‘Time For Rugby League To Embrace Representative Season’ Published on theroar.com.au 17/4/13
Do we not have a responsibility to embrace representative rugby league? That is the question I put to all supporters of the greatest game of all.
In these modern times where no Australian sport is safe and all codes look for that edge, why does rugby league try and bury the one thing we have clear cut over the AFL?
The AFL can insist on itself all it likes with hybrid disasters, but we have something to build on in the short term and the long term.
While Aussie Rules pride themselves on the prestige of making an All-Australian team, Australian rugby league players and others from around the globe actually get the chance to represent the places that made them.
Whether it be for the mighty green and gold of the Australian Kangaroos, the world champion New Zealanders or even City and Country selection, these men have earned the right to play representative football.
State of Origin already gives rugby league a leg up on its competition. It has become one of the most anticipated annual events on the Australian sporting calendar and for good reason.
Origin is the epitome of what a sporting brand should be.
International rugby league might be Origin’s ugly cousin, but it’s still a powerful tool if harnessed the right way by administrators and fans alike.
People have finally got what they want. A representative weekend not only gives NRL teams and their star players a short reprieve but also allows the international game to take centre stage.
Yet like clockwork on Monday morning the media began questioning the merit of representative games.
Ask Australian captain Cameron Smith if he thinks playing for his country is a waste of time, or Issac Luke who will once again lead the haka on Friday night in Canberra.
Maybe ask Curtis Sironen to give back his first City Origin jumper?
Head to Penrith on Saturday night and try and tell the Tongan and Samoan boys that they can’t go to battle for bragging rights ahead of the 2013 World Cup.
Better yet, tell the 10,000 or so fans on the north coast that they don’t have to show up at Coffs Harbour on Sunday afternoon because the game doesn’t mean anything.
For a sport with such a bright future, being short-sighted is a curse.
Yes, many players have withdrawn from the City-Country clash on the weekend, but for the players involved this still means something.
And heaven forbid a game is actually played for the fans.
I agree that one game in a different country town each year isn’t enough.
For too long people from the bush have been the ones burnt by the mistakes of others.
Why not play two Monday night football games a month in the bush?
But it isn’t just how people feel about City-Country that needs to change. Its all representative footy. It needs to be invested in by officials and respected by the fans and the media.
The Australian Rugby League Commission and its clubs are being far more proactive in 2013 then in previous years, but more can be done to make representative rugby league a whole lot more commercially viable.
Give the fans a chance to truly enjoy the value of rep football and they will support it back tenfold.
So if you can get to a game this weekend do so and support representative football.
Whether it’s in Canberra, Penrith or Coffs Harbour.
It’s still rugby league after all.
‘Panthers Sign Soward: Was it the Right Move?’ Published on theroar.com.au 18/4/13
Penrith Panthers general manager Phil Gould has a plan for the western suburbs of Sydney and his club.
But after all the recent huffing and puffing regarding off-field projects, Panthers fans have been left scratching their heads after the signing on Wednesday afternoon of St George Illawarra playmaker Jamie Soward.
28-year-old Soward’s four-year deal begins in 2014 with the five-eighth destined to finish his career at the foot of the mountains.
After missing out on superstar Johnathan Thurston the Panthers have been desperate to lock up a quality pivot. Question marks still hang over Luke Walsh despite having another two seasons to run on his contract.
But is the answer Soward?
The former State of Origin number six has divided public opinion for years and many experts have criticised his style of play and his inability to inject himself into a match.
None more so than the outspoken Gould.
But necessity has won the day and Soward will be welcomed to Penrith with open arms.
“Jamie Soward is a marquee signing for the Panthers club,” Gould said via a press release on Wednesday.
“He is a tremendous talent, proven at the highest levels of our game. He also brings with him great experience and leadership qualities.
“Jamie is an outstanding role model for the youth of Western Sydney and his obvious popularity with the kids makes him a perfect ambassador for our club’s community and Junior League programs”.
Was it not ‘Gus’ who helped push Soward out the door at the Sydney Roosters when Gould was a coaching director in 2005?
Despite Todd Carney still on the open market the Panthers have gone with Soward.
The twist of fate here off course is the Panthers have opened the door for the Dragons to make a seriously big play at Carney.
It is understandable that teams in the cellar want to get out and will do anything to bring quality to their squad.
But signing players for the sake of signing them is not the answer.
Soward might improve Penrith’s kicking game but has the problem not been Walsh’s running game or lack thereof?
How will Soward improve this area for the Panthers?
The Panthers also recently picked up veteran prop Brent Kite for season 2014.
His signature comes despite Kevin Kingston, Dayne Weston, Nathan Smith and Nigel Plum yet to see new deals. Not to mention that Penrith already boast two of the best young props in the game in Tim Grant and Sam McKendry.
You can see that coach Ivan Cleary and Gould are cleaning up the roster as best they can and picking up as many “good buys” as possible.
But that isn’t good enough for Panthers fans anymore.
The kids in Penrith need a superstar they can emulate in the schoolyard.
Is Soward the man to lead Penrith into a new era?
Time will tell.