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Giants great for ACT: Bolton

He grew up watching pre-season AFL games in the unfamiliar surroundings of Canberra Stadium, but premiership player Craig Bolton has predicted a brighter future as the GWS Giants continue to make inroads into the region.
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The Giants are embarking on the second year of a decade-long commitment to the ACT when they take on Essendon at Manuka on Friday night. The NAB Cup clash with the Bombers is the first AFL game under lights in Canberra, an achievement which would have been considered a long way off during Bolton’s formative years in the capital.

The Marist and Eastlake product carved out a successful top-flight career, playing 170 of his 199 games for the Sydney Swans, winning All-Australian honours in 2006 and 2009. He was an integral part of the Swans’ 2005 premiership.

And while he was a part of Swans teams which played annual games in Canberra, Bolton endorsed the Giants as the club to nurture the game in the ACT for years to come.

”The future’s looking really bright,” he said. ”I remember growing up as a kid and watching pre-season AFL matches at Bruce Stadium.

”In the last decade or two it’s been looking to take that next step, and in the last few years that’s really started to be realised.

”With GWS coming out, it’s provided something the region can latch on to.”

Bolton has a strong interest in the game’s development in Canberra after he was appointed as the deputy general manager for AFL NSW/ACT on Wednesday.

He believes the presence of the Giants, along with the establishment of the second-tier North East Australian Football League and the Giants Academy, will lead to a steady stream of Canberra juniors progressing to the elite level.

Three ACT players are currently on the lists of AFL clubs – Phil Davis and Josh Bruce with the Giants, and Ainslie product Jason Tutt at the Western Bulldogs.

”It’s a huge focus for us that we’re developing talent in Canberra,” Bolton said.

”Over the last 20 or 30 years there’s been some really good players come out of the region, and in the last few years we’re starting to see that evolve once again.

”With the GWS Academy and the NEAFL, it gives players a realistic pathway of getting into the AFL.

”Canberra is really starting to get some deserved attention and recognition, which will open opportunities for young players.”

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GWS happy if rotations are reduced

Greater Western Sydney will be one of the clubs to benefit the most if a cap on the number of interchanges is introduced next year, vice-captain Tom Scully says.
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A proposal to cut the high amount of rotations has generated widespread concern throughout the AFL, but Scully believes it could be an advantage to the competition’s youngest team.

”I’d be pretty happy with that rule coming in,” Scully said.

”We’ve got a lot of great endurance runners in our team, so I think for us personally as a team we wouldn’t be too disappointed with it.”

The rule has been trialled in the pre-season NAB Cup competition, with a limit of 80 rotations to be enforced in Friday night’s match between the Giants and Essendon at Manuka Oval.

AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou said this week that a cap would definitely be applied for the 2014 premiership season, although how many interchanges would be allowed has not been finalised.

The Giants could be the major winners if a cap gets the green light for next season, given their extremely young list and lack of physical size.

”It’d be interesting to see if it does come in how training regimes would have to change to play and adapt and play more game time,” Scully said.

”Speaking to a few of the boys they’ve found it pretty tough.

”If the rule does get brought in it’s probably going to change the game a little bit.

”I suppose it’s almost going to be a tactic of how many times you use your rotations and how many times you rotate.”

The Giants exceeded all expectations in their debut season and have been competitive so far during their pre-season campaign.

They will welcome another youngster into their ranks when No.2 draft pick Jono O’Rourke makes his debut against the Bombers.

The 18-year-old midfielder starred for Vic Metro at last year’s under-18 national championships and was rewarded with All Australian honours.

Veteran ruckman Dean Brogan will also play his first match of the year, coming into the team alongside co-captain Phil Davis, Setanta O’hAilpin, Curtly Hampton and vice-captain Scully, who missed last week’s game with the Lions with a knee injury.

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Prizemoney and strategy woo Niwot

Niwot is set to race in Canberra. Photo: Vince CaligiuriThe impressive prizemoney and a chance to prepare Niwot for the Sydney Cup convinced the Hawkes stable that racing in the capital was a good fit for the accomplished stayer.
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And with Canberra’s biggest day of racing boasting a record prize pool of $766,000, Michael Hawkes has warned the capital’s trainers they will face more interstate competition for the Black Opal and Canberra Cup on Sunday.

Hawkes will accept with Niwot for the $200,000 Canberra Centenary Cup when the fields are finalised on Thursday morning.

The two-time Melbourne Cup runner has been handicapped on 60 kilograms at Canberra and will carry the No.1 saddlecloth.

Hawkes said the race fitted in perfectly for Niwot’s tilt at back-to-back Sydney Cups on April 27.

There’s also $250,000 up for grabs in the Black Opal Stakes for two-year-olds, with Canberra trainers vying for the top prize against the power stables of Hawkes, Gai Waterhouse and Peter Snowden.

The Canberra Racing Club will have its two showcase races on the same day for the second year.

The club’s aims are bigger crowds, more prizemoney and greater revenue.

It’s working so far, with 10,000 people expected and strong fields in the two premier races.

”Anywhere they have prizemoney, they attract people,” Hawkes said on Wednesday.

”If you can have the better prizemoney on offer, then people will always come around. I think it’s better to spread the prizemoney around.

”It’s [Canberra’s] biggest day of the year … we’re looking forward to it and it’s an attractive race for people to go to, and for Niwot with the Sydney Cup coming up.”

The Hawkes stable has already withdrawn 2010 Melbourne Cup runner-up Maluckyday, who will instead run in the group2 Blamey Stakes (1600 metres) at Flemington on Saturday.

Hawkes said Maluckyday was racing in Melbourne to avoid a clash between the two stayers.

Niwot, an eight-year-old, has eight wins from just 34 starts and has made a remarkable comeback to racing after shattering the back of his knee while spelling in the winter of 2009 and being out of action for almost two years.

Three vets said Niwot would never race again.

Since his return to the track, Niwot has won four races, including the Sydney Cup and the Lexus Stakes at Flemington on Derby Day in 2011. He went on to run eighth behind Dunaden in the Melbourne Cup.

”He’s going good and generally, as horses get older, they don’t get better,” Hawkes said. ”In this case, he’s only very, very lightly raced and hopefully we’re on target for another Sydney Cup.

”This race [in Canberra] fits in perfectly.

”The day Niwot stops is the day we think he’s had enough … the older horses with us don’t get punished early, we always take our time, and that’s why Niwot is winning races as he gets older.”

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White calls on army general to rally Brumbies troops for Tahs

ACT Brumbies coach Jake White wants his players to ignore the ”war” build-up against the NSW Waratahs and focus on their perfect start to the Super Rugby season.
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Although White is playing down the rivalry between the teams, the coach has invited the chief of the Australian Defence Force to provide pre-match inspiration on Friday.

General David Hurley will present the Brumbies with their jerseys at the team’s last training session before it takes on the Waratahs at Canberra Stadium on Saturday night.

White has created a tradition of calling on former Brumbies or high-profile people to speak to his team at the captain’s run before games.

Club legend Brett Robinson had the duties for round one. Author Bryce Courtenay stepped into the change rooms last year. But White doesn’t want a Churchillian speech from Hurley.

”General Hurley has seen things and had to experience things, making tough calls as a leader,” White said. ”The message I want him to pass on is making decisions and being true to what you believe in. He’s the head of the Defence Force, he knows what brings the best out of that group because he does it every day of his life. It’s not about talking about being in the trenches … it’s about someone who deserves to hand the jerseys out, and General Hurley is a leader.”

White will name his team on Thursday for the round-four clash, with Brumbies legend George Smith to make a comeback on the bench. Fijian flyer Henry Speight has also proved his fitness and will be pushing for a spot in the starting XV after missing round two with a rib injury.

White could put Speight back into the starting side to join Clyde Rathbone, and move Joseph Tomane onto the bench.

Tomane, Speight and Rathbone have been fighting for the two wing spots in the pre-season. Speight and Rathbone started the season together. However, Speight left the field in pain in the opening game and was given an extra week to overcome a rib problem.

The Brumbies will take 26 players to South Africa for their games against the Durban Sharks and Cape Town Stormers.

Barring injuries, that squad will likely be made up of the 22 that take on the Waratahs. Three other players will also be included as well as Pat McCabe, if he gets through unscathed in his comeback for the ACT XV on Thursday night.

White is likely to make minimal changes to his squad to ensure the Brumbies have continuity as they chase three straight wins to start a season for the first time since 2005.

He also hopes the return of 110-Test Wallaby Smith and the rivalry with the Waratahs attracts more than 20,000 fans to Canberra Stadium.

It also is a chance for Brumbies on the cusp of Wallabies selection to show Test coach Robbie Deans they can match it with the Waratahs’ stars.

”Every time you play a derby game, it’s important for you to stake your claim,” White said. ”Players all say, what do I do to become a Wallaby, what more must I do? It’s simple: you’ve got to play well against the people who are the incumbents.

”It doesn’t matter if I downplay it or not talk about it … if it’s South Africa or Australian derby games, they’re the benchmark.”

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Furner may roll the dice on Dugan, Croker

SPORT – Josh Dugan during training at Raiders HQ, Bruce, Canberra. 6th March 2013. Photo by, Colleen Petch of The Canberra Times. Photo: Colleen Petch COPRaiders coach David Furner will decide on Thursday whether to gamble on back-line stars Josh Dugan and Jarrod Croker in Sunday’s NRL season opener, with key back-up Reece Robinson now in doubt for the Penrith match, too.
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Dugan and Croker were put through searching fitness tests on Wednesday afternoon and Furner rated both players better than a 50-50 chance of playing against the Panthers.

Their late inclusion would be a massive bonus for the Raiders, especially after Robinson sat out training on Wednesday because of back spasms.

Robinson had been named at fullback in place of Dugan and was also in line to take over the goal-kicking duties from Croker.

But the Indigenous All Stars representative winger had acupuncture treatment on Wednesday after straining his back in a weights session.

The Raiders were taking a conservative approach with Dugan and Croker but both have surprised coaching staff with speedy recoveries.

Croker was put through a tough tackling session at the end of Wednesday’s training to test his injured right knee. But the NRL’s leading point-scorer of last year did not take part in a session with goal-kicking guru Daryl Halligan.

Having been hospitalised for three days with a serious lip infection last week, Dugan ran strongly. If Dugan, Croker and Robinson were unavailable, Blake Ferguson is next in line to kick goals.

Furner said he would make a call on positions on Thursday, giving combinations time to gel before Sunday’s kick-off.

”There’s no excuses,” Furner said. ”I’ve got players there that have been training in the top squad all pre-season. If I have to make changes, I make changes.

”[Dugan and Croker] have upped the ante from 50-50, both of them. But these games I need them fully fit. I need to see how they pull up.”

Former Kangaroos prop Brett White is almost certain to drop off the Raiders bench and could play NSW Cup with Mounties. The Raiders are keen to increase his game time as White continues his comeback from a knee reconstruction.

Hooker Glen Buttriss is expected to be given another week off to recover from an ankle injury, while Terry Campese isn’t likely to be fit for selection until at least round three.

Furner is anticipating Penrith to take the Raiders on through the forwards. ”They’ve bought a couple of strike back-rowers in Lewis Brown and Sika Manu … they’re big and powerful, we’ve got to be aggressive.”

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All bets are off as rumour mill sends bookies into a panic

Bookmakers reacted swiftly to the crisis engulfing Cronulla, suspending betting on the club’s round-one clash with Gold Coast as well as other markets.
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While the bookies maintained they did so as a precaution, they were quick to halt betting on Sunday’s game, as well as the markets on most losses and to miss the top eight. TAB Sportsbet spokesman Glenn Munsie stressed the measure was precautionary only after the rumour mill went into overdrive on Wednesday.

“All we’re hearing is there are investigations and they (ASADA) are interviewing people at Cronulla,” Munsie said. “We’re not saying there’s anything wrong there, but we need to protect people who don’t know what’s going on. It’s suspended until we find out some further information.”

Tattsbet’s Gerard Daffy told AAP his agency had suspended betting on the Sharks game and a number of its futures markets at 4.30pm on Wednesday. “There’s a lot of rumour and innuendo, particularly about one side, the Sharks,” he said. “There’s rumours a lot of players are going to be stood down, and not all from the one club.”

Sportingbet Australia spokesman Bill Richmond said his agency had also stopped betting on the Sharks-Titans game. “We stopped all markets associated with the Sharks game,” Richmond said. “We have calls from people already wanting to back the Gold Coast.”

The Sharks, still without a stadium sponsor and the only club without a major backer, had just secured a sleeve sponsor. However, plans for an announcement are likely to now be on hold. The timing couldn’t be any worse for the club or the game. The Sharks were expected to be major contenders for the 2013 title, and heading into the season were $11 to win the grand final

after adding Luke Lewis, Michael Gordon, Chris Heighington, Beau Ryan and Jonathan Wright to an already impressive roster.

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League shock as Sharks hunted

Rugby league has been thrown into chaos on the eve of the season after speculation Cronulla were to become the first big victim of the Australian Crime Commission’s investigation into drugs in sport. Up to 14 players are believed to have been told they are facing a minimum six-month ban.
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Fairfax Media understands the players have received legal advice suggesting they admit to taking performance-enhancing drugs in the hope of avoiding longer suspensions. It is understood the players refused.

Devastated Sharks officials are resigned to being without a host of star players for the season, some of whom could be suspended before their season-opening match against the Gold Coast on Sunday.

Bookmakers suspended betting on the game amid speculation Cronulla were negotiating with Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority officials to cut a deal which would result in bans of just six months. Eight players from other clubs have also been implicated. The NRL refused to comment.

Sharks insiders believe a former staffer has turned whistleblower on the Shire club, one of six rugby league teams named in the ACC’s report into the integrity of Australian sport, alongside Newcastle, Manly, Penrith, Canberra and the North Queensland Cowboys.

ASADA officials interviewed staff from the club during the week and are expected to continue their inquiries in the coming days. Sharks players, some accompanied by their agents, were summoned to a meeting on Tuesday night to discuss the situation. Coach Shane Flanagan cancelled media engagements and a planned store appearance as the club locked down. Wednesday’s training session was held behind locked doors.

There were reports an emergency Sharks board meeting was called on Wednesday night to decide the club’s fate but club spokesman Rob Willis denied this.

The Cronulla club operates without a chief executive, and its chairman, Damian Irvine, is overseas.

It is understood the focus of ASADA’s investigations revolve around the time sports scientist Stephen Dank spent at the club in 2011. He was at Cronulla only a short while, falling out with team doctor Dave Givney. Sources said some players were concerned they were being investigated for their dealings with Dank after he left the club. Dank has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

”Sharks fans and all rugby league supporters can be assured the club has been very proactive in fully co-operating with ASADA and taking other measures that prioritise the integrity of our club and the welfare of our playing group,” the club said in a statement.

”While there are strict boundaries around what we can say while the ASADA investigation is ongoing, fans should be assured that as soon as there is an opportunity to provide further information we will do so.”

An ASADA representative refused to comment on the latest developments and wouldn’t confirm the meetings with the Sharks.

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Police slam risky driving in floods

POLICE have put Hunter drivers who fail to steer clear of floodwater on notice: stay away or risk a $232 fine.
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STUCK: A man and child walk toward a car abandoned in water at Testers Hollow near Cliftleigh. Picture: Peter Stoop

Central Hunter duty officer Inspector Brian Tracey said emergency services were becoming exasperated by drivers who were ignoring calls to use commonsense in the dangerous conditions.

Police are attempting to find the owner of a car abandoned in flooded Testers Hollow near Maitland on Tuesday night.

Police used farm equipment to reach the car to confirm no one was trapped inside.

“Police and emergency services put themselves in danger to save these reckless drivers,” Inspector Tracey said on Wednesday.

“The depth meters on the roadside might say it’s a metre deep but the whole road could be washed away underneath.”

SES Hunter Region duty officer Mandy Haigh said volunteers had rescued between 15 and 20 drivers across the Hunter after they had pushed through floodwaters .

Ignoring road closure and flood warning signs carries a penalty of $232 and two demerit points.

Despite another rain-free day in the Hunter, waters are only receding slowly.

Cessnock council has warned motorists to take care in the Wollombi and Laguna area, where roads are said to be badly damaged.

Council crews have not been able to access all roads to inspect them or schedule repairs.

At Carrowbrook, near Lake St Clair, fast-flowing crossings stopped Ausgrid crews from moving in heavy machinery to repair high-voltage lines damaged by a fallen tree.

Crews will revisit the area today to try to restore power.

The township of Hinton is expected to remain isolated until late on Friday.

Residents kept spirits up last night with music and a sausage sizzle at a Flood Fest gathering in the School of Arts hall.

Elizabeth Armstrong said it was a chance to get togetherbefore the water dropped.

“We’re very community-minded here and when it floods it reminds us we need to band together,” Ms Armstrong, one of the organisers, said.

Thursday is expected to be mostly sunny with possible showers on Friday. Extra water releases from Glennies Creek Dam were scaled back on Wednesday.

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Big dreams, but little tribes rule the roost

It’s the last Friday of a soggy pre-season, and again the northern beaches are flooded. Instead of jumping castles and kicking games at Brookie, the Sea Eagles’ launch has been moved to the leagues club. Undaunted, hundreds of supporters press in to have their photos taken and jerseys signed. Here are the Stewart brothers, Jamie Lyon, some unfamiliar young guys, Igor the Eagle, as the players come in from afternoon visits to hospitals and schools.
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There are the trademarks of the ad hoc event: a dodgy microphone, a late-running schedule and, Manly being Manly, some officials giving others a wide berth. But no amount of rain or mayhem can douse the defiant excitement you get in a community club at its season launch. It might be damp, but here and in 15 other clubs, this is the smell of hope.

Though its central administration is corporate, rugby league is a fundamentally local game. In cricket, Michael Clarke and Shane Watson appear for their clubs once. The endless cricket summer has no linear narrative. With league, the heroes of the sport are locally embedded, and the season has a clear ending, which 15 clubs prefer to forget, and a beginning, which is now.

Manly chief executive David Perry sums it up: “When you finish the season in October it feels like a long period for fans and players to wait. Everyone’s a bit restless now.”

The coach, Geoff Toovey, describes his mood as one of “nervous excitement”. “The players are chomping at the bit. They’re well and truly over running around the oval. Bring on Brisbane.”

Halfback Daly Cherry-Evans, who became a father last month, is ready. “To be honest, my partner’s doing most of the work getting up through the night. I’m looking forward to getting out there and doing my bit to support her.”

This is the tingling of early autumn. Manly, twice premiers in the past four seasons, have a dozen new players to inject hunger. In Brad Arthur and Andrew Johns, it has two high-profile new assistant coaches. Every start is a fresh one, for every player and every club. But in the bigger picture, 2013 is truly fresh, with a new broadcast deal and new chief executive, and the first fully prepared season of the Australian Rugby League Commission.

The commission was designed to shift power to the clubs. This is significant, because so many of the clubs face uncertainty that can only be alleviated by unity. “The clubs are the key stakeholders, and we’re hoping the new money and resources will be used wisely,” Perry says.

Toovey says: “We’re hoping to see positive changes. It’s such a great game, we believe it can be even greater. We’re excited at the possibilities of the commission doing it for us.” And yes, there is a new referees’ administration. Rugby league has always been the game that will change itself for the sake of the spectacle, and of the fans.

League is a fans’ game, which creates a tension between the aims of the centre and the needs of the local.

Adam Muyt, a Manly supporter, says the league is “chugging along beautifully as a game to watch. Its simplicity is its advantage. In the last few years the standard has got better and better.” But as a Manly fan, there is the constant spectre of nationalisation and rationalisation. Broadcasters have not paid millions to please northern beaches locals; the aims of the game’s chiefs are distinctly anti-local.

Keeping the big picture and the small linked is the challenge facing not only Manly, Muyt says, but all clubs. “The demographic shifts concern me,” he says. “Manly is not the same place as in the 1960s and ’70s. No place is, but that’s Manly’s biggest problem long term. Add in the push to rationalise the grounds. Brookie feels like it’s still 1978. The problem with rationalising is that Sydney is much more geographically decentralised than Melbourne, with the clubs a long way out and people strongly identified with them.”

Muyt says he would not follow league if Manly were rationalised – as they were, into the ill-fated Northern Eagles, 13 years ago. But the perennial tide keeps moving against Sydney community clubs. “The heart and soul of rugby league has shifted 1500 kilometres north,” Muyt says. “The strength of the game is its Queensland base. It might not sit well with Sydney, but Queensland could support two more teams at least. Papua New Guinea and New Zealand could probably have more teams. Does going national and international mean going back to the push to rationalise the Sydney teams?”

Up in Queensland, Matt O’Hanlon has been involved as a player, coach, even ground announcer, for decades. When Manly travel north this week, he will be with a thousand others at the Beenleigh Annual Prawn Luncheon, the appetiser for a trip to Lang Park. O’Hanlon is a “bigoted rugby league follower – there’s no other game”, though he does not follow any club. “I was a Newtown supporter, then Wests, then the South Queensland Crushers. Clubs are happy for me not to support them,” he says. He is a season ticket-holder at Lang Park, and goes to Gold Coast matches. A high school teacher, O’Hanlon agrees on the game’s northern strength. “Junior numbers are up in south-east Queensland. The kids at school are a barometer, and every Monday they’re talking about league.”

Anti-Sydney feeling has made the game national. O’Hanlon says: “Hardly a Queenslander wouldn’t say Melbourne is their second team.” The Storm, with its Queensland Origin stars and Super League foundations, is the league’s southern shopfront. Yet the local-national tension also complicates the Storm’s position. Paul Dalligan, a South Sydney supporter who moved to Melbourne seven years ago, says: “Melbourne people are never going to get better rugby league than this Storm team produces. That’s what worries me.” The game is still battling in the AFL stronghold, where, Dalligan says, “they wouldn’t know Gorden Tallis from Gordon Ramsay”.

AFL’s crowds dwarf rugby league’s. Dalligan says he is often asked ” ‘If your sport’s so good, why are your crowds so low?’ My response is, first, NRL’s a much better television sport than AFL, which is shown in the NRL’s television rights being worth $50 a minute more. And second, Sydney is not as centralised as Melbourne. People want to watch their team locally, whereas in Melbourne they’re happy to come to the MCG.”

Dalligan, like O’Hanlon and Muyt, belong to a community of league tragics who contributed to the inaugural Rugby League Almanac, a publishing idea imported from the AFL this year, in which fans write reports on every match. Dalligan supports South Sydney, and on Thursday will travel north to see his team play the Roosters. “I’m more confident than I have been, which is dangerous,” he says. But a Rabbitoh fan bears too many scars to be complacent. Dalligan says league wrecked his first marriage. “Souths were leading against the Broncos, and Gorden Tallis scored in the last minute. I was in the foetal position in the shower. My then wife walked in and saw me, and the look on her face said, ‘No . . .’ “

Hoping to prolong Dalligan’s agony will be Roosters diehard Brett Oaten, also an Almanac writer. “Ever since I was a kid I’ve hated Souths, as is required. The Roosters and Souths have never had good years at the same time. That makes this year particularly interesting,” he says.

Being a glamour team sits more easily with the Roosters, but Oaten has had his share of heartbreak. “I think I’ve loved them more than they’ve loved me back . . . I’ve had the same season tickets for 15 years. I like going to the footie even when we lose. I get angry, but keep coming back.” For this week, he says: “I’m nervous. All my mates are nervous. And we’re not even playing.”

That nervousness is all about to come to a head, from all corners of the rugby league nation. Matt Tedeschi, who lives in Orange and supports the Canberra Raiders, will travel to Penrith for their first game. “I’ve been counting down the weeks and days. It’s been a boring summer waiting,” he says.

It’s been even longer for Peta Bryant, who epitomises the transcendence of league fandom. Last year, Bryant lived in Cambodia and was only able to follow league online. “I was coming last in the family tipping comp,” she says. “I’m just looking forward to seeing any game live, it doesn’t matter who.”

Bryant is club-agnostic; she just loves her league. “Some families go to church on Sundays. For us it was going to the grandparents’ for lunch, then settling down to watch the Sunday afternoon league game.” Who she follows “depends on which family member I’m watching with. There are Bulldogs, Knights and Dragons fans among us. They get into me for my lack of loyalty, but it’s the game I love, not a team. I know that’s unusual.” It is her own way of conquering the local-national tension: support the game itself. Back in league civilisation, she will spend the 2013 winter in Canberra. “I’ll be going to watch Raiders games, for sure. That’ll give me a fourth team.”

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Steve Mascord: News reinforces need for change

Nervous wait: The Cronulla club is under investigation for alleged drug use. Photo: Chrisopher LaneDEVELOPMENTS in recent hours involving the ASADA investigation at Cronulla give us an insight into just how much infrastructure we really need to put around the NRL so that it operates with integrity and transparency in this punting-crazy world.
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In case you missed it (but still found this column – unlikely, I know), betting has been frozen on the Cronulla-Gold Coast match this Sunday because the Australian Crime Commission and ASADA have been interviewing officials and players at the Sharks.

There is speculation a number of players will be stood down and that authorities are trying to ‘cut a deal’ with the club which would involve a suspension of six months for those involved in doping in 2011.

Media was shut out of training as the story broke.

Discord has been bleating for years about the NRL setting up an internal integrity unit. One of the arguments against this was that the external expert they used, Ray Murrihy, was better-connected and more experienced than anyone they could hire.

So you would imagine that should Ray Murrihy put his hand up for the job, he’d have it. Well, apparently not ….

In any case, the key to protecting the integrity of the competition in the face of multiple threats associated with betting is not just about forming a unit to deal with dirty laundry.

It’s about airing ALL the laundry.

The biggest problem is inside information. If you use inside information to make a buck in business, you could get thrown in jail. In betting, everyone pats you on the back. How does that work?

In the NFL, clubs have to list who trained and who didn’t and why. Non-disclosure carries draconian penalties. And in most US states, it’s illegal to bet on the NFL anyway.

Locking the gates at training may be the first instinct of rugby league clubs when there’s drama. But the more you interact with gambling, the more transparent you need to be or else you will be dragged down by it.

Secrets are worth money and can be exploited. The day should not be far away when Cronulla – as part of the price it pays in return for a slice of the betting cake – has to announce at the earliest possible juncture “training now closed and function cancelled due to ASADA interviews with six players”

If you’re going to take money from punters, then compel clubs to say whether a star player like Sonny Bill Williams is actually playing. How many rules and protocols do they have in horse racing? We need to replicate every one of them in rugby league – stewards, scratchings, the lot.

If rugby league wants to keep its nose clean while it pockets millions from bookmakers, it needs much, much fewer secrets.

You can’t be half pregnant and you can’t half-engage bookmakers.

Hard done by

I feel sorry for Phil Veivers, the Salford coach who was sacked yesterday.

His team’s comeback against Hull KR two Sundays ago was one of the most stunning I have ever seen, and yet a week later he was gone after a heavy home loss to London.

Salford owner Marwan Koukash seems like an entertaining fellow and the fact that he is chasing the best players in the world – and now the best coach – is good for the game.

But his call for the salary cap to be raised is ill-conceived at best. Many clubs in Super League cannot afford to spend up to the cap and there are even calls for it to go down.

If Super League wants a cash injection and to operate at a higher level financially, then – as I’ve said before – they should talk to some of the franchises who have tried and failed to get into the NRL.

I know for a fact the West Coast Pirates have discussed entering Super League at a board meeting. What a great fillip it would be for Super League if they announced the Central Coast Bears or Brisbane Bombers had been granted franchises in 2015!

Going underground

Thanks to everyone for their comments last week. From now on until the World Cup, you will only be able to read Discord here online, which is part of the agreement between Fairfax and my primary employers, Rugby League Week.

Marto (I think I know you), as far as my ponytail is concerned it is long-gone. However, it’s getting a bit woolly again and I’ll get another haircut as soon as I can afford one!

Gav commented on the UK television rights. Since the last column, Premier Sports signed a new five-year deal. There’ll be six live games and two delayed every week. Here’s the statement from Premier: http://www.premiersports.tv/top/rugby/nrl/nrl-news/

Here’s the forum: http://whitelinefever.ning上海夜网m/forum/categories/discord/listForCategory

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net. Continue reading

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