Category Archives: NRL Editorials

Editorials on the big issues in NRL Rugby League

The NRL Flashback (2005)

NRL 2005 Review FlashbackHow quickly time goes in the NRL now. You’ve heard it before, a week is a long time in Rugby League – well what about 4 years? That makes for an absolute eternity. NRL News thought we would flashback to NRL as it was in July 2005 and what news was around the NRL traps and who was playing where:

The Eels and Dragons battled out a big Friday Night Football clash. A clash where Trent Barrett king hit PJ Marsh, Wade McKinnon scored a 70m try untouched for the Eels. There was a massive all in brawl and Parramatta backrower Dean Widders was at his unstoppable best.

All players mentioned are now gone from their clubs, Barrett and Widders spending time in the UK Super League, Marsh joining the Broncos and McKinnon off to the Warriors.

The Roosters were toying with their halves combination, slotting in Brett Finch and Craig Wing as their playmakers. Again, both players now long gone from their previous clubs. The Roosters, coached by Ricky Stuart were struggling to regain their position as one of the leading sides over the previous 3 years.

The Maroons were considering upcoming Storm coach Craig Bellamy as their State of Origin coach and future mentor. NSW had won the Origin series that year and Queensland were desperate for answers. Who knew what the future would hold, the Maroons now an unstoppable force.

Reni Maitua was making an appearance for City Origin.

Willie Mason was returning to the Bulldogs lineup after a long layoff with a foot injury.

Andrew Johns and Danny Buderus were both playing and trying to get the Knights off last place on the ladder.

Jamaal Lolesi just signed a deal with the Wests Tigers for 2 years.

Jason Smith was playing for Canberra and being chased hard by South Sydney for future services.

Roosters hooker Stuart Webb was a standout for his club and in hot demand, the Rabbitohs getting his signature in that year. Webb struggling to find his best form ever since.

Steven Bell playing with Melbourne agreed to a 3 year deal with Manly that year.

Craig Gower defied doctors orders to take the field for the Panthers, despite a concerning neck injury.

Stuart Raper was coaching the Sharks and decided to sack Paul Mellor mid-way through the season.

When we look at the NRL Table below in 2005 (July 9) its interesting to see where the eventual Premiers (Wests Tigers) were sitting at this time. Well out of the Top 8, they were set to go on an amazing run all the way to the top. Don’t forget, the Titans weren’t even born – hence the 15 teams!

1. Broncos 28 pts

2. Eels 26 pts

3. Cows 22 pts

4. Manly 22 pts

5. Sharks 22 pts

6. Storm 20 pts

7. Dragons 20 pts

8. Roosters 20 pts

9. Raiders 20 pts

10. Wests Tigers 18 pts

11. Bulldogs 17 pts

12. Warriors 16 pts

13. Panthers 12 pts

14. Souths 9

15. Knights 6

Major sponsor walks away from Sharks

LG Electronics Sharks Sponsorship NRLCRONULLA Sharks main jersey sponsor LG Electronics has confirmed today it will walk away from club at the end of 2009, leaving the future of the struggling side in serious doubt.

Keen to distance themselves from the drug scandal with Reni Maitua overnight, LG (Lucky Goldstar) quickly moved to release a statement confirming their future does not include the embattled Sharks.LG marketing director David Brand confirmed the position of the company through the statement, and this will surely be the final straw for the Sharks. Already up to their ears in debt, slogged by multiple controveries and unable to win a game – this could genuinely be their final year in the National Rugby League competition.

“While the recent controversies around the NRL, and the Sharks in particular, were certainly a significant element in our decision we also considered the direction of our company and where we want to take the LG brand.” confirmed the media release from LG.

The annual payment from LG to the Sharks was estimated at $750,000 and will be a huge dent to the clubs finance drive for 2010.

Minor sponsors to the tune of $150,000 already pulled out last week after the Johns saga was aired on the ABC.

Those backers included Tyrepower, Wendy Wu and the Australian Mushroom Growers’.

“We have had a successful association with rugby league and the Sharks but we no longer see the benefits of an ongoing sponsorship given the evolution of our brand,” LG’s statement said.

It has been a 9 year long association between Cronulla and the LG brand, the timing obviously the worst possible for the club.

Cronulla will find it almost impossible to attract players for 2010 and beyond following this latest development, their only hope remains with their supporters and a saviour sponsor that may step forward. If the crowd comes out in massive numbers for their local derby it will be a positive step, if they fail to draw a crowd to what is usually their most popular game of the year – then the end is most surely nigh.

Kiwi Girl ‘Bragged’ about group sex

Matt Johns Group Sex Girl ClareIn what must be a frustrating development for Matt Johns, the female at the centre of group sex allegations has had the blow torch turned back on her by former work colleagues, who claim she ‘bragged’ about her group sex with Cronulla Rugby League players.

As the public remains divided on the outcome of the recent ABC Four Corners story, the sympathy for the New Zealand female who has gone public 7 years after the event seems to be faltering quickly.

According to former colleague Tania Boyd, the girl at the centre of group sex allegations not only bragged about her experience with the Rugby League players, but seemed genuinely excited and shared laughs with her work colleagues about the events that had occured prior.

It seems after 5 days, the girl known only as ‘Clare’ suddenly changed her story and approached police about the events that happened in the New Zealand hotel room.

However, it all means nothing now. The girls recent story has cost Matthew Johns his prime time role with Channel 9 and has sent his family into chaos as he fights to keep things together in the eye of a public media storm.

While some have suggested the ABC Four Corners documentary was ‘fair’, what is concerning is that the whole issue is a moral one not a legal one. Ultimately, it’s not for the media, the NRL or even Joe Public to decide who was right or wrong. No laws were broken, and while certainly not a good look – what took place is not really for any sporting body to govern.

At times in this past week Matt Johns has been treated like a criminal.

The whole affair has again reshaped the off-field territory that NRL players tread. NRL players now have lost their basic rights to enjoy a drink in many cases, enjoy public night spots and their personal affairs run the risk of being plaster over the next days newspapers.

Sure, there have been some that have absolutely done the wrong thing – but the majority have done things that many of the public and peers from other sports have been guilty of, yet League players cop much more severe consequences.

Channel 9 puts Matt Johns in storage

Matt Johns Channel 9 AnnouncementChannel 9 have stopped short of sacking Matt Johns and announced today they will remove the personality from his current duties until further notice. While the outcry to oust Johns was growing, Channel 9 knew they couldn’t sack the star as he would be picked up by a rival network in due course.

By simply standing Johns down indefinitely, Channel 9 can allow the media storm to pass and bring Johns back into the front line in 6-12 months time, or whenever they see fit.

Adding to Johns’ woes, his additional employer the Melbourne Storm have also stood him down from duties with the club after initially saying they would support him.

Johns, who has been named in a sex scandal following a documentary on the ABC’s Four Corners on Monday, met with Nine boss David Gyngell this morning and was well backed by wife Trish and Nine colleague Phil Gould.

The network announced they were shelving him at around 1pm in a decision that was said to have been be made in the best interests of the network, Johns, his family and the game.

Johns has just recorded an interview with Tracey Grimshaw for the Footy Show that will air tonight .

Matt Johns looks set to lose TV position

Matt Johns NRL Channel 9 Sacking Future Uncertain Sex ScandalChannel 9 personality Matt Johns looks set to lose his position at the leading Rugby League TV station, the media frenzy and on-going focus following the ABC Four Corners report proving such a force, that there appears no other alternative for the prominent League icon.

There has been furious debate on both sides of the fence for this particular situation, a strong media focus not only in Australia but in New Zealand too where the incident ocurred many years ago and the NRL Footy Show is also a popular institution.

The Four Corners report featuring the female at the centre of the incident; has told of how the female has looked to harm herself and has continually struggled to recover from the incident that occurred 7 years ago with Cronulla Sharks players in New Zealand. The documentary report while suggesting ‘nothing illegal’ happened during the events in New Zealand, certainly painted a poor picture of Rugby League players and their unacceptable antics.

The report forced an immediate press release from NRL boss David Gallop, who claimed the treatment of females has been unacceptable and went on to suggest that the position of Matt Johns at Channel 9 should be in doubt. With recent events involving Rugby League players, the reponse from Gallop was much needed and the National Rugby League did the right thing getting on the front foot.

But there was fierce support for Johns from other corners, with suggestions that the former NRL player at all times had consentual sex with the female. His mistake was being dishonest to his family, something that Johns had sought to immediately repair following the incident many years ago. With the events being reported again this past few weeks, Johns looks set not only to lose his job but face more pressure surrounding his marriage and family.

While there can be no condoning what took place by Cronulla players during this incident, there remains some big questions over the events;

* Why did the female return to the players hotel of her own accord with at least 2 of the players that night?

* Why did the female not say ‘No’ to physical contact or suggest to leave at any point; prior or during the night?

* Why did the female not immediately report events, rather than waiting a week to contact authorities?

* Why has the female chosen to air the events some 7 years later in the media?

Regardless, the position of Johns seems impossible at Channel 9. Despite his ability, both as a comedian and commentator, his position as virtually the ‘face’ of NRL cannot continue under the current cloud. Even his strong personal relationships with Channel 9 powerbrokers appear to be tested as they grill the star today over his future at the helm.

For Rugby League players, who are undergoing intense training on how to deal with their status in the community and how to treat women in the right manner, still face a tightrope walk when faced with intimate relations with a female.

While their previous actions of group activity and disrepectful behaviour are horrible and at no point are acceptable, many that are doing the right thing are faced with some corners of the public willing to make money, or achieve media fame by taking stories to the press. It’s believed that many NRL players are now taking to ‘recording’ consent using their mobile phone prior to going home with a female.

The players fearing that anything less than a recorded video on their mobile phones, could see them on TV as the next problem child of the code.

Sharks knew they were gone in 2005

Cronulla Sharks Debt Crisis 2009The Cronulla Sharks knew their finances were shot way back in 2005 writes Gavin Fox in Sydney, with the former football manager at the club Theo Burgess confirming the club walked away from a $10 million dollar NRL payout to move to Gosford and setup shop there several years ago.

It’s believed previous football manager Theo Burgess and GM Steve Rogers were keen to accept the deal, knowing the situation was dire at Cronulla, however the board thumbed their nose at the offer, killing off the deal.

In an interview with leading Rugby League magazine, RLW – Burgess confirmed the situation saying “The writing was on the wall back then!”

After some Sharks preliminary investigations, they believed that Gosford was the best option of all, the only one to keep the club as close to Sydney as possible.

Burgess went even further, suggesting the clubs negotiations may have yielded even more money from the NRL, possibly $12 million if they relocated the club way back in 2005.

After being knocked back by the Sharks board, Burgess believed the members were ‘in denial’ and was sure the club’s future was in serious doubt. Something that has now become a reality and the Sharks situation is extremely dire.

The Sharks situation now leaves them with much fewer options, they are riddled with debt and are not increasing income, or attracting any new revenue streams. On top of that, the Gosford locals have been vocal in saying they don’t want a ‘charity’ team relocating on to the coast and they have said they will not support such a team. The chance of additional funds from redeveloping land near Shark Park seems a long way off, with the club trying for decades to have this approved and ready for development – however the local council and economic crisis have put this on the back burner

Meanwhile, the NRL is quietly sitting back watching the progress. The National Rugby League did their bit, they offered (and still have on offer) big money for the Sharks if they relocate – however if the stubborness of the club continues, they will surely collapse and the banks will call in the debt sooner or later.

The NRL will have finally had a death through natural attrition, something predicted long ago. This opens the door to a new franchise, the likes of the Central Coast, Central Queensland, Wellington, Adelaide and Perth all coming on to the radar sooner rather than later.

In 2008, the Cronulla outfit dropped $1.4 million, and they have $12 million worth of debt that needs to be refinanced.

The NRL refused to offer any of the relocation fund to the Sharks if they only took 5 games to Gosford. Naturally, the NRL wants a complete relocation – not some half-baked idea of a few games here and there.

However, John Singleton and Bluetongue Stadium have agreed to pass $100,000 per game to the Sharks per game played there. Singo gets good advertising dollars for any games played at Gosford, not from bums on seats, but from increased TV exposure dollars. His singage adverts sold at the ground go up in value the more TV coverage they get.

The Sharks are getting offers from Adelaide to play games there, and have looked to move home games to other grounds where incentives are on offer.

All these are short term, hole plugging solutions. The hole needs repairing not plugging, and total relocation seems the only answer. The ‘head in the Sand’ approach again this time, will surely see the Cronulla Sutherland Sharks club wither away and die for good.

Cronulla must look to longer term

Cronulla Sharks Relocation Adelaide Central CoastIf you’re a Cronulla supporter, there is no doubt this is a worrying time. But given the current situation, the club and it’s fans must look to longer term success rather than a quick stop gap solution to plug their financial blackhole.

It’s widely known that the Sharks have a serious debt problem at the moment, they are in a hole to the tune of $9 million and operated at a loss of$1.4 million last year.

The latest suggestion of the club moving 5 home games to the Central Coast, is purely a move to try and tap into some of the NRL’s relocation money. David Gallop and the NRL have said their idea of relocating ‘some’ games is not good enough to release some of the relocation money and the Sharks will now open talks with the Bluetongue Stadium group to look at what financial incentives they can offer by playing games on the Coast.

While the Sharks have some strong assets in the form of land around their Cronulla base, assets which they are looking to quickly develop and possibly sell-off to solve their financial problems – it becomes clear the Sharks are simply ‘using’ the Central Coast as a stop-gap solution.

It’s estimated the Sharks could receive around $100,000 per game financially by taking their matches to the Central Coast – an additional $500,000 a season.

But let’s look further down the line.

Let’s say Cronulla successfully launch a development of their land around their Shire base, if they buck the trend of the economic crisis and make good on their plans to develop and sell – they could make a dent in their large debts.

Now time is important here, because of the seriousness of the debt – the club must be cautious not to go any deeper, at present their loans could be ‘called in’ at any time, which would see the bank wind the club up immediately.

But short term money problems aside, the real problem is the clubs foundations. Put simply, they are not getting fans through the gates – win, lose or draw.

The Sharks are one of the luckier teams, in that they have a ‘suburban’ home ground, close to their fan base and with reasonable parking for anyone that comes to the game. It should be a cauldron for opposing teams, yet most times it’s a ghost town – with rarely more than 10,000 arriving on game day or night.

Cronulla need to look 10-15 years ahead. While the next few years are important to solve their immediate financial problems, they will surely come round again if the club doesn’t plan to make money in the longer term.

Even a full-blown relocation to the Central Coast is a crazy move for the Sharks club. The locals have confirmed they want a team with it’s own identity, not someone who is purely looking at a cash grab.

The Sharks could secure the $9 million NRL relocation kitty by moving to the Coast, but fans have suggested they wouldn’t consider the likes of Cronulla even as their ‘second’ team. This is a situation that should not only scare the Sharks, but other Sydney-based NRL teams considering a relocation to Gosford.

It sits well for the Bears, the Central Coast hopeful’s that have their own logo and have seemingly forged a connection with the local community up there. The Gosford-folk seemingly more willing to enjoy a game featuring a team with closer ties. When locals were interviewed, they suggested that even some of them who were diehard Sydney team supporters but live on the Coast – would enjoy several Coast games and embraced the Bears as their ‘second’ team.

Where does this leave the cash-strapped and rudderless Sharks?

Cronulla must swallow their pride, and while never forgetting their past, they must look to a bold relocation plan – with Adelaide seeming the best option at this stage.

Such a move could open the doors to the NRL’s $9 million booty and the Sharks, with some minor rebranding and redesign could establish new ties with an untapped support base in Adelaide.

With the right planning and strong on-field results, the Sharks could build a massive, lucrative supporter base that could soon be the envy of the NRL. While there will always be some Shire fans that will be frustrated at the relocation, the fact that fans haven’t been voting with their feet at current Sharks home games means the club has every right to look to larger regions.

The AFL has proved it can work, just look at highly successful outfits the Sydney Swans and Brisbane Lions – both former Melbourne teams relocated and now enjoying massive single-state support.

The Sharks and their management must look at the likes of the Broncos, Melbourne and Warriors – who while they have had their ups and downs, enjoy massive support from their respective regions and the Broncos in particular have a very impressive financial model.

So Sharkies fans, buckle-up, support your team and help management ‘get real’ about the longer term future. Selling off assets and going for quick cash grabs can only last so long, be bold, look to the future, relocate totally and set yourselves up for life.

Berlin Wall crashes down at Parramatta

Denis Fitzgerald Parramatta Eels CEOThe future of Parramatta Eels boss Denis Fitzgerald is in tatters, as his reign of 30 years at the Eels club has been shattered after a massive voting backlash against the current directors.

The new 3P ticket romping to victory and obtaining full control of the League’s club board.

All 7 nominees from the new ticket got home to secure seats on the board and they gained more than double the votes of their opposition. The overall vote attracting more than 2000 votes.

The final verdict of the vote came at around 10 pm last night.

When the result was announced last night at the club, the roar from the patrons was enormous as the previous regime was left shattered.

With the new board at the helm, they have announced they will immediately look to outst Fitzgerald from his position – however, shifting the former emperor from his throne won’t be easy. Fitzgerald has never been one to go quietly, so it seems the new board members may have to pay him out if they sack him or find a technicality to oust him without financial penalty.

Phil Gould fires back at Ricky Stuart

Ricky Stuart vs Phil GouldThe war of words between Phil Gould and Ricky Stuart seems to be just as interesting as the footy at the moment, with Gus firing back with some classic commentary after Stuart took the bait earlier in the week.

Gould’s column today quickly became one of the most read at the Sydney Morning Herald, with Gould opening the article with a firm salvo fired at Stuart –

“To be honest Ricky, you are the most pig-headed and ungrateful person I’ve met in football. I discontinued my association with you four years ago because I could no longer tolerate your petulance.” said Gould.

Bang. It’s game on.

Love him or hate him, Phil Gould is a straight shooter. In a day and age where most things are politically correct, watered down and sheltered – Gould tells it how it is. Thats always going to put some people off-side, but not only does Gould have an astute Rugby League brain – boy can he write an article. If there was a Grand Final for the most hard-hitting, witty and insightful Rugby League writing – then it’s gotta be Phil Gould and Paul Kent battling it out.

This was classic Gould, going after Stuart full-bore and giving everyone a little bit more insight into the battle at Bondi between the 2 of them a few years back.

“As for your childish comments I somehow cost you your position at the Roosters 18 months later, perhaps my lawyers should ask you to explain that rubbish in court. People are sick of your continually trying to rewrite history. These feeble attempts to erase the real factors behind your sacking and blame others for your demise are embarrassing.” said Gould.

It seems everyone is going legal in the Rugby League world, Gould threatening Stuart with his legal team, apparently Denis Fitzgerald also looking to do the same for Phil Rothfield over the Daily Telegraph – it’s all out war and this is off the field!

Gould goes on to discuss Ricky’s appointment at the Sharks, commenting on the fact that Stuart Raper was pushed aside to make way for Stuart;

“Stuart Raper must be scratching his head at why he was removed to make way for you, given your current position on the premiership ladder. Do you ever spare a thought for him?

It’s time you stop this ridiculous charade of being hard done by.” questioned Gould.

Gould then goes out to point out that Chris Anderson had a major task in trying to clean up the mess left at Bondi; the job eventually costing Anderson his health and coaching job;

“Roosters management did you a favour terminating your contract. It provided you with a perfect opportunity to start afresh at another club and save your reputation. Meanwhile, your replacement, Chris Anderson, had to come in and try to mop up the mess you left behind. Sadly, the enormity of the task cost him his health and his job.”

Gould finishes with talk of the Daily Telegraph approaching him for comment on Stuarts future. This must be the most concerning part for the current Cronulla coach. Forget the war of words for now, sure it makes interesting reading as the two go hammer and tong – but ultimately the pressure is starting to build around Ricky Stuart.

The Sharks have had well documented financial troubles in recent times, their recruitment has been highly questionable, their attendance numbers and very worrying and there has been street corner talk of them being possible relocation candidates.

The team isn’t winning football games, they have problems with injuries sure, but the buck must stop with the coach and for Stuart, if he can’t pull a rabbit out of the hat soon – things are only going to get worse.

He might be wise to resist a return serve to Gould, as every article and sensational headline draws more attention to Stuart and his role at the Sharks. In this case the Cronulla coach has much, much more to lose than just the war of words.

Seymour: We’ll turn it around for Ricky

Brett Seymour Sharks CronullaThey are sitting in stone cold last position, but despite injuries, suspension and poor form Sharks no.7 Brett Seymour says that the team owe it to Ricky Stuart to start turning things around in 2009.

Ricky Stuart has been the focal point for all the complaints as his side struggle with poor recruitment, non existent attack and the loss of their previously reliable defence.

Things came to a head earlier in the week, with Stuart’s old mentor Gus Gould commenting on the Sharks situation and suggesting Ricky needs to put his hand up for help in the coaching role.

This week in Round 7, the Sharks face an out of sorts South Sydney side at ANZ Stadium – a side that is also strugging for cohesion in the past fortnight.

However, as it stands Cronulla are still only averaging just 12 points per match in attack. Seymour has put his hand up saying the players are to blame, and Stuart is wrongly being pinpointed as the problem.

It’s a big call from Seymour. This guy is quickly regaining respect after his last brush with the drink and pavement. Here is a guy that has not only consistently apologised for his actions, but here he is going into bat for the coach and club that dropped him for 2 games. A big move and one that shows Seymour is well and truly on the path to redemption.

“It’s a lot of stress for the poor bloke, we’re putting him under a lot of pressure,” Seymour confirmed in regards to coach Ricky Stuart.

“We don’t have to (necessarily) go out there and win, we just have to go out there and play some good footy and the result will take care of itself.”

Given the pressure from the media and comment from Phil Gould, Ricky Stuart will draw on every ounce of passion and ability to harness the siege mentality that could allow his side to ambush a coasting Bunnies outfit.