Something Out Of Nothing

Willie Mason’s anti-haka tirade and attack on British players, the eligibility row ending in ‘granny-gate’, Leon Pryce’s preference for Blackpool, New Zealand video-refereeing decisions and more besides have all had their impact on and off the pitch.

Given all that real controversy, it seems surprising that the media should try its hardest to make something out of nothing when Sean Long wanted to return home for personal reasons. Common sense told us that his decision may have something to do with his pregnant girlfriend.

Yet we may be forgiven for thinking that the result had more to do with his drunken gambling spree following the bust-up with Brian Noble.

Why did everyone assume the worst of Long straight away? At the time we didn’t know what the reason was at all, so it was surely fair to assume that “personal reasons” meant just that. While if there were rumours of drunkenness or gambling it was only right to report them, they should have been reported as just that – rumours.

That is how we reported it here in the early hours of Monday morning. Many media outlets on the other hand, especially those down under, reported the ‘betting scandal mark two’ as though it was fact.

Considering the outrage over Leon Pryce’s remarks about Blackpool beach, we perhaps shouldn’t be too surprised. Many Aussie papers chose to run with images of the Bradford race riots too refute Pryce’s tongue-in-cheek remark. Similar, I suppose, to Mason’s plea of self-defence ……

I suppose all we can do now is sit back and wait for the next controversial moment to happen. And if there isn’t one, I’m sure the press will blow something out of all proportion.

End Of The Line

Whatever the reasoning behind Long’s departure, it certainly leaves Great Britain in the lurch just a little. The key to the win against Australia was undoubtedly the half-back pairing of Long and Leon Pryce; and with all due respect to whoever replaces Long going into this game without the Saints star is a definite handicap.

That given it looks as though this may be the end of the line for the Lions down under. Unless something amazing happens we aren’t likely to get anything out of Saturday’s game – and if we do we’ll be too tired to compete in the following week’s final.

I don’t blame Long for that though. If he felt he had nothing left to give to the cause then it wouldn’t have done any good keeping him out there. He did the right thing by being honest with himself and the rest of the team.

The Four Nations?

It was interesting that France should be being lined up to join the Tri-Nations after the 2008 World Cup, effectively re-branding the tournament as the Four Nations. I don’t think that this is a particularly good idea if I’m honest – the performances in the Federation Shield have shown that France aren’t yet at a high enough level.

Tonga would seem to be a better bet after their Shield performances, yet they still were well below a second-string England side and their antics towards the end of the final left a lot to be desired discipline-wise. The invitation could be extended to Papua New Guinea – the only nation to have RL as its national sport – but the same really applies to them.

I think that international expansion is continuing apace, and is very commendable. The 2008 World Cup will doubtless be a success. But the Tri-Nations is an elite tournament, and we have to be very careful in diluting its competetiveness.

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