what your thoughts are about dividing up rep games and regular games for the next TV rights deal to try and maximise the revenue gained through tv?
Hey David, I was just wondering what your thoughts are about dividing up rep games and regular games for the next tv rights deal to try and maximise the revenue gained through TV?

Hi David, can the NRL please announce the entire draw including dates up front? Being a country fan it allows us to plan trips to the games, particularly Friday night matches when we need to take a day of work. As it stand we have 3 weeks tops, my brother and I are eyeing off several Souths games as we are regional members but can’t start planning until the draw is announced, if it is then announced as a Friday night game there is no way we can attend on such short notice.
Andy the current system gives between 5 and 11 weeks notice, under the next broadcasting deal, we would like to see a fixed schedule but we need to consider whether it has an impact on the value of our rights.

David, when are we going to finally have a fair comp where each team plays each other twice? Greatest game of all??? I DON”T THINK SO!
Michael, with the amount of rep football that we currently play, we are very conscious of not increasing the amount of football for our players. A true home and away competition would certainly be attractive but the workload on our players would be enormous.

Membership has been huge for the AFL for several decades. Why did it take the NRL 20 years to catch on and start to invest in this revenue stream?
Miffed, our membership growth has been huge in recent years. Over 25% in 2010. It required a shift in thinking for our clubs and fans. Many people were members of their leagues club and looked at this as a form of membership. These days our fans are recognising the value of membership not only at their own club but through membership buying windows for our big games.

Hello David and congratulations on facilitating a fabulous year of footy. Your thoughts on the following. Salary cap issues, club finances, player off field behaviour or on field performance and NRL promotion could all be improved with a change to the structure of how the salary cap is made up with more emphasis on the role of individual player sponsorships and advertising. Players could have their names on shirts and personalised sponsorship more prominent.
FootyShack, that’s a big question. We plan to increase the allowance for club sponsors to pay players. It will go from 150,000 to 300,000 in 2011. We need to be careful not to give too big of an advantage to those clubs with greater access to sponsorship.

Hi David- Your a brave man you will be coping it today! Just wanted to say you have been doing a great job and in my opinion you handled the Storm issue exceptionally well, congrats.
Hi there, thanks very much. The Melbourne Storm issue was a difficult one, but by the end of the season, the vast majority of people accepted that we dealt with it appropriately and particularly that it would not have been fair for the Storm to compete against the other teams for points with a salary cap over $1m higher than the other teams.

How can the NRL allow finals to be played at Kogarah, forfeiting further revenue, and then state we can’t afford to increase the salary cap?
Mitch, clubs are looking at playing their bigger games at the larger stadiums but home ground advantage is a reward in our finals system and FORCING a move would create an unfairness. Fairness of the comp comes ahead of revenue.

Hi David. With regard to best maximising our TV deal, has the NRL thought about introducing a Challenge Cup along the same lines as the UK currently does. This would be a ratings winner and generate significant financial returns to the game. More significantly, I believe that this would be the best way to reconnect the NRL to grass roots rugby league. Logistically, it may throw up a few curve balls but it is achievable while maintaining our value whilst adding show pieces like origin. I drafted a paper on this and looked at the logistical challenges that this presents and believe that if structured right it can deliver without jeopardising the quality of the game currently. What are your thoughts?
Guest, it’s a great idea, but our calendar is already packed and the players are being asked to play from mid Feb to mid November. We added the indigenous all stars game to the calendar this year which was an enormous success. But it is more football.

Why don’t you have the balls to take control of the TV rights and demand when things are shown. i.e Melbourne is never live, tests aren’t even live. Why can’t you demand these are played live or give the rights to pay TV or show them on another of there channels. And please demand that Phil Gould gets the boot.
Kalvin, we are working hard at preparing for the next round of TV negotiations. The networks recognise the value of our game and the results in ratings. We have seen some improvements in our non-traditional states but we need to be conscious of the ratings for the broadcaster.

We have been seeing a lot of NRL players going overseas or swapping codes, yet there is no punishment for returning players in terms of rep games. I would like to see a system put in place where for every year out of the NRL (unless through retirement), that player has to be back in the NRL for the equivalent time before he can play rep games again. This would be a great way of keeping our stars which is outside the cap. What are your thoughts?
Dave, it is difficult to restrict the movement of players between codes but we do have rewards for players that stay in the game. And we are seeing players returning to our game.

Hi David, 2 questions; after watching the Aus v PNG game i feel it did little for the international game. I am all for the development of the international game but i don’t think playing PNG is the right way about it. do you think that a combined team of all the islands (Tonga, Samoa, Fiji and PNG) would be more beneficial to the ‘4 nations’? With salary cap restrictions and threats of other codes, would you think that the addition of 2 more clubs would help? It would add 9mill to the NRL and would certainly help keep players here Cheers.
Guest, there’s a fierce rivalry between the Pacific nations and the players want to represent their country rather than their region. PNG earned the right to the 4th place in the Four Nations.

David, the AFL’s incursion into Western Sydney seems to have forced RL to get its house in order in this heartland area. Can you give us your perspective on the success or otherwise of the NRL/ARL’s programs in Sydney’s West?
The Link, we have been successful in Sydney’s west for a long time. It’s a success that’s based on not one but many clubs and teams. Importantly, there’s generations of people who support the game in Sydney’s west. The programs we have in place now are certainly coming into the focus because of all the attention that has been placed in the area. Our crowds membership and junior participation are all increasing in the west of Sydney.

I realise the financial importance of playing games at ANZ stadium but seeing 8,000 fans rattle around in a 90,000 stadium is disappointing and directly affects the potential atmosphere which lifts the whole game – players and fans. Can we see more games at Leichhardt, SFS and SCG?
Guest, increasingly we are seeing clubs looking for a balance. Probably the best example is West Tigers. We all enjoy the tribalism of the suburban grounds like Leichhardt and get frustrated when the large stadiums are poorly attended. But the stadium deals are important for our clubs’ financial future.

David – can we trial a membership bonus scheme – so that if a club reaches say the 15,000 mark – the fans then get some money back OR credit off their next membership? That way the fans encourage other fans to become members
David, it’s a good idea in theory but we rewarded the clubs by giving them money through the race to 10,000 this year. We need to be conscious of the financial importance of membership to our clubs’ bottom lines. Membership does have increasing benefits like exclusive buying windows.

Why cant there be Salary cap exemptions for players that are developed from juniors? Guest, if all our clubs had equal numbers of juniors in their district, it would be far easier to implement a salary cap concession for developing your own. One of the reasons we have a salary cap is to distribute talent across the teams and provide those clubs with less juniors in their area with the ability to compete with the others. We will increase the concession for long standing players from 100,000 to 200,000 dollars for next season.

If you’d like to distribute talent, why not consider a draft/trade system allowing the bottom Clubs to get access to the best kids?
Terry, we have a clear philosophy in our game that there’s a real value in seeing local kids turned in to local heroes. It’s part of what sets our game a part. An 18 year old who grows up wanting to represent Parramatta, newcastle or any other team has a chance to do that without being drafted across the country. As such we are not in favour of a draft – the other issue is that we dont have 16 clubs with the same geographic area and the same access to players.

As an old North Sydney fan I’m very interested in any expansion plans the NRL has. What plans, if any do you have in place to increase the number of teams?
Sam, we will look at expansion seriously in the middle of next year when I expect we will have a clearer picture of our media rights position. Any new team must have a viable business model but also we will be interested in how that team helps the game grow strategically. Making sure our current clubs and players are sharing the game’s growth, is critical to this decision.

Do you think we need to use the AFL finals system. The competition is so close that there is not enough advantage for teams finishing in the top 4. What is stopping the NRL from using this system?
creaming eagle, we believe our current finals system is the best one for our game particularly when you consider the impact of the mid-season rep program. We believe that teams one and two should play teams 7 and 8 in week 1, this is the fairest match up allowing teams 1 and 2 the best chance to advance and ensuring that teams 7 and 8 face a tough game for them to advance.

Can you comment on the idea that whilst the salary cap is good for keeping the competition level and for keeping clubs financially viable, it does nothing to allow clubs to keep a team together over a period of time. Clubs build a team, become succesful and then have to disband huge parts of it as they cant afford the salaries under the cap. Surely you should provide a means for clubs to keep teams together that they have built.
Steve, the system allows poorer performing teams to build up their roster and become contenders again. It’s difficult to have it both ways.

Is it still likely that the NRL Commission will be up and running by 1 November?
Guest, there are a number of parties working on the issues. It’s complicated but it’s pleasing to see that documents have been drafted. Clearly not everything will be in place by Nov 1, but significant progress has been made and the changes will be worthwhile for all levels of the game.

Hi David, has a general warning been put out to clubs regarding another breach of the salary cap. Is there a standard punishment now or considering you have taken this stance with Melbourne, will you deal with other clubs more harshly. Cheers
BM, the message could not be any clearer. Where we have large scale breaches which are deliberately concealed from us then the penalties need to be substantial. A line was drawn in the sand with the Bulldogs in 2002, and all clubs know that.

Have you apologised to Brett Stewart yet for your reactionary suspension of him on the basis of hearsay evidence that has since been disproved in court?
Kneejerk, the court decision in relation to Brett Stewart did not address the issues that we dealt with him over.

David, I think you generally do a good job in a trying environment, but reading your replies today, not once have you acknowledged an error or that the NRL could do better. This is typical of the NRL generally and really creates an environment where it appears that you don’t listen to fans or seem to be planning for the future. Your comment on this?
Andrew, we can always do better but the results this year show the game is improving year on year.

Does the NRL send a good message to up and coming Islander players that if you play this game and then run off and play AFL then the ARL will victimise you and act like spoilt children? One just has to look how your code has been treating Israel Folau over the past couple weeks, especially by banning him from being the waterboy for Tonga?
AFL warrior, the fact is Israel can’t be an AFL and an NRL player at the same time. He made a choice, and I wish him well.

Mr Gallop, where do you see the state of the game in 10 years time?
AaronL, the game is well and truly back and in a sound position. Our competition allows our players to show their talent every week in a comp where any team can beat another. There are difficult issues to deal with and they are often not as black and white as some suggest. We work hard to get those decisions right and it’s great to see our fans taking such an interest in the game. Can I thank everyone for blogging with me today.

Hi ben, we need to be careful to maintain the importance of international football and encourage players to play for their country. Any change would have the chance of diluting the importance and status of seeing Benji Marshall play for New Zealand. So I don’t believe there will be a change to the current rules.

Hopoate believes there should be Pacific Island Origin

Controversial former Eagle John Hopoate has started the push for an annual three-game style Origin series between Samoa and Tonga as the answer for the Pacific Islands to the Origin series.

Both Tongan and Samoan officials and players have also began the push for the fixture between the two clubs to become an annual event, in order to give the developing RL nations more notoriety, and to honour the large proportion of Polynesian players in the NRL.

The suggestion of a three-match series from Hopoate has received strong support with the Pacific Island nations sharing a rich history, perhaps even more vast and broad than that of QLD v NSW.

“I reckon we have three Tests a year every year, they need to build these countries up,” said Hopoate, after Samoa beat Tonga 22-6 last Sunday.

“If you’re not going to have a State of Origin type series – they have the NRL All Stars and the Aboriginal All Stars – they should have the Islanders’ All Stars, because the NRL is full of islander players.

“I had the chance to play for Tonga or Australia and I took Australia only because Australia pay and they look after their players.

“If someone could help us out we could make better games for Australia and New Zealand.

“They don’t want to play themselves and England all the time, they want to play other teams and down the track we could give them a challenge.”

There is also the belief that as of this point in time, there aren’t enough incentives in place to convince players from the Pacific Islands to play solely for their Polynesian country, and that is something that has to be rectified according to senior Pacific Island officials.

David Solomona, a former NZ international, now representing Tonga, believes that the game in the Pacific Island has the potential to become much bigger, if players can be coaxed and convinced into playing for their native country n a regular basis.

“If you have a look at the Toyota Cup I think 40 per cent of the kids playing are Polynesian,” Solomona said.

“But it’s playing Test matches, that’s what counts.

“If the international board aren’t going to give Samoa and Tonga international games, it’s obvious where the kids are going to go to.”

Solomona supports the initial idea raised by Hopoate.

“I can’t understand why not,” he said.

“It’s for the betterment of everyone. Samoa playing Tonga all the time – it’s something we need to get going.”

For former Eel turned Warrior Feleti Mateo, it has been tough deciding as to who he wishes to play for, given that he wants to play for NSW, but in order to do so, he has to give up his allegiance to Tonga.

“There’s a very grey area, it needs to be sorted,” said Mateo, who wants rules altered to reflect the changing Polynesian demographic of the game.

“People want to see the best players play, and if you’re good enough to play Origin but you can’t make Australia, I can’t see why you can’t go out and play for Tonga. It’ll make it more competitive.”

NRL on free-to-air on Saturdays a possibility

We have footy on free-to-air TV on Fridays and we have it on Sundays. Now, fans want to see footy on Saturday as well after research from the NRL concluded that fans want footy on all three days.

It’s clear that Fox Sports have a phenomenal viewership on Saturday’s in light of their comprehensive Saturday afternoon and night coverage, but the calls have come in for free-to-air television to also show games on Saturday.

Given James Packer’s recent crusade into Channel 10, buying approximately 15% of the channel, he has expressed a strong desire to get the NRL onto Channel 10 and with his financial backing, they certainly have the money to work with.

Current NRL channel, Channel 9 will have a tough task in retaining the NRL TV rights given that they have both Seven and Ten breathing down their necks, both itching for the chance to bid for the rights when the current deal expires.

“While Super Saturday is very successful on Fox Sports, our research suggests a big appetite for a free-to-air game on a Saturday night,” NRL boss David Gallop said last night.

“It would be great to have coverage on free-to-air over Friday, Saturday and Sunday.”

As part of the current deal in place, Nine currently shows 2 games on a Friday night, and one on a Sunday afternoon.

Should the current format change, Nine may be forced to forfeit one of their Friday night games, and have it shifted to Saturday night.

This possibility however will most likely have to wait until 2013, as Fox Sports have no intentions of letting go of any of their Saturday clashes until the current NRL TV rights deal expires in 2013.

According to television industry sources, it is believed that Ten are unwilling to venture into the market for NRL games on their own, and as a result, they want to go in with a rival network and bid for the right to show NRL games collectively.

In regards to the possibility of Nine and Ten forming a joint bid to get the NRL games, Gallop replied said: “It’s too early to say but no doubt the whole landscape is fascinating.”

“I wouldn’t be shocked if Nine and Ten got together, but Nine hasn’t made a habit of sharing,” said one source.

Willie Tonga enjoys recall to Roos

Willie Tonga is a man that has appeared out of the wilderness, and quite unexpectedly too. After a 5 year hiatus from the international arena, Tonga has another chance to represent Australia when they face England this week.

His return was swift and sweet, scoring two tries in the Roos romp over PNG last week, and so his attention will now be focused on an English side brimming with power hitters.

Whilst many are choosing to pick apart England’s strengths and weaknesses based on their performance against NZ, Tonga chooses not to, as he refuses to get caught up in those things.

For most of the Australian team including Tonga, they only really know Sam Burgess and Gareth Ellis who play for Souths and Wests Tigers respectively.

“I’ve got no idea (about England’s likely centre pairing),” Tonga said on Tuesday.

“I don’t watch Super League or NRL as a matter of fact.

“… I watched bits and pieces (of the Kiwis’ 24-10 win over England last weekend) but I try and keep away from footy when I’m not playing it.”

“I speak to the other guys in our team who can sit there and watch every game over the whole weekend which blows me away,” added Tonga.

“I thought everyone was the same as me but maybe I’m a one-off.

“I like to keep it that way and it helps me relax as well.

“When I was young I used to watch every game, but once I started playing the game at a professional level it got a bit too much for me and I realised that when I get away from the game it helps me to clear my head and relax.”

Before the tournament even began, the odds that Tonga would have been selected would have been rather small, but odds these days tend to only provide a basis as to who will make it.

2005, was the last time Tonga played for Australia, but both he and fellow Cowboys team-mate Brent Tate should perhaps consider themselves lucky given that Greg Inglis, Justin Hodges, Brett Morris, Jamie Lyon and several others were all ruled out due to injury.

Tonga refuses to look too far ahead though as he aims to remain level-headed.

“I’m just fortunate enough to be in this position,” said Tonga.

“It’s been a while and it gives me another opportunity to wear the green and gold, which is probably the highlight of my career.

“As far as cementing a Kangaroos spot after this tour, that’s not something I’m even thinking about.

“I’m just trying to secure a spot for this tournament.

” … I approach the games a lot differently now.

“Back then (in 2004) I was just on a massive rollercoaster ride with the Bulldogs, playing Origin and winning the comp in my first full year of first grade.

“Definitely I’m now a little bit older and a little bit wiser.”