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Rugby league is the freak of Australian sport

Cup match: Matt Seamark (centre) of Wales is sandwiched between Daniel Howard and Matthew Shipway of the US during a rugby league World Cup match last year.

Cup match: Matt Seamark (centre) of Wales is sandwiched between Daniel Howard and Matthew Shipway of the US during a rugby league World Cup match last year. Photo: Getty Images

Given the position rugby league holds in Australia, it never ceases to amaze how little coverage anything outside the NRL receives.

This week we had the qualifying system for the World Cup announced. You would think, given the number of NRL players likely involved, it might get a line or two in the papers – particularly since the 2017 tournament is in Australia.

No such luck.

The reasons for this are many and varied but I repeat my constant refrain: Australians are good underdogs but sheepish as leaders. We should be doing for rugby league worldwide what the Americans do for basketball and baseball, but somehow that missionary zeal is absent from most of us.

Maybe many rugby league people in Australia are involved in the sport because it’s the top show in town. If belly flopping was the top sport, they’d play and follow that. So they are ashamed what a small sport rugby league is worldwide and have nothing in common with second-rowers in Serbia or referees in American Samoa.

But rugby league in Australia is the real freak, the weird anomaly. I believe the real spirit of the game resides where it is marginalised, where people don’t get paid, where it battles every day for survival. That’s what the game is to me – not giant professional athletes earning more than the prime minister but geeks, battlers, trainspotters and volunteers trying to lift a sport above obscurity against the odds.

Anyway, onto the news itself. As predicted here, Italy and the US have been kind of kicked out of the World Cup despite their strong showings in Britain, Ireland and France last year.

Scotland, Samoa, Fiji, France and England are the automatic qualifiers alongside hosts Australia and New Zealand. That’s right, all the 2013 quarter-finalists except the US.

I see good and bad in this decision. The good is that the US has an incentive to sort out its warring factions and become a full member of the Rugby League International Federation before the tournament. Italy has the same problem and the same incentive.

The bad side of the decision is that full members are miffed at those two countries stacking their sides with foreign-based professionals and beating them – and they’ve ganged up on the Tomahawks and Azzurri whose non-membership prevents them defending themselves in the boardroom.

What’s more, the qualifiers will be mid-season, meaning NRL and Super League players will be unavailable. If the US and Italy are to get through to the World Cup in 2017, they’ll have to do so with domestic players or at least those from lower-tier competitions in Australia and Britain.

And that’s not a bad thing. I feel the US, in particular, have been treated poorly but, in the end, we want the best rugby league countries in the World Cup, not those who exported more people to Australia and England in the 1950s.

The remaining seven spots in the 2017 tournament will be filled by qualifiers in Europe (three), Asia-Pacific (two), the Americas (one) and Africa-Middle East (one).

This year’s European Championships will decide which of Ireland, Scotland, Wales and France will take part in the 2016 Four Nations.

Why are we having a 2016 Four Nations when Great Britain want to tour Australia next year? Given the choice, I’d rather players have off 2016 and we get the Lions next year.

Turnover at Titans

I HAD the pleasure of meeting Daryl Kelly, the chairman of the Gold Coast Titans, at 1300SMILES Stadium on Saturday night.

In retrospect, I’m glad we didn’t have coffee or you might not be reading this column.

It was a coffee with Kelly that preceded the resignation of coach John Cartwright on Tuesday. Club founder Michael Searle went late last week, although we weren’t told until Tuesday.

I have a lot to do with coaches these days through my work with Triple M, even though I almost never call them anymore as a news gatherer between games.

Cartwright was always helpful and honest, his comment about coaches being “ships in the night” showed rare perspective in a stressful and self-absorbed industry. He made it clear he cared about the club beyond his own career and it’s great he’s staying around.

The end of Neil Henry’s tenure in North Queensland was premature; it occurred during a finals series, after all. He’s a good choice as replacement.

As for Searle, he founded the joint. Searle was one of the up-and-coming movers and shakers in the game who, unfortunately, over-reached with the ill-fated centre of excellence.

I’m aware that people who were out of pocket from that held it against the club and stayed away. Maybe now they’ll come back.

But Searle’s legacy is a club that wouldn’t have been there otherwise. That’s something to be proud of.

Tallis taken to task

COMMENTS time and I’m still playing catch-up.

From last week’s column, You Got The Juan said Gorden Tallis was not a journalist and should be called a pundit. I agree – but have a confession to make. I don’t have a degree in journalism. I got a job straight out of high school at AAP.

Short Memory said Tallis was basing his comments on what Robbie Farah said to him 15 months ago. But an unnamed player was quoted in Rugby League Week just a fortnight ago criticising Potter. I don’t think Tallis’ claims were based solely on the conversation with Farah. He just cited it as evidence.

Jimmy Crocodile said fans wanted coaches sacked when they did not get results. And I guess that’s why they are sacked, Jimmy! I’d just like to see more of them serve out their contracts, and I’d like to see more support for them when they are sacked. Then we’d get a better class of applicant.

I’m going back to the "image" column looking for something I can respond to but most of the feedback seems to be league v AFL v rugby union tiffs. OK … Tired Camel said because I have done stupid things, I can’t comment on players doing silly things. But what is the use of learning from mistakes if you can never pass on what you learn? I waited 28 years until I could cope with being called a hypocrite before writing that column. I also outed myself as one right at the top – so if you thought that discounted me from commenting, you could stop reading right away.

Lgrsydney questioned Todd Carney winning the 2010 Dally M medal. But the Dally M is for the best player – not the fairest. The Rothmans Medal was best and fairest. Mind you, suspensions do discount a candidate from the Dally M medal. As for Paul Gallen, he’s the captain of NSW and says interesting things. No one has the right to censor him.

Soot said people in all areas of society behave poorly. But rugby league at the top is a media-financed and driven entity that the game as a whole uses as a recruitment tool. James Packer is not a front man for recruiting future media moguls. If the people at the top, whose wages are paid by media rights, are acting in a way that deters recruitment, then the amateur game is hurt as badly as the professional game.

Enough for this week, then.

Here’s the forum.

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65 comments so far

  • RLWC should move to 16-teams in 2017.16 is a much better format than 14 teams, and they could final 16-teams to be competitive, especially if the eligibility rules get loosened more.

    Date and time
    August 06, 2014, 4:07PM
    • Unfortunately, many (not saying all) RL people in Australia seem to think RL begins and ends at our borders. Yet when I was younger, there was nothing better than rousing Ashes RL Test matches between Great Britain and Australia. Would love to see that again. Also looking forward to the 2017 RLWC; the 2013 RLWC was generally great.

      Date and time
      August 06, 2014, 4:53PM
      • Those many are right. RL is a great game within its two state borders, a non entity beyond that. Appreciate what you have.

        Date and time
        August 07, 2014, 10:52AM
    • It wouldn't matter what countries you put in the "World Cup" the countries will be full of Aussies and Kiwis anyway, so just make the countries up

      FC of Sydney
      Date and time
      August 06, 2014, 6:27PM
      • Australia does very little to promote League globally.For some reason they are very inward looking you only have to listen to the bias in their media towards the only overseas NRL Warrior side to wonder why?Perhaps you Aussies just dont care about growing the game- I really dont know.There is some movement with PG and now Petro is pushing Fiji which is great but such a lot more could be done especially come World Cup time.
        League is such a TV friendly sport(altho time taking for video refs is spoiling it lately)that its growth could be huge if the leaders were dedicated to it.
        You are correct that the backbone of any sport is in the thousands of unpaid players and volunteers away from the limelight.Any sport that ignores the imput of their grassroots will slowly stagnate at best or decline at worst.

        Date and time
        August 06, 2014, 6:29PM
        • "Given the position rugby league holds in Australia, it never ceases to amaze how little coverage anything outside the NRL receives."

          What does that mean? and given that rugby league is mainly played in two states what is the problem?

          Date and time
          August 06, 2014, 6:49PM
          • I agree OPERAKAT - a truly staggering and arrogant comment. Have a look at the publicity the Waratahs have had this last 2 weeks; plus the All Blacks V Wallabies start next week. Uo here is Brisbane the Reds have bigger home crowds on average than the Broncos.

            Next Mini Ice Age
            Date and time
            August 07, 2014, 8:28AM
          • Sigh.

            I think you missed the point entirely.

            The writer is asking why non-NRL related rugby league, ie. World Cup, NSW Cup, other non-NRL related competitions do not receive much coverage.

            Date and time
            August 07, 2014, 11:23AM
          • @Next Mini Ice Age:
            You must be living in a nice bubble there! Also could you be more wrong?
            Brisbane Broncos NRL 9 314,438 34,938
            Reds Super Rugby 8 228,003 28,500

            Not only do the Broncos have a higher average crowd, their total crowd will be so much bigger because they play far more matches in a season too!

            Date and time
            August 07, 2014, 11:33AM
          • Hi Budz - the Broncos average crowd numbers are heavily skewed through 3 - 4 games. When the Broncos play say GC Titans/ Cowboys/ Warriors (big kiwi population up here) they get around 40,000. Go and have a look at the average crowds for other games.

            Next Mini
            Date and time
            August 07, 2014, 12:02PM

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        NRL Season 2015

        Round 1
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        BRI 6vs SOU 36 Report Stats
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        PAR 42vs MAN 12 Report Report Stats
        Sat, 07 MarTimes shown AEDT
        NEW 24vs NZW 14 Report Stats
        GCT 18vs WST 19 Report Stats
        NQL 4vs SYD 28 Report Stats
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        PEN 24vs CBY 18 Report Stats
        CRO 20vs CBR 24 Report Stats
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        STG 4vs MEL 12 Report Stats
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        Round 2
        Fri, 13 MarTimes shown AEDT
        CBY 32vs PAR 12 Report Stats
        CRO 2vs BRI 10 Report Stats
        Sat, 14 MarTimes shown AEDT
        PEN 40vs GCT 0 Report Stats
        MAN 24vs MEL 22 Stats
        NQL 14vs NEW 16 Report Stats
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        SOU 34vs SYD 26 Stats
        CBR 6vs NZW 18 Report Stats
        Mon, 16 MarTimes shown AEDT
        WST 22vs STG 4 Stats
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        Round 3
        Fri, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
        MAN 12vs CBY 16 Report Stats
        BRI 44vs NQL 22 Report Stats
        Sat, 21 MarTimes shown AEDT
        NZW 29vs PAR 16 Report Stats
        CBR 20vs STG 22 Report Stats
        MEL 36vs CRO 18 Report Stats
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        SOU 20vs WST 6 Report Stats
        GCT 18vs NEW 20 Report Stats
        Mon, 23 MarTimes shown AEDT
        SYD 20vs PEN 12 Report Stats
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        Round 4
        Fri, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
        PAR 29vs SOU 16 Report Stats
        WST 24vs CBY 25 Report Stats
        Sat, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
        NEW 26vs PEN 14 Report Stats
        CRO 22vs GCT 24 Report Stats
        STG 12vs MAN 4 Report Stats
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        NZW 16vs BRI 24 Report Stats
        SYD 34vs CBR 6 Report Stats
        Mon, 30 MarTimes shown AEDT
        NQL 18vs MEL 17 Stats
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        Round 5
        Fri, 03 AprTimes shown AEDT
        CBY 17vs SOU 18 Report Stats
        GCT 16vs BRI 26 Report Stats
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        MAN 16vs CBR 29 Report Stats
        NEW 0vs STG 13 Report Stats
        Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEST
        SYD 12vs CRO 20 Report Stats
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        PAR 6vs WST 22 Report Stats
        MEL 30vs NZW 14 Report Stats
        PEN 10vs NQL 30 Report Stats
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        Round 6
        Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
        BRI 22vs SYD 18 Report Stats
        CRO 22vs NEW 6 Report Stats
        Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
        PAR 16vs GCT 38 Report Stats
        NZW 32vs WST 22 Report Stats
        PEN 22vs MAN 12 Report Stats
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        CBR 10vs MEL 14 Report Stats
        STG 31vs CBY 6 Report Stats
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        SOU 12vs NQL 30 Report Stats
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        Round 7
        Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
        CBY 28vs MAN 16 Report Stats
        STG 12vs BRI 10 Report Stats
        Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
        GCT 32vs PEN 6 Report Stats
        NQL 28vs NZW 24 Report Stats
        MEL 17vs SYD 16 Report Stats
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        WST 22vs CBR 30 Report Stats
        NEW 22vs PAR 28 Report Stats
        Mon, 20 AprTimes shown AEST
        CRO 18vs SOU 10 Stats
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        Round 8
        Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
        CBY 14vs WST 38 Stats
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        NZW 28vs GCT 32 Report Stats
        NEW 24vs NQL 26 Report Stats
        SYD 12vs STG 14 Report Stats
        MEL 10vs MAN 12 Stats
        BRI 28vs PAR 16 Stats
        Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
        PEN 26vs CRO 18 Stats
        SOU 22vs CBR 30 Stats
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        Round 9
        Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
        BRI 8vs PEN 5 Report Stats
        SYD 36vs WST 4 Stats
        Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
        CBR 56vs GCT 16 Stats
        CRO 16vs NZW 20 Stats
        NQL 23vs CBY 16 Stats
        Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
        MAN 30vs NEW 10 Stats
        PAR 10vs MEL 28 Stats
        Mon, 11 MayTimes shown AEST
        SOU 16vs STG 10 Stats
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        Round 10
        Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
        CBY 10vs SYD 24 Stats
        NQL 31vs BRI 20 Stats
        Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
        PAR 13vs NZW 17 Report Stats
        GCT 22vs CRO 23 Report Stats
        MEL 16vs SOU 12 Stats
        Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
        STG 32vs CBR 18 Report Stats
        NEW 22vs WST 12 Stats
        Mon, 18 MayTimes shown AEST
        MAN 10vs PEN 11 Stats
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        Round 11
        Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
        SOU 14vs PAR 12 Report Stats
        Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
        WST 0vs NQL 8 Report Stats
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        CBR 34vs CBY 41 Stats
        Mon, 25 MayTimes shown AEST
        NEW 18vs BRI 31 Stats
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        Round 12
        Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
        PEN 20vs PAR 26 Stats
        Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
        GCT 16vs SOU 22 Report Stats
        CBR 12vs BRI 24 Stats
        NQL 18vs MAN 14 Report Stats
        Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
        NZW 24vs NEW 20 Stats
        STG 42vs CRO 6 Stats
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        SYD 24vs MEL 2 Report Stats
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        Round 13
        Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
        BRI 44vs MAN 10 Report Stats
        WST 20vs GCT 27 Report Stats
        Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
        NEW 22vs CBR 44 Stats
        SOU 36vs NZW 4 Stats
        PEN 0vs MEL 20 Report Stats
        Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
        CRO 10vs SYD 4 Stats
        Mon, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
        CBY 29vs STG 16 Stats
        PAR 30vs NQL 36 Report Stats
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        Round 14
        Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
        WST 34vs SOU 6 Report Stats
        Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
        NZW 21vs SYD 25 Report Stats
        Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
        GCT 28vs CBY 14 Stats
        Mon, 15 JunTimes shown AEST
        MEL 22vs PAR 26 Report Stats
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        Round 15
        Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
        MAN 30vs WST 20 Report Stats
        Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
        CBR 20vs NQL 21 Report Stats
        GCT 14vs NZW 36 Report Stats
        CBY 24vs PEN 12 Report Stats
        Sun, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
        NEW 28vs CRO 30 Report Stats
        MEL 12vs BRI 14 Report Stats
        Mon, 22 JunTimes shown AEST
        STG 14vs SYD 19 Report Stats
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        Round 16
        Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
        BRI 44vs NEW 22 Stats
        SOU 20vs MAN 8 Report Stats
        Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
        NZW 30vs CBR 8 Stats
        NQL 18vs CRO 24 Report Stats
        PAR 16vs STG 12 Report Stats
        Sun, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
        SYD 20vs GCT 10 Stats
        WST 12vs PEN 35 Stats
        Mon, 29 JunTimes shown AEST
        CBY 20vs MEL 4 Report Stats
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        Round 17
        Fri, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
        PEN 20vs SOU 6 Report Stats
        Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
        STG 12vs NQL 18 Report Stats
        Sun, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
        MAN 28vs CRO 16 Report Stats
        Mon, 06 JulTimes shown AEST
        WST 16vs PAR 28 Stats
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        Round 18
        Fri, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
        CBR 36vs NEW 22 Stats
        Sat, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
        PEN 4vs SYD 24 Stats
        CBY 8vs BRI 16 Stats
        Sun, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
        NZW 28vs MEL 14 Report Stats
        CRO 28vs STG 8 Report Stats
        Mon, 13 JulTimes shown AEST
        GCT 6vs MAN 38 Stats
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        Round 19
        Fri, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
        PAR 4vs CBY 28 Report Stats
        MEL 52vs PEN 10 Report Stats
        Sat, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
        CBR 20vs CRO 21 Report Stats
        NEW 30vs GCT 2 Report Stats
        STG 8vs SOU 24 Report Stats
        Sun, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
        SYD 24vs NZW 0 Report Stats
        BRI 42vs WST 16 Stats
        Mon, 20 JulTimes shown AEST
        MAN 12vs NQL 30 Stats
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        Round 20
        Fri, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
        BRI 34vs GCT 0 Report Stats
        WST 8vs SYD 33 Stats
        Sat, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
        NZW 12vs MAN 32 Stats
        MEL 22vs STG 4 Stats
        SOU 52vs NEW 6 Stats
        Sun, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
        PEN 24vs CBR 34 Report Stats
        CBY 16vs CRO 18 Report Stats
        Mon, 27 JulTimes shown AEST
        NQL 46vs PAR 4 Stats
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        Round 21
        Fri, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
        SYD 38vs CBY 28 Report Stats
        WST 34vs MEL 16 Report Stats
        Sat, 01 AugTimes shown AEST
        NZW 14vs CRO 18 Stats
        NQL 32vs CBR 24 Stats
        MAN 44vs BRI 14 Stats
        Sun, 02 AugTimes shown AEST
        STG 46vs NEW 24 Stats
        SOU 20vs PEN 16 Report Stats
        Mon, 03 AugTimes shown AEST
        GCT 24vs PAR 14 Stats
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        Round 22
        Fri, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
        BRI 16vs CBY 18 Report Stats
        MAN 28vs SOU 8 Stats
        Sat, 08 AugTimes shown AEST
        NZW 0vs STG 36 Stats
        CRO 30vs NQL 18 Stats
        PAR 10vs PEN 4 Stats
        Sun, 09 AugTimes shown AEST
        MEL 36vs GCT 14 Report Stats
        NEW 22vs SYD 38 Report Stats
        Mon, 10 AugTimes shown AEST
        CBR 18vs WST 20 Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 23
        Thu, 13 AugTimes shown AEST
        NQL 18vs SOU 31 Stats
        Fri, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
        BRI 32vs STG 6 Report Stats
        Sat, 15 AugTimes shown AEST
        WST 18vs NEW 24 Stats
        PEN 24vs NZW 10 Stats
        SYD 28vs PAR 18 Stats
        Sun, 16 AugTimes shown AEST
        CBR 24vs MAN 26 Stats
        CBY 36vs GCT 14 Report Stats
        Mon, 17 AugTimes shown AEST
        CRO 2vs MEL 30 Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 24
        Thu, 20 AugTimes shown AEST
        STG 19vs PEN 12 Report Stats
        Fri, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
        SOU 18vs CBY 32 Report Stats
        Sat, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
        CRO 40vs WST 18 Report Stats
        NZW 16vs NQL 50 Report Stats
        SYD 12vs BRI 10 Report Stats
        Sun, 23 AugTimes shown AEST
        GCT 28vs CBR 12 Stats
        MAN 16vs PAR 20 Report Stats
        Mon, 24 AugTimes shown AEST
        MEL 6vs NEW 20 Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 25
        Thu, 27 AugTimes shown AEST
        SOU 12vs BRI 47 Report Stats
        Fri, 28 AugTimes shown AEST
        MAN 10vs SYD 46 Report Stats
        Sat, 29 AugTimes shown AEST
        PAR 28vs CRO 35 Stats
        NEW 18vs CBY 20 Stats
        MEL 14vs NQL 6 Report Stats
        Sun, 30 AugTimes shown AEST
        WST 50vs NZW 16 Report Stats
        GCT 28vs STG 26 Stats
        Mon, 31 AugTimes shown AEST
        CBR 34vs PEN 18 Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 26
        Thu, 03 SepTimes shown AEST
        BRI 8vs MEL 15 Report Stats
        Fri, 04 SepTimes shown AEST
        SYD 30vs SOU 0 Report Stats
        Sat, 05 SepTimes shown AEST
        PEN 30vs NEW 12 Stats
        STG 32vs WST 30 Stats
        NQL 42vs GCT 12 Stats
        Sun, 06 SepTimes shown AEST
        PAR 24vs CBR 28 Stats
        CRO 12vs MAN 14 Stats
        CBY 26vs NZW 22 Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Telstra Premiership Finals Round 1
        Fri, 11 SepTimes shown AEST
        SYD 18vs MEL 20 Report Stats
        Sat, 12 SepTimes shown AEST
        CBY 11vs STG 10 Report Stats
        BRI 16vs NQL 12 Report Stats
        Sun, 13 SepTimes shown AEST
        CRO 28vs SOU 12 Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Telstra Premiership Finals Round 2
        Fri, 18 SepTimes shown AEST
        SYD 38vs CBY 12 Report Stats
        Sat, 19 SepTimes shown AEST
        NQL 39vs CRO 0 Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Telstra Premiership Finals Round 3
        Fri, 25 SepTimes shown AEST
        BRI 31vs SYD 12 Stats
        Sat, 26 SepTimes shown AEST
        MEL 12vs NQL 32 Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Telstra Premiership Finals Round 4
        Sun, 04 OctTimes shown AEDT
        BRI 16vs NQL 17 Report Stats
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        NRL Ladder 2015
        Overall standings
        Team P W L D +/- Pts
        Sydney Roosters 24 18 6 0 291 40
        Brisbane Broncos 24 17 7 0 195 38
        North Queensland Cowboys 24 17 7 0 133 38
        Melbourne Storm 24 14 10 0 119 32
        Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 24 14 10 0 42 32
        Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 24 14 10 0 -7 32
        South Sydney Rabbitohs 24 13 11 0 -2 30
        St George-Illawarra Dragons 24 12 12 0 27 28
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