BONDI BEAT: January 2019

By STEVE MASCORD

WE have to ask ourselves now whether the NRL has so much player misbehaviour that it can no longer be hurt by it.

The latest alleged misdemeanour has seen Wests Tigers’ Michael Chee Cam allegedly punch an Uber driver through his car window just before New Years Eve.

Add that to the long list of strife for the likes of Jarryd Hayne, Jack de Belin, Dylan Walker, Zane Musgrove, Greg Inglis, Jack Wighton and the Bulldogs since the end of last season.

Ostensibly, the reasons the NRL police off-field behaviour are two-fold.

 One, corporate image is very important for any public facing company these days; a big bank or oil company would discipline employees misbehaving, particularly if it attracted publicity.

Two – and this is why they seem stricter than most companies – there are people doing, and supporting those doing, what NRL players do, for free … right down to tiny kids.

If you expect mums to wash jerseys at under seven level while presumably the person who washes Wests Tigers jersey gets paid OK, you’ve got to be squeaky clean (no pun intended).

But is there anyone left following the NRL, or letting their kids play rugby league in NSW or Queensland, or washing jerseys, who could be turned off by another off-field misdemeanour? (We used to say atrocity but that’s when real atrocities weren’t daily and close to home).

If an NRL player – and I don’t say this lightly – was to commit murder, is there a single person left in NSW or Queensland still following the sport who would go ‘that’s it for me’?

What if there was evidence of widespread match fixing or doping? Perhaps the NRL would lose a percentage of its existing fans but I reckon it would still be a relatively successful business. It will keep preaching to the converted.

We talk about how sport worldwide follows the trends set in America. In the US, we hardly raise an eyebrow when a professional athlete is involved in gun crime. It never seems to reflect on the sport itself.

The thin end of the wedge may well have been reached in Australia. Those who have jumped ship are already long gone.

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THE columns of Bradford chairman Andrew Chalmers are always entertaining and his recent year-end wrap-up in the Telegraph and Argus certainly contained a few hand grenades.

In between his attacks on RFL chairman Brian Barwick – who he says once attacked lower division clubs for not working hard enough, a repeat to his refrain about the “power grab” of Super League clubs and an accusation Dewsbury made a “Faustian Pact” to play Warrington in a friendly in exchange for voting with them in November, came this quote regarding Catalans competing in this year’s Challenge Cup.

“And the holders may not even defend their trophy. Fingers-crossed for some common sense,” he wrote.

Really? One wonders if Catalans were asked to put up a bond in case they made the final, and what they said in response. Perhaps Andrew knows something we don’t.

SURELY there must be concern over the fact we’ve not had any dates yet for the Great Britain tour of the South Pacific.

The RFL and the Kiwis were not paid on time by promoter Jason Moore – we don’t know what happened since – and the Brits were so financially wounded by having “only” 50,000 at the Challenge Cup final that they kicked Toronto and Toulouse out of the competition this year.

So while it’s admirable they’ve stood up to the Australians, who don’t want to host the Lions this southern spring, they question must be asked as to whether they can afford to stand up to them.

Who is going to underwrite the first proper Great Britain Tour of the southern hemisphere since 1992? Where’s the money coming from?

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ANOTHER aspect of the new season that throws up plenty of questions is Premier Sports no longer covering Toronto Wolfpack.

Sky owned the rights to the Championship last season but were happy for the Wolfpack to underwrite the cost of production to get themselves on the tube.

So what has changed? Perhaps Sky have – as suggested elsewhere – taken an interest in the Canadian franchise and want to show their games. 

Perhaps the Wolfpack have done some belt tightening and don’t want to foot the bill for the production of the telecasts anymore.

And maybe Premier just aren’t interested in the sport anymore,

Whatever the reason, it’s less rugby league on our screens and that’s not a good thing.

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JANUARY bores a lot of people but it’s a month full or pressure and expectation here at Bondi Beat Towers.

At some stage this month rugbyleaguehub.com hopes to stream a game for the first time (can’t say much at this stage) while my work with Red Star Belgrade is pretty full-on in the lead-up to the Challenge Cup tie with Millom on January 27.

The Cumbrian amateurs are bracing themselves for a huge influx of fans and media; the Serbian expat community has been enormously enthusiastic with senior members of the British Serbian Chamber Of Commerce planning to make the trip north.

The club is determined to stay loyal to their regular fans and steer clear of any accusations of profiteering by not making any tickets available prior to the day and keeping the programme at 50p.

It’s going to be a hugely exciting day.