Archive for the ‘Cross-Code’ Category

WTF!?! Moment of the Year: Karmichael Hunt to AFL

August 8, 2009

Okay, I’d heard all these rumours about Karmichael Hunt not being happy and talking about switching codes, but I didn’t expect him to switch to this code. In 2011 Hunt will be playing in the AFL for a new Gold Coast club, in a move which is unprecedented as far as I know.

So why would he do such a thing? Well, I have my theories…

Why, look at a quote from this Livenews article about Hunt’s contract negotiations earlier this year 

I’m in a wonderful position where I have the ability to play at the elite level in other sports which are played internationally.

Of course, this was when Hunt was fishing around for a Rugby Union contract. I suspect the ARU have finally realised that forking out loads of money on prospects who haven’t even been playing their sport recently is a tad too risky a proposition. So Hunt has now turned his attention to the Aussie Rules, a sport with a minimalist approach to rep football, to say the least (thus rendering his comments a load of BS). 

Nonetheless, I can understand why Hunt would leave League for footballing reasons. For one thing, he’s clearly down the rep ladder behind Billy Slater for State of Origin and probably Kurt Gidley and Brett Stewart for Australia as well. As a result he’s trapped in a limbo of sorts, being good but not quite good enough to be considered one of the greats. He’s won a Priemiership and rep honours, so there’s not actually much left for him to achieve in the game, and he still hasn’t entered his physical prime yet. 

Personally, I see this as a massive PR stunt on the part of the AFL and their new Gold Coast club. If the AFL are part subsidising a contract that would make Hunt one of the highest earners in a league in which he hasn’t ever played, then it’s pretty clear that they want to use his star power to draw in crowds in what the Titans have been consolidating as League territory. As the ARU could probably tell them, that’s not necessarily a foolproof plan. Also, if Hunt is actually successful they’ve set themselves up to receive a hell of a gloating from League fans. 

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All Kinds of Crazy Shit Going On

February 18, 2009

Stupid work, with it’s stupid time consumption. In the last few days some notable things have come up in the game and I haven’t been able to write about them… until now.

Widnes fired Steve McCormack after one competitive game this season. Jesus, that was quick! I feel sorry for McCormack but he was definitely on his last legs at the Vikings. Failure to win either of the NL1 Grand Finals he led them to (not to mention his two other Final defeats with Whitehaven) had left him with a reputation as someone who just couldn’t get over the final hurdle, and with Widnes hoping to make their case for a franchise impenetrable for next time around, losing 22-20 to Oldham in the first game of the Northern Rail Cup (a team in the division below) really wasn’t the best way to start the year.

Brian Noble wants Salary Cap dispensation to sign Rugby Union players. I shouldn’t need to explain why this is just stupid.  The main point I would make is that it would take a shit-load of money to get any reasonable Union player into Super League, and I’m not sure where this would come from, and if it did suddenly become available would probably be better spent on League coaching and grassroots infrastructure. Don’t get me wrong, I would be very interested to see how many international Union players would go in Super League, but why would they leave Union? They would be swapping high-profile media coverage, a regular established international programme and a sport at which they have already proved themselves to be competent (not to mention the increasingly silly wages) for a lower-profile, possibly more demanding sport (it certainly would at least start off more challenging for those without any experience of League). I don’t see what they would stand to gain, and I doubt many of them would turn out to be value for money.

Gareth Ellis needs re-educating on the basics according to Tim Sheens. When you see one of Australia’s top coaches saying this about one of Super League’s top performers over the past few seasons, alarm bells start to go off in your head. I do think that the difference in standards between the NRL and Super League is overstated, and what we see between the competitions is a product of the difference in priorities (defence is paramount in the NRL, which is why it is more tolerant of wrestling at the tackle) but there can be little doubt that the basic standards of skill in Australia do seem natually higher. I hope whoever is in charge of coaching standards at the RFL is taking heed of this, because this sort of thing that drags down England’s international performances.

The Power of Money, by Warren Gatland

February 7, 2009

Don Gatland thinks you'd better watch your back...

So, Super League kicked off last night with a difficult game for new boys Celtic Crusaders, right on the eve of the Welsh Rugby Union side beginning the defence of their Six Nations crown. Naturally this led to a lot of discussion about the relative positions on the two codes in the Principality. One person to speak up on the matter was Welsh Union coach Warren Gatland, who sounded positively ominous in his take on the Crusaders and their impact on Rugby Union in Wales:

Gatland, Wales’ Grand Slam winning rugby union coach, said: “There’s so much money in the union game that their players may be targeted in the future. “If the Crusaders are successful, their challenge is to stop our union teams picking off some of their players.”

There’s something about these comments which just strikes me as very… mafioso. As well as being condescending it comes across almost like a threat, like how it would be a shame if anything happened to your wife and kids whilst you were at work. His comments seem to undermine the purpose of the Crusaders (to develop the strength of League in Wales) which seems remarkably pointless given that no-one thinks that League will overtake Union in Wales any time soon (or indeed ever). At the very least it comes across that Gatland wants to unzip flies and see who’s got the bigger one (metaphorically). It strikes me as a little reactionary and downright odd.

Gatland is sort of right in that Welsh players are going to be more susceptible to a cross-code switch simply because Rugby Union is far more ingrained into the Welsh cultural psyche than it is for any of the other Home Nations. Whilst most English-born Leagues players probably never even gave a thought to the Union side when growing, it’s unlikely that many of the players coming through the Welsh system won’t have thought of putting on the red jersey of the Welsh Union side.

But there are flaws in Gatland’s musings. Firstly, it should be fairly obvious by now that spending lots of money on Rugby League players is not a way to guarantee victory for a Rugby Union side (England got real lucky with Jason Robinson). Far too many League players in recent seasons have gone over to Union, tried it for a bit, seem that it wasn’t for them and come back to League in a worse position than when they left. Secondly, this plan relies on the Welsh regions being awash with cash, but they’re clearly not. In fact, that’s the reason the Celtic Crusaders were founded in the first place: because the WRU couldn’t afford to keep Leighton Samuel’s region going, so he defected codes. Now granted the sponsorship opportunities would almost certainly be higher in Union, but I really don’t think that blowing money on risky propositions is a clever thing to be doing in these financially precarious times. To be honest this is probably a moot point for a few years anyway, because it’s going to take a while for the Crusaders’ development work to take effect.

And you thought Silly Season was over…

February 3, 2009
How hard could it be?

"Seriously, how hard could it be?" (Getty Images)

Curious news coming out of The Guardian today, with Wigan apparently being linked with a move to bring Eddie Jones to the club in a coaching capacity. Jones, for those who don’t know, was the coach of the Australian Rugby Union side that lost to England in the 2003 World Cup final, was an assistant coach for the South Africa side that won the 2007 tournament, and is currently coach of Guinness Premiership side Saracens.

If you’ve noticed a lack of Rugby League credentials there, then well done Sherlock! Jones has proven to be a winner wherever he’s gone in Union, and he clearly takes an interest in Rugby League as on his watch the ARU signed Wendall Sailor, Mat Rogers and Lote Tuquiri. However, you do have to wonder how much relevant experience he would be able to bring to perhaps the most demanding club job in British Rugby.

There are two main reasons why I find this idea absurd, both of which should be obvious to people with functioning brains (and indeed most of those without). Firstly, Jones has NO experience coaching League to speak of. That makes him an almighty risky proposition, particularly as I doubt Jones woud be coming cheap. Secondly, in case no one else has noticed, Brian Noble is still the coach of Wigan. You know, Brian Noble? Most successful coach in the Super League era? Guided Wigan away from relegation? And then into the playoffs a year later? That one? I know Noble is a fairly one-dimensional coach and there are plenty of reasons to object to his style but I think it’s hard to argue that Wigan haven’t made advances under his tenure, especially considering the hole they were in when he took charge.

Worringly, Ian Lenegan doesn’t appear to be flat-out denying the story, which usually means that there’s something to it. Nonetheless I would be quite surprised if anything came of this. Even so, a sick, twisted part of me wants to see this come off, because I have little doubt it would be entertaining to watch either way.

Silly Season begins

November 23, 2008

Well, what better way to build upon a highly successful World Cup than with a cross-code match between the Australian national sides of the two codes?

Wait a minute, what?

Apparently ANZ Stadium in Sydney has been provisionally booked for next October to feature a hybrid match between the Wallabies and the Kangaroos. What rules would such a match be played under? Apparently, they’re not sure yet:

The success of the match will depend on establishing rules that ultimately decide the best football team and not which team is best advantaged by the rule interpretations. Dwyer and Fulton will be part of the rules committee charged with finding rules that suit both codes equally.

I really, really want to call BS on this. There is a world of unappreciated difference between League and Union, and the idea of creating a new set of rules that avoids favouring either code strikes me as being more difficult than solving the credit crunch, bringing peace to the Middle East and bringing back Jesus, all at the same time. Either the game has to favour the need for set-pieces of Union or it will focus on ball movement and core skills as League does.Not only that, but idea of two sets of players having to learn new sets of unfamiliar rules leads me to think that it would be a stop-start tedium fest. They’ll probably end up doing that ‘half-of-each’ thing that often constitutes most cross-code games, and all that will prove is that the Kangaroos are better at League whilst the Wallabies are better at Union.

On top of that, I think that it’s also worth noting that Australia are supposed to be competing in the Four Nations in the northern hemisphere next October. Are they not going to fulfil their commitments to that? I assume such a game would take place before they leave, which means that they would be spend a portion of their valuable preparation time learning a new set of rules which would become redundant at the conclusion of the match. That strikes me as a rather inefficient way for a side to spend their prep time, particularly a side which has just been shown that it can’t have everything its own way anymore.

The final stupid point about this game is that it is going under the provisional title of ‘Hybrid Twelve’. That’s not the name of a sport, that’s the name of a Japanese RPG. Hopefully this whole idea will be dismissed in the coming days.