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Getting a tough break in age-old code debate

Hard man … Civoniceva.

Hard man … Civoniceva. Photo: Getty Images

'I THINK we've got the crowd,'' former federal treasurer Peter Costello said before the annual AFL finals debate yesterday morning at the MCG.

This year's topic was: ''AFL is hard … but is it as tough as rugby?''

''Let's get rid of the debate and go straight to the vote,'' said Costello, a speaker on the AFL side, knowing the winner would be declared by the ''crowd-ometer'', the acclamation of the AFL-obsessed Melbourne audience. ''Just like the next federal election.''

While Costello is convinced the public have decided who will be the next prime minister, he was certainly right in anticipating yesterday's audience would cheer loudest for his team, which included former Geelong premiership captain Cameron Ling and The Age writer Caroline Wilson.

Costello attempted to drive a left-right split between the members of the team for the negative: former rugby league international John Ribot, who founded the Broncos and Storm NRL clubs; former Wallabies and Rebels hooker Adam Freier and myself.

Costello derided the Australian Super Rugby teams, claiming one was named after a flower (Waratahs) and another had a koala as a mascot (Reds).

He conveniently ignored the fact he was once No.1 ticketholder of the Cronulla Sharks.

But the rugby league-union team stood united in Planet Victoria, a state that does not know the difference, as the debate question reveals.

The debate, which raised $210,000 for the Very Special Kids charity, focused on athleticism, skill, physical impact and fitness. The only competition that pits athletes of different codes is Rexona Greatest Athlete and Ribot revealed that the Storm's Billy Slater won it two consecutive years (2009, 2010) and the year he did not compete, the winner was Wallaby Quade Cooper.

Ling pointed out that Wendell Sailor, an international in both codes, came last but declined to mention he came sixth and the best placing for an AFL player has been third.

''Tatts make you 10 per cent tougher,'' Ling declared, ''and we've got the rugby league crowd covered'', citing the names of AFL players who have recently covered their bodies with ink, concentrating on the Collingwood contingent.

Ling also questioned the toughness of Freier, who had his arm in a sling. ''You've come with a prop'', he observed, but Freier said he had his shoulder reconstruction ''three years ago … sorry, I mean three weeks ago.''

''It was nothing. I said to the surgeon, 'don't bother about the anaesthetic, just cut right in there.'''

However, Freier also listed all the prominent people who have played rugby union, including the Pope, George Bush, Bill Clinton, James Bond and Meatloaf. Given Meatloaf's dreadful performance in the half-time entertainment at last year's AFL grand final, this was a tactical error. But NRL-AFL statistics produced by Ribot were most telling.

When you compare the codes in terms of most number of games played, the AFL's Michael Tuck, with 426 games, took 20 seasons to do it and averaged 21 games a season.

The late Jim Stynes holds the records for most number of consecutive games (244) in a 264-game career and has the highest average, 22.

Ribot pointed to retiring Broncos prop Petero Civoniceva who, in 15 seasons and 387 games, has averaged 26 games a season, including State of Origin, which AFL does not have.

He listed Civoniceva's injuries, including operations on both knees (twice), a torn pectoral muscle, a broken foot and hand and arm (twice).

''But how many tries?'' Ling wondered.

In AFL, a player immediately comes from the field when kicking a goal; interchanges are more than 100 a match and coaches resist all measures to reduce it. Rugby league is restricted to 10 substitutions, but many players want to be on the field for 80 minutes.

Nor did the AFL have any answer to the fact that there are at least four easybeat sides, including expansion teams GWS Giants and the Gold Coast Suns.

An NRL player can't wake up on the morning of a game expecting an easy win - wooden spooners Parramatta had six wins.

The debate adjudicator, Hamish McLachlan, did not mention the reasons his brother, Gillon, rejected the job as ARL Commission chief executive.

But my colleague Caroline Wilson considers her father's time as chairman of Richmond demonstrates that the politics of an AFL club are more brutal than what McLachlan would have confronted in Sydney. ''My father came home from Richmond board meetings with a black eye and he wasn't even a player,'' she said.

NRL Season 2015

Round 1
Thu, 05 MarTimes shown AEDT
BRI 6 vs SOU 36 Report Stats
Fri, 06 MarTimes shown AEDT
PAR 42 vs MAN 12 Report Report Stats
Sat, 07 MarTimes shown AEDT
NEW 24 vs NZW 14 Report Stats
GCT 18 vs WST 19 Report Stats
NQL 4 vs SYD 28 Report Stats
Sun, 08 MarTimes shown AEDT
PEN 24 vs CBY 18 Report Stats
CRO 20 vs CBR 24 Report Stats
Mon, 09 MarTimes shown AEDT
STG 4 vs MEL 12 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 13 MarTimes shown AEDT
CBY 32 vs PAR 12 Report Stats
CRO 2 vs BRI 10 Report Stats
Sat, 14 MarTimes shown AEDT
PEN 40 vs GCT Report Stats
MAN 24 vs MEL 22 Stats
NQL 14 vs NEW 16 Report Stats
Sun, 15 MarTimes shown AEDT
SOU 34 vs SYD 26 Stats
CBR 6 vs NZW 18 Report Stats
Mon, 16 MarTimes shown AEDT
WST 22 vs STG 4 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
MAN 12 vs CBY 16 Report Stats
BRI 44 vs NQL 22 Report Stats
Sat, 21 MarTimes shown AEDT
NZW 29 vs PAR 16 Report Stats
CBR 20 vs STG 22 Report Stats
MEL 36 vs CRO 18 Report Stats
Sun, 22 MarTimes shown AEDT
SOU 20 vs WST 6 Report Stats
GCT 18 vs NEW 20 Report Stats
Mon, 23 MarTimes shown AEDT
SYD 20 vs PEN 12 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
PAR 29 vs SOU 16 Report Stats
WST 24 vs CBY 25 Report Stats
Sat, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
NEW 26 vs PEN 14 Report Stats
CRO 22 vs GCT 24 Report Stats
STG 12 vs MAN 4 Report Stats
Sun, 29 MarTimes shown AEDT
NZW 16 vs BRI 24 Report Stats
SYD 34 vs CBR 6 Report Stats
Mon, 30 MarTimes shown AEDT
NQL 18 vs MEL 17 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 03 AprTimes shown AEDT
CBY vs SOU 16:00ANZ
GCT vs BRI 20:35Cbus Super Stadium
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
MAN vs CBR 17:30Lavington Sports Ground
NEW vs STG 19:30HS
Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEST
SYD vs CRO 16:00AS
Mon, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
PAR vs WST 15:00ANZ
MEL vs NZW 17:00AAMI
PEN vs NQL 19:00Pepper Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
BRI vs SYD 19:35SUN
CRO vs NEW 19:35Remondis Stadium
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
PAR vs GCT 15:00Pirtek Stadium
NZW vs WST 17:30MSS
PEN vs MAN 19:30Pepper Stadium
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
CBR vs MEL 14:00GIO Stadium
STG vs CBY 16:00ANZ
Mon, 13 AprTimes shown AEST
SOU vs NQL 19:00ANZ
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
CBY vs MAN 19:35ANZ
STG vs BRI 19:35Jubilee Oval
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
GCT vs PEN 15:00Cbus Super Stadium
NQL vs NZW 17:301300 Smiles Stadium
MEL vs SYD 19:30AAMI
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
WST vs CBR 14:00VAS
NEW vs PAR 16:00HS
Mon, 20 AprTimes shown AEST
CRO vs SOU 19:00Remondis Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
CBY vs WST 19:45ANZ
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
NZW vs GCT 12:00MSS
NEW vs NQL 14:00HS
SYD vs STG 16:00AS
MEL vs MAN 18:15AAMI
BRI vs PAR 20:00SUN
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
PEN vs CRO 14:00Pepper Stadium
SOU vs CBR 16:00Barlow Park
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI vs PEN 19:35SUN
SYD vs WST 19:35AS
Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
CBR vs GCT 15:00GIO Stadium
CRO vs NZW 17:30Remondis Stadium
NQL vs CBY 19:301300 Smiles Stadium
Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
MAN vs NEW 14:00BO
PAR vs MEL 16:00Pirtek Stadium
Mon, 11 MayTimes shown AEST
SOU vs STG 19:00ANZ
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
CBY vs SYD 19:35ANZ
NQL vs BRI 19:351300 Smiles Stadium
Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
PAR vs NZW 15:00Pirtek Stadium
GCT vs CRO 17:30Cbus Super Stadium
MEL vs SOU 19:30AAMI
Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
STG vs CBR 14:00WIN
NEW vs WST 16:00HS
Mon, 18 MayTimes shown AEST
MAN vs PEN 19:00BO
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
SOU vs PAR 19:45ANZ
Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
WST vs NQL 19:30CSS
Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
CBR vs CBY 16:00GIO Stadium
Mon, 25 MayTimes shown AEST
NEW vs BRI 19:00HS
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
PEN vs PAR 19:45Pepper Stadium
Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
GCT vs SOU 15:00Cbus Super Stadium
CBR vs BRI 17:30GIO Stadium
NQL vs MAN 19:301300 Smiles Stadium
Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
NZW vs NEW 14:00MSS
STG vs CRO 16:00Jubilee Oval
Mon, 01 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD vs MEL 19:00AS
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
BRI vs MAN 19:35SUN
WST vs GCT 19:35VAS
Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
NEW vs CBR 15:00HS
SOU vs NZW 17:30nib Stadium
PEN vs MEL 19:30Pepper Stadium
Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
CRO vs SYD 16:00Remondis Stadium
Mon, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
CBY vs STG 16:00ANZ
PAR vs NQL 19:00Pirtek Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
WST vs SOU 19:45ANZ
Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
NZW vs SYD 18:00MSS
Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
GCT vs CBY 16:00Cbus Super Stadium
Mon, 15 JunTimes shown AEST
MEL vs PAR 19:00AAMI
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
MAN vs WST 19:45BO
Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
CBR vs NQL 15:00GIO Stadium
GCT vs NZW 17:30Cbus Super Stadium
CBY vs PEN 19:30ANZ
Sun, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
NEW vs CRO 14:00HS
MEL vs BRI 16:00AAMI
Mon, 22 JunTimes shown AEST
STG vs SYD 19:00AS
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
BRI vs NEW 19:35SUN
SOU vs MAN 19:35ANZ
Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
NZW vs CBR 15:00MSS
NQL vs CRO 17:301300 Smiles Stadium
PAR vs STG 19:30Pirtek Stadium
Sun, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD vs GCT 14:00AS
WST vs PEN 16:00VAS
Mon, 29 JunTimes shown AEST
CBY vs MEL 19:00Belmore Sports Ground
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Fri, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
PEN vs SOU 19:45Pepper Stadium
Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
STG vs NQL 19:30WIN
Sun, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
MAN vs CRO 16:00BO
Mon, 06 JulTimes shown AEST
WST vs PAR 19:00ANZ
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
CBR vs NEW 19:45GIO Stadium
Sat, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
PEN vs SYD 17:30Pepper Stadium
CBY vs BRI 19:30ANZ
Sun, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
NZW vs MEL 14:00MSS
CRO vs STG 16:00Remondis Stadium
Mon, 13 JulTimes shown AEST
GCT vs MAN 19:00Cbus Super Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
PAR vs CBY 19:35ANZ
MEL vs PEN 19:35AAMI
Sat, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
CBR vs CRO 15:00GIO Stadium
NEW vs GCT 17:30HS
STG vs SOU 19:30SCG
Sun, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD vs NZW 14:00AS
BRI vs WST 16:00SUN
Mon, 20 JulTimes shown AEST
MAN vs NQL 19:00BO
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
BRI vs GCT 19:35SUN
WST vs SYD 19:35ANZ
Sat, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
NZW vs MAN 15:00MSS
SOU vs NEW 17:30ANZ
MEL vs STG 19:30AAMI
Sun, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
PEN vs CBR 14:00Pepper Stadium
CBY vs CRO 16:00Belmore Sports Ground
Mon, 27 JulTimes shown AEST
NQL vs PAR 19:001300 Smiles Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Thu, 30 JulTimes shown AEST
NZW vs CRO 22:00MSS
Fri, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
NQL vs CBR 00:001300 Smiles Stadium
STG vs NEW 00:00Jubilee Oval
SOU vs PEN 00:00ANZ
SYD vs CBY 00:00AS
MAN vs BRI 00:00To Be Confirmed
WST vs MEL 00:00VAS
GCT vs PAR 00:00Cbus Super Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 22
Thu, 06 AugTimes shown AEST
NZW vs STG 22:00MSS
Fri, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
BRI vs CBY 00:00SUN
NEW vs SYD 00:00HS
CBR vs WST 00:00GIO Stadium
MAN vs SOU 00:00BO
CRO vs NQL 00:00Remondis Stadium
MEL vs GCT 00:00AAMI
PAR vs PEN 00:30TIO
View All Fixtures
Round 23
Thu, 13 AugTimes shown AEST
BRI vs STG 00:00SUN
CBY vs GCT 00:00To Be Confirmed
NQL vs SOU 00:001300 Smiles Stadium
PEN vs NZW 00:00Pepper Stadium
CBR vs MAN 00:00GIO Stadium
SYD vs PAR 00:00AS
CRO vs MEL 00:00Remondis Stadium
WST vs NEW 00:00CSS
View All Fixtures
Round 24
Wed, 19 AugTimes shown AEST
NZW vs NQL 22:00MSS
Thu, 20 AugTimes shown AEST
STG vs PEN 00:00WIN
SOU vs CBY 00:00ANZ
SYD vs BRI 00:00AS
MAN vs PAR 00:00BO
CRO vs WST 00:00Remondis Stadium
MEL vs NEW 00:00AAMI
GCT vs CBR 00:00Cbus Super Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 25
Thu, 27 AugTimes shown AEST
PAR vs CRO 00:00Pirtek Stadium
NEW vs CBY 00:00HS
SOU vs BRI 00:00AS
CBR vs PEN 00:00GIO Stadium
MAN vs SYD 00:00BO
MEL vs NQL 00:00AAMI
WST vs NZW 00:00CSS
GCT vs STG 00:00Cbus Super Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 26
Thu, 03 SepTimes shown AEST
BRI vs MEL 00:00SUN
CBY vs NZW 00:00ANZ
NQL vs GCT 00:001300 Smiles Stadium
STG vs WST 00:00ANZ
PAR vs CBR 00:00Pirtek Stadium
PEN vs NEW 00:00Pepper Stadium
SYD vs SOU 00:00AS
CRO vs MAN 00:00Remondis Stadium
View All Fixtures
NRL Ladder 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D Pts
Newcastle Knights 4 4 0 0 8
Sydney Roosters 4 3 1 0 6
South Sydney Rabbitohs 4 3 1 0 6
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 4 3 1 0 6
Brisbane Broncos 4 3 1 0 6
Penrith Panthers 4 2 2 0 4
Melbourne Storm 4 2 2 0 4
Parramatta Eels 4 2 2 0 4
View all
 
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