NRL 2006: Booze, the End of The Silly Season and Souths Will Rise Again

I don’t mind the odd cleansing ale but it seems that the result of the annual Rugby League Week players poll revealed a culture of binge drinking. And with perfect timing Parra’s Tim Smith is ejected from a hotel after an altercation with cricket star Micheal Clarke and the Dragon’s Shaun Timmins arrested after riding a street sweeper in Brisvegas. League is not the only sport to have problems with alcohol and drugs but for some reason incidents on league (apart from those with white-line fever in rugby) attract all the attention.

The fact the media feels no obligation to hide such stories is a positive sign even if the Daily Terrorgraph as, per usual, goes all tabloid on any such incidents making it hard to discern reality from the hyperbole.

NRL players are public figures and regarded as role models. That is not to say they should live devout, sober lives of chastity but they must be aware that their actions are under scrutiny. An incident that for the average Joe or Joan Blow would be nothing too much is magnified thousand fold. A league club is a brand now and worth money. If players are getting into mischief it lessens the sponsorship power of the brand which in the modern game is not a good thing. They do have a responsibility as a representative of their club.

The equivalent would be for myself to attend a corporate function, get smashed and do something stupid. It would hurt the reputation of any organization I was associated with and be career limiting as well as business limiting. Of course, if I was to do the same thing over the weekend it wouldn’t matter. NRL players do not have that luxury. Then again I am not earning $150-200,000 a year or more playing sport.

The silly season is over! The June 30 anti-tampering deadline (honoured more in breach than in compliance) will be scrapped. Players will be free to negotiate any time during the year with rival clubs. Like many (the only exception I could find was Parra’s CEO Dennis Fitzgerald who seems to trudge the lone path of NRL iconoclast) I regard this is a good move. The anti-tampering regulation was a farce with most already knowing who would sign with who well before June 30.

Some have hinted a draft but I don’t think one is needed. The salary cap is working though it does need some tweaking. Concessions for long serving players and juniors are needed. One of the saddest moments in league is when a long serving player has to leave his club due to salary cap squeeze. I would be heartbroken to see Nathan Hindmarsh near the end of his career be forced from the Eels (as I’d expect a Manly fan to feel the same way about Beaver Menzies or a Knightsian about Joey). The notion of the one-club player is something the NRL should ensure remains part of the game.

A team that is benefiting from the salary cap is South Sydney. The Bunnies have been quite active on the player market already signing Nigel Vagana, David Kidwell and Dean Widders. This is a good move by Souths. They need some good players to build a side around, help bring the juniors through and create a winning culture. Also, if Souths start winning they will be able to keep it going by attracting talent to the club. The Crowe/Holmes a Court partnership will ensure a professionally run club and not the well-meaning but amateur sins of the past. If Souths can get it together off field it will flow onto the field. And if Souths become competitive again what a boon to league it will be.

Finally, a mention of that strange tournament in Germany. Like many I’m go the Socceroos. But I don’t think this well lead to a golden era of soccer in Australia. I do think the round ball and oval ball winter sports all have their niche. But there is a lot of hype and emotion with the Socceroos world cup appearance. After the World Cup they will need to maintain the interest which may be a little more difficult. Malcolm Knox makes a good point in the latest issue of The Monthly. The reason with League and AFL have the following is that they are the premier comps in the world. The A-League isn’t and the Socceroos need to prove themselves consistently at the highest levels.

For the Blues, Kimmorely and Melbourne’s Scott Hill as the new halves combination. And could Canberra get two players in the QLD origin squad? Clinton Schifcofske a bolter for the QLD fullback spot.

And from Jason at, news on a benefit night for Dean Byrne. A young player who through injury is doing it tough.

Tips for Round 15

Storm to tame the Bulldogs

Sharks over the Knights

Tigers over Panthers in the battle of the big cats

Dragons to rope in the Cowboys

Raiders to vanquish the Roosters

Sea Eagles to get up against the Broncos

The Warriors to send the Bunnies deeper towards the spoon

The Eels to come from behind against the bye.

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17 years ago

You and Knox are both wrong. The reason League and AFL have the support they do is *not* (repeat: NOT) because they are the premier leagues in the world. When you’re 11 years old you don’t survey the worlds various sporting leagues, decide which is objectively best and support that. It is because those games are embedded in the community so deeply, its what people grow up with and the way we express the tribal side of our identities. Soccer fulfills that role in most countries, accounting for its popularity.

17 years ago

I never understood why they didn’t consider Kimmorley and Hill a first choice – IIRC, they are a premiership winning combination??

I agree with Amanda, as well. Clearly support for AFL is not based on any rational assessment of the game :)

17 years ago

I agree that there is a element of tribalism involved but I still think Knox has a point. Another interesting point is ratio of participation vs popularity but which I would need to do some research there.

However after this morning’s result we are all Guusball fans now. Imagine if we beat Italy!

Whether soccer can maintain this momentum between World Cups remains to be seen. I’d say the end result will be a status quo with both rugby codes, AFL and soccer with the usual slanging off about rival codes but all secretly enjoying the other sports. I say though it would be another World Cup or two before any impact of this World Cup can be assessed.

Yes, Kimmorely/Hill would be the best combination. I just hope they don’t do something stupid like put Gower (or even Gasnier) at 5/8.

17 years ago

What point does he have? I haven’t read the article but if it is as you explained it, I think he’s got the emphasis wrong. How many people rationally evaluate these things, really? The NRL is the best league in the world, but that is incidental to its central place in the community. If my RL team goes through a losing streak, I don’t drop it and start supporting whoever is top of the table. You stick by them because anything else is unthinkable. That is how sport works. We love cricket because we grew up in it and can see how it is objectively sublime. Good luck explaining that to a Brazilian. The A League doesn’t need to be the best league in the world to get alot of support, it needs to be a good enough quality to keep the fans coming, give them (us) seomething to be proud of and be not be fucked up by the administration as has so often been the case.

What happens to soccer after the WC is an open question, I agree. There is endless potential but who knows …

17 years ago

The interesting thing about the A-League is how the run of the Central Mariners grabbed the attention of the Central Coast. We have been hollering for a league team for years (well the 3 years I have been here) but when the NRL ignored us, the A-League moved in and were getting quite good crowds by the end of the season.

Soccer has always had a high participation rate though when I played (so many years now) ago, it was common for most to move to league/cricket after playing soccer until they were big enough to play the other sports. Anecdotaly, participation rates do reflect the status of the sport internationally. The past cricket season there were 8 grades in the Central Coast comp. This was attributed to the Ashes. There is speculation as this summer also has the Ashes in Australia there may be 9 grades (I’d say that population growth on the Central Coast also has contributed).

Be interesting to see if the Socceroos efforts translate into more players.

Ken Parish
17 years ago

Saying that the “NRL is the best league in the world” isn’t quite as meaningless as asserting that the AFL is the best in the world, but it’s not far from it. There actually are some other countries that play rugby league, but the only place where it’s not a tiny minority curiosity is the north of England, so it’s not as if the NRL has much potential competition for the “best in the world” tag.

17 years ago

My experience suggests that a really important factor is administration. The AFL, who spend millions on creating a sustainable talent-spotting and development infrastructure in NSW and QLD agree. The NRL did, at least at the start with Storm, although I haven’t had any contact with them for a few years now.

Administration coupled with heroes to identify with – in this respect the World Cup will really help soccer.

I hope the ARU get the administration side of things – if they do, they’ll realise that the VRU, who have administrative problems getting out of the carpark, are a real impediment to the game’s development in Australia’s second-biggest city. They have at least implicitly acknowledged this by not giving them the S14 team – but from what I could glean (and I wasn’t around for most of that time at all) the VRU did all they could to not win it.

Tony Harris
17 years ago

Orford and Hill were a more recent combination at the Storm than Kimmorley and Hill.

With any luck Kimmorley has learned something from his previous appearance in State of Origin when his first kick went down the throat of the Qld fullback on a wide open side and they ran the ball the length of the field to score.

17 years ago

Well, it is Gower at half and Gasnier (this is where we all say wtf?) at 5/8. Not sure why the Blues have selected a 5/8 who can’t kick or pass but they must know something. A few other changes.

Full team is: Brett Hodgson, Eric Grothe, Matt King, Matt Cooper, Timana Tahu, Mark Gasnier, Craig Gower, Willie Mason, Danny Buderus (c), Luke Bailey, Steve Simpson, Nathan Hindmarsh, Luke O’Donnell. Interchange: Paul Gallen, Ben Hornby, Mark O’Meley, Steve Menzies.