Set of Six
Competitor: Anthony Watmough. Photo: Getty Images
1. Stars to stay
Manly coach Geoff Toovey says Anthony Watmough and Steve Matai are going nowhere. Watmough has been linked to South Sydney and Parramatta next year and Matai to a return to home soil with the Warriors, despite each being tied to the Sea Eagles. ‘‘They’re contracted here for next year and that’s where they’ll be,’’ Toovey said after the 36-10 loss to the Broncos in Brisbane. The coach described that performance as ‘‘flat – very flat. They came out with plenty of enthusiasm and we struggled to match it. We matched them personnel-wise but the offloads just killed us. We know we’re a better side than we showed here today.’’ Kieran Foran finished the afternoon with ice on a twisted ankle but Toovey said it wasn’t serious.
2. Time for change
Back in play: Luke. Photo: Getty Images
If what happens on the field really stayed there, we’d still have no replacements, a no-metre rule, brawls, head-high tackles and blood everywhere. Hell, we’d probably still have breakaways. Name one change in the game of rugby league which has been conceived by the players. Real change comes from courageous decisions OFF the field, such as Brent Tate’s to speak out about lifting tackles last Wednesday night. To say a man with a known neck problem would exaggerate his experience in a lifting tackle just to get an opponent suspended says more about the accusers than about Tate (right). He didn’t even know Reynolds had been charged. The players’ code of silence does not help the game, it does the opposite.
When Canberra coach Ricky Stuart was asked about a clearly incorrect penalty against Josh Papalii that led to a Sydney Roosters try on Saturday night, he threw the question back at a reporter. “What did you think?”. Quietly he added: “I don’t want to be excessive, mate”. Stuart was fined for “excessive criticism” of referees a fortnight ago. Still at Allianz Stadium, where the Tricolours beat the Green Machine 26-12, referee Gerard Sutton invented a new word: “delibracy”. His partner, Jared Maxwell, also chuckled when Raiders captain Terry Campese claimed the Roosters were “going early” in defence. “That’s the talk from upstairs,” Campese said. “Oh,” said Maxwell, “you’re just the messenger. Don’t blame you.”
4. Truth hurts
It’s the most important rugby league column you’ve never read. Former NZ league and England union international Shontayne Hape (right) penned a story for the New Zealand Herald about concussion that forced him into retirement. “I couldn’t bear to listen to music. Sunlight was a problem too. My tolerance for my three young kids was zero.” On pre-season cognisance tests: “Players can manipulate it by under-performing. In my league days the boys all beat the test and everyone kept on playing.” And: “Most coaches don’t care about what happens later on in your life. Players are pieces of meat.” And this, which is relevant to item one: “More people need to speak out about it, tell the truth if they are suffering.’’
5. Luke returns
Expect hooker Issac Luke to play for South Sydney against St George Illawarra on Monday night. Luke will almost certainly be a late inclusion with the Kiwi international making an early return from a shoulder injury. Souths are close to confirming their involvement in an expanded World Club Challenge next year, regardless of where they finish. Brisbane will be the other NRL side involved – but they have more pressing issues on their hands than the 2015 pre-season. The third Australasian side involved in the Friday-Saturday-Sunday WCC will, of course, be the premiers. The idea of exhibition games in Perpignan and London the previous week has been scrapped.
6. Crying shame
NRL players, pay attention because this is going to happen and you’re going to get blamed. Great Britain first toured this country in 1910 and did much to popularise rugby league – after inventing it, of course. The Lions have not conducted an Australian tour since 1992, nor played anyone since 2007. The NRL has drawn up a schedule that will see them bussed around, playing in provincial centres just like the old days as well as in three Tests after the 2015 season. They are about to be told to stay home; NRL players don’t want to play them. Are you comfortable with killing off the revival of a 104-year-old institution that would breathe life into the game in the bush, dear player? We’d rather see the 2016 Four Nations exclude Australia.