Archive for the ‘Rugby League’ Category

Des Hassler Apologizes to Canterbury Fans After Bizarre Golden Point Loss to Titans

It has been called one of the most bizarre and thrilling NRL games ever played. On Sunday the Gold Coast Titans eked out a Golden Point victory over their fancied rivals, the Canterbury Bulldogs. But it was the course the match took that had fans and commentators bewildered.

Des Hassler apologises to Canterbury fans. Photo:

Des Hassler apologises to Canterbury fans. Photo:

In fact, flanked by Bulldogs Captain Michael Ennis, coach Des Hassler apologised to the Canterbury fans. He was apologising not only for blowing an 18 – 0 lead, but also for a string of bizarre incidents.

Just seconds before halftime Josh Reynolds cantered towards the sideline with the ball under his arm; as he crossed the touch line he threw the ball infield to Titans’ winger Anthony Don. Don was quick enough to play to the whistle rather than the assumption and sprinted towards the try line.

Inexplicably, the referee called Don back and awarded the Titans a penalty. He deemed Reynolds’ action a deliberate forward pass – even though the sideline official had raised his flag, calling him out of bounds.

With the halftime siren wailing the Titans were given one last opportunity for points.

They failed. But it seemed from this point on the rot had set in for Canterbury.

In the second half the bulldogs were kept scoreless. The Titans capitalised from Bulldog errors, and scored two tries. Another try came from lazy Canterbury defence; while a fourth resulted simply from a rising sense of belief.

During this time several scuffles broke out and the big men from each side – Tony Williams and Dave Taylor were put on report. Williams for a possible shoulder charge, Taylor for back-slamming an opponent.

Anthony Minechello, in his final NRL game, looked to score the match winner. But with the Titans’ kicker off the field the stand-in was unable to convert. The scores were tied at 18 – 18 as the final hooter sounded.

The Bulldogs squandered their attempt at a field-goal. The Titans didn’t.

Jordan Rapana Dodges Death

Canberra utility Jordan Rapana is lucky to be alive.

In the 55th minute of the game against St George he suffered a vicious head injury that left his brain unprotected. With his back to his goal -line Rapana attempted to hold back a rampaging Mata’utia. Not only did Mata’utia steamroll over him, but Rapana was left in-gaol clutching at his head.

Rapana’s collision had left him with a fractured skull. Something, surgeons said later, usually only resulting from automobile accidents. Incredibly Rapana got to his feet and played out the rest of the match!

Jordan Rapana. Photo:

Jordan Rapana. Photo:

Only later, when he found the extent of the injury, was he told that any contact to that already injured area could have killed him.

“The surgeon said if I copped another knock to my head, I could have been killed or be brain dead,” Rapana told reporters.

“I was keen to play the following week but the doc said it would have been suicide to play so soon.”

“The doc was shocked it could happen in rugby league, he said most of these injuries happen from car accidents or when you head hits metal. He couldn’t believe it was a head clash, he said he had never seen a fractured skull in football.”

Rapana had only just returned to first grade football following a two-year Mormon mission and a year playing in the Intrust Super Cup with the Souths Logan side. Rapana had impressed in this lower grade and was keen to return to the NRL after having previously played for the Titans.

“I’ll be out for the next six to eight weeks but the docs reckon I’ll be back training by pre-season, which is good.”

Rapana finished by saying, “I can’t believe how hard Peter Matu’atia’s head is … he must be a machine or something.” J

Jeff Robson Shows Toughness Still a Part of NRL

The beleaguered Cronulla Sharks played a standout game against the North Queensland Cowboys on Monday night. Sadly the understrength side went down in golden point. I say sadly because whether you are a Sharks fan or not every rugby league fan applauded the bravery shown by half-back Jeff Robson.

Only 10 minutes into the game the gutsy 88kg Robson was called upon to stop a rampaging 110kg Jason Taumalolo as he roared into the defensive line. Robson set himself for the tackle, but placed his head in an awkward position. The crown of Robson’s head connected with Taumalolo’s hip causing a gruesome cut in his scalp. Robson was drenched in his own blood from the cut which resulted in an immediate blood bin.

Jeff Robson Injury. Photo:

Jeff Robson Injury. Photo:

He was ushered into the change rooms and stitched up. The crown of his head was bandaged, he put on a playing helmet, and then – incredibly – he came back on!

Cronulla staff said Robson was eager to return to the field, pressuring the medicos to hurry up. His side was gelling; they had the scent of victory. Robson wanted his young players to experience what would have been the upset of five centuries.

The young Cronulla side have lost several marquee players to the ASADA doping ban. This, as Robson pointed out to the players filling their spots, is their time to shine.

And shine they did.

The Cowboys were at full strength and regarded as serious finals contenders. For the lowly, under-manned, strife-torn Sharks to come so close to beating them stunned everyone.

Robson’s toughness lifted his side – how could it not. It shows that rugby league is still a hard-man’s game despite the dives, angling for penalties and pathetic scrums.

World Anti-Doping Authority Concerned Over ASADA Leniency

Confessed banned-substance taker Paul Gallen has been made ineligible or the Brad Fittler medal awarded to the best New South Wales player in an Origin series.

On Wednesday Fittler remarked to media that he felt uncomfortable with the possibility of Gallen perhaps winning the medal named in his honour. Fittler said he didn’t want his name associated with someone confessing to using a banned substance as it could bring the award and his own reputation into disrepute.

The NRL considered Fittler’s denunciation. Today Gallen, currently suspended from competition, was made ineligible for the Brad Fittler medal and the Dally M (awarded to the representative player of the year).

It was a difficult decision to make for the NSWRL board. Every time something like this happens it prevents the game from moving on from the ASADA investigation. The board met for several hours on Friday morning to discuss Fittler’s proposal. They made the decision to make Gallen ineligible within a few hours.

No one is disagreeing with them.

Paul Gallen. One of 12 former cronulla players to admit to taking a banned substance. Photo:

Paul Gallen. One of 12 former cronulla players to admit to taking a banned substance. Photo:

The fact that Gallen (and others making the same deal with ASADA) received only a three week ban for admitting to taking a banned substance has outraged professional athletes in almost every other sport. That Gallen (and others) do not have the games they won forfeited from their records is scandalous. That they keep the money for their game-day appearances and sponsorships is tantamount to hypocrisy.

For Gallen to possibly win an award while serving a doping ban would be ridiculous.

Just look at what happened to Lance Armstrong if you want to know how drug-cheats fare in other sports.

SBW Cleared to be Selected for All Blacks

The best Rugby Union team in the world just got better.

New Zealand Rugby has cleared the way for footballing sensation Sonny Bill Williams to rejoin the All Blacks squad at the end of the NRL season.

And why wouldn’t they?

Sony Bill Williams.

Sony Bill Williams.

The 29 year-old South Sydney Rooster hasn’t played a domestic game of rugby union this year. But his footballing prowess, fitness, and game sense are without question. Williams has been outstanding for the Roosters this year and has shown he can make the swap to the 15 man game without any problems.

The New Zealand Rugby board granted Williams an exemption, making him available for representative duties. Steve Tew, New Zealand Rugby boss, said this would make Williams eligible to be picked for the World Cup end-of-season squad.

The All Blacks end-of-season tour begins on November 1 against the United States. Tests against England, Scotland and Wales follow over successive weekends.

Williams’ contract with the Roosters finishes with their final game of the year. The Roosters are guaranteed to make the finals and are posing as real threats to win the premiership. Should they go all the way, Williams will play his final game will be the NRL Grand Final on October 5.

He will play for Counties Manuka in the domestic New Zealand competition in 2015, under coach Tana Umaga.

ASADA Offers Deal

The joke that is the ASADA investigation into illegal doping within the NRL is building up to its punchline. ASADA has effectively cut a deal with players given ‘show cause’ notices. 17 past and present Cronulla players have been given the opportunity to admit the club gave them banned substances.

But they have been given a get-out-of-jail-free card. Should the players say they were unwittingly deceived into taking the substances their ban will be significantly reduced. Playing this care will result in a mere one-year suspension BACKDATED TO NOVEMBER 1 2013.

This means an admission of guilt in the use of banned substances will result in only 10 weeks on the sideline. Conveniently, the player bans will end the day new NRL contracts become registered – effectively not prejudicing any of them.

Players like team captain Paul Gallen won’t even miss playing for Australia, in the Four Nations Test, after the regular season. At worst he may only miss one game and perhaps have to postpone a scheduled boxing match.

The five current Cronulla players with ‘show cause’ notices are: Paul Gallen, Wade Graham, Nathan Gardner, Anthony Tupou, John Morris. The other players (part of the 2011 squad) are: Kade Snowden (Knights) Jeremy Smith (Knights), Luke Douglas (Titans), Albert Kelly (Titans), Mathew Wright (cowboys), Broderick Wright (retired), Colin Best (retired), Paul Aiton (Leeds), Stuart Flanagan (Appin), John Williams (retired), Josh Cordoba (London) and Ben Pomeroy (Catalan Dragons).

For Queensland Origin fans this must be a lot to stomach. Just as Lance Armstrong was stripped of his Tour de France victories when he admitted being a drug cheat so too should the New South Wales Blues forfeit their Origin wins.

Players have until Friday to decide whether they wish to take the deal. Refusing to do so will expose them to a mandatory two-year suspension should they be found guilty.

Monday Night Football Flop

Rugby league fans are voting with their feet, staying away in droves from the NRL’s Monday night football.

While hardly a typical game, Monday night’s Roosters vs Titans match attracted a paltry 7000 fans. Even the more hotly contested matches are struggling to fill seats.

Ground attendance figures for games are as follows:

  • Friday night: 740,673
  • Saturday night:  603,319
  • Sunday afternoon: 586,040
  • Monday night: 211,508

But worse awaits; with crowd figures expected to dip still further as difficult economic times forces families to make cuts wherever they can.

Paul Kind. Photo:

Paul Kind. Photo:

Paul Kind, the NRL’s commercial chief, believed the figures were indicative of the poor weather and mismatched sides. “The fact is there have been some great Monday night games this year, just as there have been great games on the weekends. Monday Night Football gives fans another opportunity to watch rugby league either at the ground or on TV and helps us spread our reach to more fans.”

Kind appears to be somewhat correct. TV broadcast figures for Monday nights are not significantly different from viewer numbers at other times. But actual ground attendance figures don’t le.

Fox Sports chief executive, Patrick Delany told that Matthew Johns’ Monday night football show was rating between 150,000 and 180,000; a windfall for the station.

Frizelle Calls on Titan Supporters Not to Abandon the Club

Titan’s chairwoman Rebecca Frizelle has made the announcement we all knew was coming, ‘Get behind the Titans or say goodbye to another Gold Coast NRL franchise.

Titans Chairwoman Rebecca Frizelle. Photo:

Titans Chairwoman Rebecca Frizelle. Photo:

Speaking to The Sunday Mail Frizelle has begged the fans not to abandon the Titans in their moment of greatest need. The club is currently on life support after the resignations of long-time coach John Carrtwright and founder Michael Searle. Add to this a second investigation for supposed financial irregularities, poor on-field performances, plummeting attendance, and the recent loss of their number one sponsor and it seems perhaps it’s time to pull the plug.

The Gold Coast has, at best, a spotty record with the NRL. The Titans are the seventh attempt to embed the game in the minds of residents. And while Coast fans are fiercely parochial when it comes to Origin, it seems they are less resilient with club football.

Both the Gold Coast United soccer team and the Gold Coast Suns AFL team siphoned fans away from the Titans. GC United has since met its demise, at the hands of owner Clive Palmer. But apathetic on-field performances have ensured the fans chose the Suns over the Titans.

Attendance numbers average a little over half of what they were during the club’s inaugural year (21, 489 in 2007 – down to 13,382 today).

The Gold Coast is fast getting the reputation of a graveyard for NRL clubs. Frizelle believes there is no common denominator between the previous six failed attempts and the current failing one, “Each,” she said, “has had its own set of circumstances and issues.”

The Titans have endured one catastrophe after another during their brief existence: a $25 million debt that almost ruined the club, a first financial scandal involving its Center of Excellence, and suggestions of it being an NRL retirement club.

Frizelle believes if the fans return, the sponsors will return. With sponsorship they can amass a winning team. With a winning team they can repay the fans.

Rugby Nines to Begin Early Next Year

New Zealand rugby seem keen to reclaim their top spot in Nines rugby. Perhaps that’s why they have pushed forward the starting date of next year’s pre-season tournament?

During the Commonwealth Games the New Zealand side were narrowly beaten by South Africa for the gold medal. The win by the South Africans ended a 16 year winning streak for the New Zealanders; a winning streak that makes Queensland’s dominance in recent years’ Origins seem paltry.



The Auckland Nines is an NRL affiliated event. Therefore the players at next year’s Auckland Nines will not be the same as those contesting the Commonwealth Games. But Duco Events and the Auckland Tourism Events and Economic Development were keen to capitalise on their nation’s current attention and keep Rugby Nines firmly on the agenda of sports fans.

All 16 NRL teams will attend to battle it out for the $2.4 million in prize money. Each team will bring between 16 and 18 players

Earlier in 2014 the North Queensland Cowboys won the Nines tournament. Estimates put the crowed attendance for the two day event at around 90,000.

Cartwright and Searle to Leave Titans

John Cartwright contemplates his future. Photo:

John Cartwright contemplates his future. Photo:

Besieged Titans coach John Cartwright has agreed to leave the club at the end of the 2014 season. Along with him, founder Michael Searle, will step down from the role of executive director of the titans board.

The Titans began the season stringing together some spectacular wins. However, as the season progressed, and the combinations of other clubs improved, the Titans showed just what goats they are.

With each successive loss the grumblings over Cartwrights abilities grew.

The only question is whether there will even be an NRL club on the Gold Coast next season.

Michael Searle almost sent the club bankrupt in2011, amassing a jaw-dropping $25 million in debts. It took the deep pockets of the ARL commission to bail out the Titans; but somehow Searle emerged still owning 40 per cent of the club.

Questions were raised at the time about Searle’s financial accountability. Those same questions are being asked again as the NRL conducts a forensic financial audit of the club.

All this is doing little to help the players and even less to attract the fans.

Co-captain Nate Myles put on a brave face, saying the players were 100 per cent behind their coach. What else could he say.

Cartwright is expected to make a formal announcement in the next few days. He told reporters, “I don’ want to coach anywhere else. I played at one club as a kid, I played at one club as a senior and I’ve been here as a senior coach from day one. I realise that I’m not going to be here forever and if I really want to coach for another 10 or 15 years I’m going to have to move on but my goal would be to win a premiership here and retire and go into something else.”

Prudent players and staff should follow Cartwright’s lead and be looking for other clubs now, in case of the worst.