Category Archives: NRL Editorials

Editorials on the big issues in NRL Rugby League

The Architects of the SBW treason deal

sonny-bill-williams-gavin-orr-khoder-nasser.jpgIt seems Sonny Bill Williams has had several helpers in his French rugby union defection. It’s now come to light a New Zealand-born sports lawyer based out of the United Kingdom was a key player in the walk-out arrangement.

Despite denials, Duncan Sandlant was the mystery man photographed with Williams in a taxi leaving Heathrow airport last Monday.

In a major boost to the Bulldogs’ and the NRL’s NSW Supreme court injunction, The Sunday Telegraph can also reveal:

* Toulon recruitment agent Nicolas Pironneau is the other chief architect behind the Williams deal;
* Toulon players were informed Williams was the newest addition to their roster last Monday;

* Williams visited a Sydney bank on July 24 to withdraw all his money and transfer it to a London account;

* Bulldogs doctor Hugh Hazard has dismissed suggestions Williams was told to sign until the end of the 2012 season because he had a dodgy knee as “rubbish”.

The other man who has been instrumental in the Williams treachery is French-based Toulon agent Pironneau, who initially denied having done the deal.

The agent of Toulon coach Tana Umaga and star recruit Jerry Collins, Pironneau told The Sunday Telegraph during the week: “I understand Sonny Bill wants to meet Tana and to speak with him, but that’s all. I think there is no deal done.”

But when contacted last Friday, Pironneau changed his story, admitting he was one of the masterminds of the Toulon coup.

“I made the approach with the help of his agent in Australia and he showed great interest in the idea,” Pironneau said. “When I explained to the agent that Tana Umaga was really interested in his profile, it was a great surprise to them.”

Asked the name of the agent, believed to be renegade Khoder Nasser, Pironneau replied: “No, I don’t like your question. I understand there is a problem with Sonny Bill Williams because I read the newspapers.

“I don’t want to go into this problem. You know who the agent of Sonny Bill Williams is, I think.”

Pironneau denied knowing the whereabouts of Williams and rejected reports the Kiwi league international would be paid $3million.

“It’s bulls***. In France, international French players are not paid this kind of amount,” Pironneau said.

“Dan Carter of the All Blacks is not paid that amount. For a player that comes from rugby league, a young player … no.”

Working out of London, Sandlant met Williams at Heathrow Airport last Monday. Despite being photographed sitting next to Williams in a London cab, Sandlant denied he was the man who collected the disgruntled former Bulldog.

Questioned about Williams by a London photographer during the week, Sandlant replied: “He’s stressed, very stressed and just wants to be left alone.”

But when contacted by The Sunday Telegraph about Williams, Sandlant said: “Think you have got the wrong person here.”

The deal for Williams to flee Australia for Europe was first hatched two months ago when Toulon coach and former All Blacks centre Umaga visited Sydney.

Todd Carney disputes Raider rules, angers officials

Todd Carney Police Ute Chase in CanberraUnder fire Canberra Raiders no.7 Todd Carney, currently banned for the remainder of NRL 2008 after his latest public episode, has now requested more information before agreeing to a rehabilitation plan, put to him by the Raiders club and senior playing group.

In a move that could test his relationship with the Raiders even further, Carney is believed to be about to end his silence on the issue by writing an open letter to give his version of events.

Carney has gone to ground since the new of him urinating on a patron at a Canberra nightclub went front page news just 2 weeks ago. However, Carney is frustrated he hasn’t been given the chance to tell his side of things.

Player manage for Carney, David Riolo, didn’t want to go into details of the Carney response to the Raiders’ 5-point plan for the troubled player, but said he wanted more information about certain points.

Under the rehabilitation agreement, Carney would need to:

* Banned from NRL in 2008;

* Refrain from having any alcohol;

* Undertake counselling;

* Engage in community service;

* Pay a fine, of around $20,000.

“I have replied to their five-point plan,” Riolo said.

“We haven’t rejected it. We have replied and asked for a clarification about how that proposal was reached and where it goes.”

In a recent statement Raiders boss, Don Furner said: “Todd’s manager David Riolo has sent through a response in regards to the club’s proposal, and out of good faith the board has agreed to look at this response before a final decision is made on Todd’s future.

“We will aim to make a decision on Monday.”

It’s been an amazing escape for Todd Carney so far; in a similar manner to what happened 12 months prior where Carney got in trouble with Raiders team mate Steve Irwin; once again his Canberra team mate (this time it was Bronx Goodwin) gets sacked immediately and somehow Todd Carney is able to survive with a rehab plan. It shows how desperate the Raiders are to hang on to their leading player in tough times.

Raiders team mate Bronx Goodwin was sacked by the club following the incident on the same night which resulted in him being charged with two counts of assault.

It later emerged Carney had been in trouble at the nightclub previously, after he was accused of grabbing a woman’s breast.

Should Carney fail to accept the Raiders’ sanctions, he may well be booted from the club – a move which might then be followed by deregistration by the NRL.

If these events play out then Carney would be forced to move to England to continue his rugby league career. Alternatively, he could look to follow the lead of Mark Gasnier and Sonny Bill Williams by switching codes to play rugby union.

Restraint of Trade a threat to NRL says lawyer


NRL Salary Cap Restraint of Trade

Is the NRL’s ‘Restraint of Trade’ Reasonable?

If you buy a café in Parramatta from someone else, then as a new business owner you don’t want them opening up a competing café right next door to you. More than likely they would take their established goodwill with them and deprive you of a real chance of making good with your new café.

This is why the law recognises that in some circumstances it is legitimate to impose a ‘restraint of trade’ upon someone. The general rule is that any conduct which results in a ‘restraint of trade’ is unlawful unless they are ‘reasonable’ – everyone has the right to make an honest quid. Reasonable means the restriction can’t be for a period that is too long, it can’t cover a huge geographic area and it can’t be too broad in scope. For example, going back to our café, any clause in the sale contract retraining the former owner from trading can’t say that the seller is not allowed to establish any food business anywhere in NSW for 10 years. That would be unreasonable on all three counts.

Well what about sports people? Do the same rules apply? Can a restraint of trade be imposed on them? The short answer is yes but for different reasons. In 1971 a case was decided by the High Court of Australia called Buckley v Tutty. It involved many of the same issues the NRL is facing now with Sonny Bill Williams.

Basically the High Court decided that yes footballers are involved in a trade despite the activity being a sport. Therefore they can’t be retrained from playing football unless the terms and reasons for the restraint were reasonable.

The first question then is what justifiable interests are being protected if Williams is prevented from playing Rugby in France? It’s not just about Williams and the NRL though, it’s about the sport and the competition as a whole – those are the considerations the judges will have to look at when determining reasonableness.

In similar cases in the past, judges have often considered the effects of allowing players to freely move from club to club on a competition and have understood the public support derived from a strong and evenly matched competition.

The second question and more problematic from a legal point of view is whether the restraint of trade is reasonable. It extends beyond the borders of an individual sport and indeed even crosses international borders. It is very unlikely that the bulldogs or the NRL will be able to prove that the restraint is reasonable in a legal sense.

The other issue that’s important here is the Trade Practices Act 1974 which is the main law regulating competition in the Australian market place. It makes ‘restrictive trade practices’ unlawful. Pretty much anything that hampers competition is disallowed by the Trade Practices Act. However, this doesn’t apply to contracts of employment, as for example, between Williams and the Bulldogs. But since there is no separate contract between Williams and the NRL, as would happen with the ARU if Williams was playing union, the source of the restriction is the NRL’s salary cap rules and as such the Trade Practices Act could be an important consideration in this controversy. We’ll have to wait and see.     

This won’t be the first case of a footballer going to court over an issue like this – just ask Terry Hill –  and it probably won’t be the last.

Andrew Dahdal, Associate Lecturer, Division of Law, Macquarie University.

    

Court proceedings started against SBW

Sonny Bill Williams Heathrow Airport July 2008The NRL and the Bulldogs club have today approached the the NSW Supreme Court in an attempt to curb runaway player Sonny Bill Williams as he arrives in London; expected to continue on to France. A massive test case for the NRL and possibly all sporting codes regarding sanctity of contracts, restraint of trade and international sporting rules – Sonny Bill Williams’ decision to flee while in the early stages of a long term contract is set to see a lengthy court battle.

Todays news comes as Sonny Bill Williams was sighted and photographed at London’s Heathrow Airport, many believing he is headed to southern France.

The Bulldogs, with the support of the NRL, today attempted to lodge an injunction with the Supreme Court, which, if passed successfully, will stop Williams being able to take part in the rival Rugby code for an estimated $3million.

“The injunction will seek to restrain him from training or playing other than in accordance with the Bulldogs contract,” NRL chief executive David Gallop said.

“The consequences of breaching an injunction when put in place are that he is liable to contempt of court proceedings that can involve everything from arrest to seizure of assets.”

Player manager Khoder Nasser has also been subpoenaed to provide documents relating to information on Williams’s whereabouts by Thursday.

Should Williams not front next week, or have a representative appear on his behalf, the hearing will be postponed.

This would be followed by legal arguments to show whether Williams is in contempt of court or whether in fact the Supreme Court has jurisdiction in the matter given Williams is now overseas.

Bulldogs lawyer Arthur Moses claimed the court should have jurisdiction given the breach of contract was committed in NSW.

Supreme Court judge Robert Austin admitted to Moses “you’ve got a bit of a burden on your shoulders” in reference to the Bulldogs bid to track down Williams.

“I’m concerned this is kind of a blitzkrieg strategy,” he said.

The Department of Immigration has also subpoenaed in a bid to help track down Williams, given he would have supplied them with a French address on his departure.

The Bulldogs attempted to have Nasser subpoenaed despite assertions from the controversial player manager yesterday that he was not representing the runaway star.

The Bulldogs claimed they had been operating under the assumption Nasser had been acting as Williams’s manger since earlier this year.

“I’ve been instructed to deal with Khoder Nasser over the last three months and that instruction has come from Sonny Bill Williams direct,” Greenberg said.

“Who we (deal with) going forward I’m not sure.”

Amid rumours Williams may actually be headed for Toulouse and not Toulon, a spokesperson from the Toulon club denied any knowledge of the Kiwi international having signed a deal.

“For me he is not coming to Toulon, and for the (club) president too,” Sandrine Nacci said.

“I have heard about the news this weekend, it was very crazy, but we have no information about that.

“The French union (requires) the French clubs to sign all the contracts before the 15th July … we have no contract signed by Sonny Bill Williams.

“Maybe the president has a contract with him before the 15th July, but for the moment, nothing.”

Gallop expressed dismay at claims from the IRB that they were powerless to stop Williams from signing with Toulon.

“If they don’t have jurisdiction, then who does? Can this rogue club simply operate without rules in their code?

“I find that very alarming, and alarming for rugby union as it is for rugby league.”

The NRL boss gave an insight into a possible reason for Williams’ covert departure from Australia, the Kiwi juggernaut only informing those closest to him of his intentions as he boarded a plane on Saturday.

With the Bulldogs having already stated their marquee talent would not be released from the remaining four years of is contract, Gallop suggested the club may have slapped on Williams to prevent his departure.

“I would have thought the Bulldogs would certainly have done that,” Gallop said.

Canterbury Bulldogs still stand proud

canterbury-bulldogs-team-logo-nrl.jpgThe Bulldogs, a proud past writes HateQld – Established in 1935 and winning their first premiership only 3 years later in 1938, just thirty years after  Rugby League was born – the Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs have had their fair share of success on the football field.

Their have been unwanted headlines too, dating back before the start of the NRL too – controversy has never been far from the Bulldogs.

Regardless, many great players to have donned on the blue and white jersey and run out for the Bulldogs onto Belmore Oval or more recently Stadium Australia.

In their first Rugby League year the Berries as they were known then, received the biggest defeat in Rugby Leagie history. The much fancied St George Dragons served them up a 91 -6 smashing and then there was the forgettable hammering by the Eastern Suburbs Roosters to the tune of 87 – 7.

Fast forward to 2008, Canterbury now holds many great records – they were the team in 1967 to stop the mighty St George Dragons winning a twelfth consecutive premiership, only losing to the South Sydney Rabbitohs on a runaway intercept try by Bob McCarthy in the Grand Final who was to join the club in the mid seventies after he was unwanted by Souths and was later joined by an other Rabbits player in Gary Stevens.

During the mid 1970’s the Bulldogs were coached by a quietly spoken Ted Glossop, they threw the ball around all over the field , scoring one the best tries ever to be seen. The movement started in their own half  by a rampaging Norm Thomas, after the play the ball , the side to side movement of the ball across the field began ,  first to the right , back to the left ,then back to the right in a movement which saw at least fifteen pairs of hands handle the football , with some touching it twice and the Hughes brothers combining to send Don Moseley across the line.

Such was the quality of Canterbury in the mid 1970’s they were turning on the entertainment week in, week out.

Canterbury had to wait until 1974 to make an other Rugby League Grand Final appearance, losing 19 – 4 to an Easter Suburbs side coached by the late Jack Gibson and captain by Arthur Beetson .

The following few years they managed to reach the finals on five occasions missing out only once in 1977 . St George got revenge on the Bulldogs in 1979 taking the crown 17 -13 , a bitter sweet moment for the Dragons , for whom the Bulldogs had stopped  from doing that twelfth consecutive victory lap.

The following year the Bulldogs turned the tables on the 1974 result by beating the Eastern Suburbs Roosters  18 – 4 . On that day at the SCG the Bulldogs scored a try which is still talked about today. Fullback Greg Brentnall takes a pass from near the half way line , running at full pace putting up a bomb, and to everyone’s surprise , Canterbury
winger Steve Gearin taking the ball on the full to score one of the best grand final tries at the SCG , a treasured ground for many rugby league grand finals.The only team to have two sets of  brothers to appear in a winning grand final team Mark ,Graham and Gary Hughes  and the Mortimer boys Steve, Peter and Chris .

During the eighties they would share the tile of  best clubs with arch rivals the Parramatta Eels ,who shared Belmore Sports Ground with the Bulldogs while Parramatta Stadium was being built . The Bulldogs winning the premiership four times during the eighties , taking the tile in 84, 85 , losing to the Eels in 86 in the first try less grand final. Lead by the brilliance of Steve Mortimer and coached by the controversial Warren Ryan a man who based his game on defence , the entertainers became the enforcers,as the low score lines during those three grand finals would indicate .

The scores during those years would represent more of  a  tennis game at Wimbledon rather than a Rugby League game , 6 – 4 , 7 – 6 , and  4 – 2 .They only had to wait two years to regain the trophy , in 1988 defeating the Balmain Tigers .The Tigers were coached by the old master Warren Ryan who took them to three consecutive grand finals  .The Bulldogs again appeared in four more deciders losing in 94 and 98, winning in 95 and 2005.

Along with all the success, the club also have personal achievements .Terry Lamb the only player to have played in every match on a Kangaroo tour.Steve Mortimer was the first NSW captain to win a state of origin series for the blues.Hazem El masri is about to become the greatest points scorer in the game .

Disappointment has also been inflicted and  a lot of controversy along the way , and hate came at the club at every angle, from every rival fan. The salary cap scandal in 2002 , followed by the Coffs Harbour alleged rape incident , followed by players who couldn’t keep out of the media for more than a month.

Now comes along the Sonny Bill Williams affair.

Sonny Bill Williams was brought into the club at a young age, moulded and supported into the big time. He was a sensation. The Bulldogs were to become a victim of their own success, SBW launched them into the NRL big time with a 2004 Grand Final win – but maybe he was getting too many pats on the back and eventually started to believe he was bigger than the game. 

While naturally the NRL is a business these days and clubs will on occasion ‘cut’ players who aren’t peforming – they has always been the sanctity of a ‘contract’. The most important issue at hand now, is the Sonny Bill Williams has simply walked out on a binding contract. No regard for the Bulldogs club or the NRL competition as a whole.

Then there are the side issues, the kick in the guts to team mates. SBW walks out on a struggling team of mates who are battling to avoid the NRL wooden spoon. I am sure if the Bulldogs were chasing a Top 4 finish – that Sonny Bill Williams would be very keen to stick around and share the success.

Plenty has been written about Sonny and his decision to flee the country; but as others have already pointed out - with SBW falling into the company of Khoder Nasser and Anthony Mundine, there was always going to be problems.

Firstly, full credit to Nasser and Mundine for their ability to make money. First and foremost they are very good at that, the way they have turned Anthony Mundine into a ‘villian’ in the Australian publics eyes has made them massive dollars - very astute. Mundine seems content to be a ‘hated’ man because it brings him big dollars and thats fine. But when it comes to Sonny Bill Williams, who plays a team sport – is it really the best move for SBW long term?

By linking with Khoder Nasser, Sonny Bill Williams looks to be able to earn a significant payrise by taking the alleged Nasser advice to flee the country and ply his trade internationally.

Accepting a higer paying job is understandable, but to disregard a contract and drop your mates in the deep end is truly a ‘dog’ act. As they say “If you lie down with Dogs, you get Fleas” and it seems SBW has really had a good lay down in the Nasser/Mundine camp.

It’s all history now, the chances of Sonny Bill Williams playing NRL again are remote and theres every chance that the talented youngster might regret his decision in the years ahead.

As for Canterbury, they have had plenty of success in the past and will see more in the future – they have signed quality talent for 2009 and have strong stars coming through in the likes of Ben Barba.

Previously the Dogs have always had a very tough and no nonsense administration, the family club run by the astute and uncompromising CEO in Peter “Bullfrog “Moore . Todd Greenberg should take a leaf out Bullfrogs book and let the players know , if you don’t want to be of this once very successful club , then show them the exit door, no mercy.No player is to big for the game. For those who do the game and their respective clubs proud are the players the league needs to reward .

Hate Qld
John

Where’s the loyalty gone in the NRL?

Loyalty in the NRL is gone in 2008 as SBW and Mark Gasnier quit Wheres the loyalty gone writes Ricky Ricardo; – has the last ounce of loyalty gone with the likes of Mark Gasnier, Sonny Bill Williams and the Union brigade?

And what is it with these get out clauses in NRL contracts these days? What’s the point of agreeing to sign a multi-year contract with a team only to have a get out clause that says a player can leave after a year?

How would the NRL club feel losing one of their best players or one of their most promising youngsters all because of a clause such as that.

That’s where the loyalty situation becomes a problem in the NRL.

And something has to be done to stop such things happening, while admittedly we seem to have at least ‘one crisis’ every year in the Rugby League – this player drain is something that needs to be addressed immediately.

Dragons CEO Peter Doust didn’t do a whole bunch to stop Gasnier from going to play Rugby Union in France. The bumbling Dragons knew for some time that Gasnier was unhappy and probably didn’t do enough to accommodate the star back. It was pointless trying to work out a backup plan in the weeks or even days leading up to the Gaz departure. Way too late guys.

How any NRL club could simply let it happen is beyond me.

Considering Mark Gasnier is one of the greatest centres in the game, surely more could have been done by the Dragons initially and then possibly the NRL.

But its too late now, he made up his mind and there’s no stopping him. And in letting him go, we’ve just lost one of the greatest NRL
players of the modern era. This has to stop. The exodus to Rugby Union may just outweigh the exodus to England with the UK Super League soon, if the NRL isn’t careful – this could really put the problem into the dangerous category. With the European Union clubs throwing big dollars around – NRL players would be eyeing the big dollars no doubt.

Think about this.

asnier has a $600,000 a year deal until 2011. What more could he want? He’s getting paid a hell of a lot of money, is idolised by many young kids out there, is looked up to by all the youngsters coming through the Dragons youth teams, admired by fans and other players alike, playing in one of the most prestigious clubs in the NRL, what more does he possibly need or want?

The NRL have claimed it was too expensive to retain Gasnier and it would send clubs broke to try and compete. But losing someone like Mark Gasnier probably costs even more – gatetakings, merchandise, representative fixtures – the list goes on.

That is something the NRL cannot afford to cop.

We want to make the game even bigger than what it is, but we continue to let our best players go to England. And those aren’t going to
England to play in the UK Super League are looking at local or international Rugby Union clubs. So it’s a leaking bucket of talent in all different directions.

Would you believe that there are only 26 players left in the NRL that have played for the same club their whole career? Soon to be 25 that is with Corey Hughes being squeezed out of the Bulldogs.

That only leaves only 25 players who are a single club player.

Who would have guessed that Petero Civoniceva was moving to Penrith? Who would have known that Steve Menzies and Danny Buderus would finish their careers in England?

No one I bet.

It cannot keep happening.

Its about drive and passion and heart. If a player has the desire to play day in and day out for the same NRL team then let them,
they have the heart and the character and deserve a special arrangement. The faith that one day they can be remembered as a
player who stuck by his team in the good time and the bad would sit nicely with themselves, the fans and the games elite.

Darren Lockyer, Tonie Carroll, Corey Parker, Hazem El Masri, Alan Tounge, Steve Simpson, Matt Bowen, Nathan Hindmarsh, Nathan Cayless, Luke Burt, Rhys Wesser, Matt Cooper, Ben Hornby, Anthony Minichello

The only players that will remain after the end of the current season to have played with the same NRL team their whole career.
Take away from that list, Steve Menzies, Danny Buderus, Tony Puletua, Jason Ryles, Wairangi Koopu and Logan Swann, all going to England to play in the UK Super League tournament.

Quite amazing isn’t it.

Again it reinforces the message of retaining the games best players. Greg Florimo, former North Sydney Bears legend says “The NRL should provide greater salary cap exemptions for long serving players than those that are already in place”

Currently all clubs are given a $100,000 total allowance to keep players who have served a continuous period of eight years in first grade.
“There’s no other reason that those guys aregoing to play other than the cash” Florimo said. “If you’ve got a guy who has been with the one NRL club for more than 10 years, there has to be some exemption for him – some sort of reward for that loyalty to both the club and the player. I think our game is built on loyalty, tradition, heritage and those sorts of qualities are quickly disappearing unfortunately.”

Outgoing Bulldogs Hooker Corey Hughes says “I think it is sad that these guys are being pushed away from their clubs. Its sad for the fans who grow to love the players.”

Strong words there coming from a current player on the current situation. Corey Hughes himself being forced out due to salary cap restrictions.
On the other hand, former St George great John Raper said let the man acclaimed as the world’s best centre “Mark Gasnier” leave the Dragons because coach Wayne Bennett would develop “three Mark Gasnier’s” at St George Illawarra when he takes over the reigns in 2009.

“If he’s not happy at the club then let him go”. said Raper Snr

But we can only bury out head in the sand for so long, we are fortunate to have some good juniors coming through – but the quality cannot continue when the cream keeps getting taken away from the top.

Sonny Bill Williams walks out on Bulldogs

Sonny Bill Williams quits Bulldogs and NRLSources suggest today that prominent Bulldogs and New Zealand Rugby League forward, Sonny Bill Williams has walked out on the Bulldogs club and quit the NRL. Information is still coming to hand – but it’s believed Sonny Bill Williams has actually left the country for reasons unknown and is shortly about to link up with French Rugby Union club Toulon.

Williams apparently left Australia yesterday without letting team mates or officials at the Bulldogs know.

The star Rugby League forward has a contract with the Bulldogs in the NRL for another 4 season and the walk-out will surely see a legal battle erupt.

Bulldogs SEO Todd Greenberg said: “”I’ve had QC’s look at his contract and there is absolutely no get-out clause.”

”I’m shocked to hear of this situation with Sonny Bill Williams because I saw him Oatley at 7.30am today.’’

Williams was selected in the Bulldogs side to face the Dragons on Monday night.

While it’s only early stages and information will continue to come to light regarding Sonny Bill Williams and his quitting the Bulldogs and NRL; its hard not to speculate as to why the star backrower as not only left the Bulldogs but walked out on the NRL in 2008. Since linking with new player manager Khoder Nasser (who also manages Anthony Mundine) SBW has been keenly chasing Bulldogs management for an upgraded NRL contract and/or the option to leave the club should demands not be met.

Update: Bulldogs CEO Todd Greenberg has just told ABC radio that Sonny Bill Williams’ manager Khoder Nasser has now confirmed the star NRL Rugby League player has left the country.

“I’ve just got off the phone to Sonny’s manager Khoder Nasser and he has confirmed to me that Sonny has left the country,” Greenberg said.

“Quite simply, if Sonny intends to play overseas, we’ll be looking to take out an injunction which will effectively stop him playing in France, England or anywhere else he intends to do it.”

We are getting a lot of feedback and comments from Bulldogs fans; feel free to comment below or join in the detailed conversation on the NRL News Forums page, by Clicking Here.

Has the NRL become too edited?

NRL usage of Video Referees in 2008 is it hurting or helping the Rugby League game?By HateQld

The game of NRL Rugby League goes through constant rule changes, its probably a big plus for our game. It’s constantly evolving and keeps us ahead of other sports.

The NRL administrators have tried to make the game more attractive in recent times by bringing the video referee into several elements of the game, however this has had no effect on bringing more people through the turnstiles at the Rugby League grounds. The NRL needs to measure the benefit of rules changes they have implemented to ensure they are certainly helping, not hindering the game.

Just look at soccer. It’s the world game and the most powerful sport in the world – played in every country on the planet. The round ball game draws big crowds in most countries. It’s very successful and the administrators have not changed the rules of the game for a very ,very  long
time. They have a solid product that works and naturally they are sticking with it. At one stage, they were considering a rule change,which would have seen more goalscored. They actually wanted to widen the goalposts . But do you think more points in any given port makes that game more attractive ?

Bigger scoreline margins can also have the opposite affect and ruin a sport , whether it be NRL, soccer, Rugby Union – certainly higher scores or margins don’t really mean a better game. Would a score line of 42 – 20 be more apparelling then a score line of 14 – 7?

In the past the tight contests have attracted more crowds to the NRL game. A close game puts the fans on the edge of their seats and with time ticking away, there is nothing better than a heartstopping comeback or a 1 point victory. The golden point rule initiative has been a great step forward for the NRL, while some have complained about the field goal shootout – it adds a new dimension to the game and someone gets to leave the ground a winner.

The NRL administrators however have changed so many other rules and added video exploration to so many areas, it has become hard to keep up with whats ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ with the game , it’s caused confusion amongst fans, commentators and coaches alike . There is a difference of opinion in the commentary box as opposed to the  referees decision. The referees and the touch juges are not coming up with decisions on their own, they are relying far to much on the video referee man to get involved for tries, strips, high contact, loose carries, foul play and more. Sure, the amount that needs to be managed on the NRL field is extensive; and the referee has an extremely hard job – the video does have some place in the game.

But is the constant start stop a good thing? What about the try situation? Something needs to change there, each week there is a new controversy. Simply no consistency. Just look at recent weeks; the Bunnies get 2 tries that many felt were knock-on’s. Canberra denied what should have been a try. Manly are pulled back for a forward pass, that was actually fine. The Eels score off a bomb and despite no video evidence, the ref’s call doesn’t factor in benefit of the doubt. The video referee decision is quite simply; a lottery. Commentators, supporters, players and officials have no idea what result will be returned.

While it’s a hard game to adjudicate – other sports are laughing at the state of the video referee. It’s gobsmacking and whats even more scary is the element it leaves open for points shaving and match fixing. When a result can be swung either way in terms of a try, without any form of review or retribution – the power it gives that official is way too great. It really does open pandoras box and provides a scary thought for the future.

The game of NRL has increasingly got like NFL, which isn’t the end of the world. Stoppages can be painful sure, but if we are going to video manage a game – lets be totally clear and consistent on the calls. The rule book doesn’t always allow for this; it needs to be tightened up.

There is a big element of supporters who are frustrated with the time wasting and stoppages in the current game. Too slow, too boring which makes it more suited to a TV package rather than a live event at the stadium. The removal of referee and touch judge decisions does swing the game more to a TV package and hence the reduced crowd numbers.

Ultimately; there are to many grey areas in the NRL game today.

  • Benefit of the doubt to the attacking team. (This rarely happens, or is rarely given) (This rule should replace ‘Refs Call’)
  • Stripping rule. (Too 50/50, knocked back? knocked forward? during a tackle?)
  • Control / Downward pressure when scoring. (Is a finger on the ball downward pressure / control? Knock-on’s?)
  • The Ruck (Dominant, Surrender, Knees, Hands on the ball)
  • Diving/Milking (This is becoming rife, players laying down regularly or faking for referee intervention)

A balled is passed, is it forward or backwards? The rule states that the ball must be passed backwards. Now they say “Oh its it leaves the hands and it goes forward , thats OK due to the hand pointing backwards as it was passed”.

What a load of rubbish that is.

The list goes on, with so many views and interpretation of the rule no wonder we all confused, angry and disappointed.

Keep the rules simple, allow the referees and touch judges to make a decision on their own. Reduce the usage of the video referees; sadly the video referee should not be making any mistakes as they have the benefit of slow motion video. However, they make the most mistakes of NRL officials during a game. (On top of that, they usually take way too long to adjudicate – it’s extremely frustrating.)

Give the men in the middle some more control in several areas of the game , if they make a mistake , so be it , do not continually show the replays at the grounds on the TV to crucify the men in the middle. Simplify the game and make it easy for the officials and everyone  else to follow.

Panthers pushing Wesser out the door

Penrith Panthers trying to offload Rhys Wesser from NRL contractSpeculation was rife in NRL and Rugby League circles tonight that the Penrith Panthers are secretly trying to offload Rhys Wesser for the 2009 NRL season.

The talented Wesser is reported to be earning over $300,000 a season; meaning the livewire fullback takes up a big chunk of the Panthers salary cap. A Grand Final winner with the Panthers in 2003, Wesser has been with the club for a decade and has remained tight lipped today about a possible relocation from his current club.

Named Penrith’s player of the year in 2006 at the club’s annual presentation function, Wesser has enjoyed a successful run with the Panthers. In 2006, breaking the club try-scoring record which was jointly held by Greg Alexander and Ryan Girdler.

The recent explosive form of Panthers rookies such as Lachlan Coote has put the pressure squarely on Wesser as well as Penrith club officials, as they try and justify Wessers large pay-packet. Panthers coach Matt Elliott has been forced to shift Wesser on to the wing to accomodate the exhilarating rookie Coote and have a star player on big dollars pushed to the wing wouldn’t sit well with club officials and bean counters.

As the Panthers try to arrange a deal with Wessers management and potential homes for next season, it’s believed that Penrith are open to paying at least party of Wessers contract for the 2009 NRL season in the hope a ‘sub-letting’ deal can speed up the process and find the veteran fullback a home before the end of this year.

Should Wesser leave the Panthers, only a small number of players from the core group that won the Panthers the Grand Final in 2003 will remain as Penrith continue their rebuilding phase.

The Penrith club will want this contract arrangement dealt with quickly or quietly at least, as the club tries to maintain its recent good form run. The possibility of player unrest and uncertainty as the Wesser situation goes public could have a negative affect on the clubs results. The Panthers face the Gold Coast Titans at Skilled Park this weekend and enter the game with the knowledge that possibly only 4 more wins can secure them a place in the 2008 NRL Top 8

SBW rolls sleeves up, Bulldogs are back

Sonny Bill Williams helps Bulldogs beat Broncos NRL Round 18 2008Not just Bulldogs supporters, but most NRL supporters know the skill levels and natural ability of one Sonny Bill Williams. The guy is a freak.

But it seems yesterday, Sonny Bill Williams took on a new element of his game and became an absolute workhorse for his team.

Fighting a back injury that even his own coach Steve Folkes said should have kept him out of the match, SBW led the way as the Bulldogs upset Brisbane at Suncorp. Williams was in everything, he wasn’t just scoring tries – he was slapping balls free from attackers, fetching in-goal grubbers and was the last desperate attempted tackler for several Broncos tries.

It seems SBW has added a ‘Nathan Hindmarh’ or ‘Craig Fitzgibbon’ element to his bag of tricks. An element the Bulldogs so badly needed yesterday and for the rest of this year, they have some young, raw and skilful players – but they need experience and hard work to keep winning.

Yesterday SBW had some help. Ball playing backrower Reni Maitua also had a strong game (Maitua should have also been on the sideline with his own injury woes), hooker Corey Hughes a rib injury, Le Te Maari a hip … They were all putting their hand up for the club.

“We had a few blokes that played with things they probably shouldn’t have,” Folkes said. “But they just wanted to play. Sometimes, the power of the mind …”

“He probably played with something he maybe shouldn’t have played with,” Folkes confirmed. “That’s the spirit. There’s been a lot of talk about the team being down … we’ve been getting bombarded from all areas. But the players and coaching staff are tight-knit. It’s a really good reward for them. They’ve been trying bloody hard, and people don’t see that. They only see them on the weekend.”

Even Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett threw some praise SBW’s way: “He was outstanding. No one probably tried much harder than he did all day. He was on the right side of the field, left side of the field, he was everywhere. He played himself into the ground.”

In a Round of upsets it seems the Dogs pulled off one of the biggest of them all. The Dogs had dropped 5 games straight and had several team members injured and struggling to believe, with skipper Andrew Ryan admitting the past few months had been the toughest period he had experienced in his NRL career.

“We’ve been working our backsides off, and so to not come away with the wins, it’s been disappointing,” Ryan said. “But that’s what made today a little bit more special.

“It’s definitely the toughest, especially as we’re right down at the bottom of the table. The most frustrating thing is the last team we beat was Cronulla. And today we beat Brisbane. They’re two of the better teams. But people expect success. In a successful team, it hurts.”

Said Folkes: “It’s been really difficult for everyone at the club. Obviously, the expectation is that we’re successful, and that hasn’t been happening. It’s just a real good reward for the players, because they’ve been turning up every day and working really hard. I’m really proud of the way they played against a pretty good side.”

After the Bulldogs’ previous failure, a horror loss to South Sydney, prop Jarrad Hickey was hurting more than anyone. He had given away the ball that allowed Rabbitohs fullback Luke Capewell to score in golden-point extra time.

He too carried an injury into yesterday’s encounter, a corked thigh, and was as good as he was the previous week, without the howler to spoil it.

“I was shattered at the end of the game, very disappointed,” Hickey said. “It was probably the lowest I’ve felt. But my family and friends, my teammates, they really stuck by me. I was getting a bit depressed after the game, but they told me not to worry about it. It was just a mistake, one of those things. I don’t even care about it now.

“I reckon I’ll have a lot more lows and a lot more highs in football. If that’s the lowest I’ll feel in my life, I’ll have a pretty good life.”

BULLDOGS 26 (D Holdsworth H Nanai A Taumata S Williams tries H El Masri 5 goals) bt BRISBANE 18 (M Ennis S Thaiday P Wallace tries M Ennis 3 goals) at Suncorp Stadium. Referee: T Archer. Crowd:  37,683.