Earl stunned by Dank’s job offer

Revelations of Stephen Dank landing a job in cricket has dumbfounded rugby league star Sandor Earl, who is living in Thailand as he awaits his official suspension for drug use and trafficking.
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Fairfax Media revealed on Sunday that Dank has been given the opportunity to head up the sports science unit in the women’s Indian Premier League Twenty20 competition that will be staged over two weeks in Singapore in September.

Earl took to Twitter late on Saturday night to express his dismay.

”Wow unbelievable i cant even play park footy..Flanno cant watch footy and Dank gets new job,” Earl tweeted.

One of his followers then fired back, claiming: ”he wasn’t bound to the professional contracts you two were”, to which Earl then replied: ”he was contracted at essendon and on the payroll?”.

It is understood a decision on the future of ex-Cronulla Sharks coach Shane Flanagan and former strength and conditioning coach Trent Elkin could be announced by the NRL before the start of the season and as early as Monday.

Both Flanagan, who was banned for 12 months by the NRL, and Elkin – suspended indefinitely – have submitted their appeals after being granted a deadline extension until February 28.

It remains unclear whether Earl will be granted a reprieve or a reduced sentence from ASADA for providing substantial assistance.

Under the substantial assistance clause in the world anti-doping code, Earl could have his suspension reduced from four years to one.

Earl, who was given an infraction notice last August, hasn’t given up hope of returning to rugby league.

He is undertaking mixed martial arts training and admits he is considering competing.

”Because of being banned from playing football and not having any idea from ASADA when I’ll be able to play, yeah, it has crossed my mind [competing in mixed martial arts],” Earl told MMA Corner.

”It’s a bit of a hard one to decide, though, because I don’t want to be putting all my eggs in one basket and focus on a career in combat sports when I could be going back to playing football this year some time.

” I am hoping for around August at this stage.”

Earl, who has opened a health and smoothie bar in Phuket, said: ”I do miss playing footy and being around the team and all the boys from the [Canberra] Raiders. If, and when, I do go back, I look forward to being able to one day play footy again.”

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AFL a long way from buying Etihad Stadium: Andrew Demetriou

Andrew Demetriou said discussions had not been fruitful with venue owner Melbourne Stadiums. Photo: Simon SchluterPreparing to announce a profit of about $15 million this week, AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou has revealed the league is still a long way from being able to buy the privately-owned Etihad Stadium at a ”fair price”.
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Tenant clubs St Kilda, North Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs have long bemoaned that their deals to play home matches at the Docklands venue have significantly hamstrung their ability to generate money and have contributed to the financial disparity between clubs. The AFL can wait and take control of the stadium on March 8, 2025, for $1 but several clubs want the league to buy it earlier in the hope this will allow deals with tenant clubs to be redrawn and improved.

The Saints have pointed out that, for example, they were handed a bill of almost $100,000 for a home game at Etihad last season, when the same match at the MCG would have generated a six-figure profit.

Demetriou said discussions had not been fruitful with venue owner Melbourne Stadiums, which represents five superannuation companies. ”You would only do it if it was financially viable. We’ve always said … we would not put the competition at risk and we would only pay a fair price, and we are a long way from that,” Demetriou said on Sunday.

He had recently warned tenant clubs if the league took control of the stadium it would not necessarily mean better returns, for the AFL could use the money generated from hosting matches to repay debt.

Some club chiefs have privately questioned whether the league would be best served running a stadium that also hosts other sports and entertainment.

It’s understood the AFL has offered about $250 million for the stadium, with its owners believing this is between $20 million and $30 million short.

With equalisation discussions to continue at a meeting of club chiefs in Adelaide this week, ahead of the season launch, Demetriou said any tax on club revenue or gross or profit would be a ”very small tax rate”.

He said the league was not aiming to restrict the strong clubs. Hawthorn and Collingwood have expressed concern over a revenue tax.

”Whatever happens with equalisation we need to apply a lever or handbrake to keep costs under control in the football departments, other than players.”

Speaking on the Channel Nine’s Financial Review Sunday, Demetriou also said the AFL would double its profit of last season, that the league’s media unit had the capability to broadcast matches ”next week” on its website if it chose to and that he still had a desire to join the board of James Packer’s Crown Resorts should the opportunity arise.

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Set of Six: Sam Burgess’ urge inspired by Sonny Bill Williams

Inspired: Sonny Bill Williams meets Sam Burgess last season. Photo: Dallas KilponenUltimate League: Click here to sign up for our Fantasy NRL game 
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The truth is out: Sam Burgess was inspired by Sonny Bill Williams in his decision to change codes. Burgess has steadfastly refused to talk about the motivation behind his switch; although despite suggestions he has been affronted by the coverage of the news, he is talking football with journalists and TV inquisitors again.

His supporters reckoned the suggestion his decision he was influenced by the man he will face on Thursday night at ANZ Stadium is nothing but scurrilous gossip. But here’s what the Bath rugby union coach (and former South Queensland Crushers pivot) Mike Ford said on BBC Radio Manchester’s Rugby League Extra.

”I think he’s seen what Sonny Bill Williams has done, switching from one code to the other and how successful he was, playing in New Zealand in the World Cup in 2011. He boxed as well, Sonny Bill. That’s the challenge he wants.”

Over to you, Sam.


Papua New Guinea’s new team in Queensland’s Intrust Super Cup has a message for NRL scouts: please steal our players. And Manly may be about to take the advice; Set Of Six’s sources at Dolphin Oval during the historic 24-18 win over Redcliffe tell us forward Mark Mexico is on the verge of signing with the Sea Eagles.

Another World Cup Kumul, Wellington Albert, is already on Penrith’s books.

”That’s why we have entered a team in this competition,” PNG Rugby League chairman Sandis Tsaka said.

”NRL scouts don’t come to PNG, we wanted to put our players in a competition where they will be seen.

If one player leaves, we have 15,000 kids who will want to take his place.”


A few weeks after video referees were heard explaining their decisions on TV coverage of the Challenge Cup final at Wembley, the NRL introduced a version of the system for the finals. Instead of appearing live as they deliberated (as happens in England), however, our officials got the decision out of the way and then gave a short explanation.

Since then, the English have lifted the bar again by showing the video referees on camera as they toggle the vision before ruling yay or nay. This necessitates spiffy suits and turtlenecks for the likes of Ian Smith and Phil Bentham.

It didn’t stop St Helens winger Mark Percival being denied a fair try in the 38-0 win over Salford on Thursday. Will the NRL follow suit?


Having got off to a winning start on Sunday, PNG Hunters coach Michael Marum says Australian teams are set for a culturally enriching experience when they visit Kopoko for their away matches.

”Back at home, there will probably be a few gas guns outside chasing people away who are trying to get in,” he said enthusiastically.

”That’s the way we play the game up there; people are passionate about the game.”

Hunters players have spent 11 weeks in a police camp preparing for the Intrust Super Cup and many have not seen their families in this time.

Tsaka says he is trying to organise a Test against the winner of the Samoa-Fiji Test at Penrith in May and another against another national team.


The latest weapon being prepared to fight the financial might of the NRL was first devised by Roald Dahl half a century ago.

Feisty racing magnate and Salford owner Marwan Koukash has called for Super League clubs to each be given a ”golden ticket”, a la Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, to sign players outside the salary cap.

”If a club does not want to use its golden ticket, I will buy it off them for £200,000,” Koukash told Sky before watching his Reds humbled 38-0 by St Helens on Thursday night.

The marquee-player concept was voted down last week but will probably return to the agenda of Super League clubs. Koukash is causing a stir in England.


Will we soon have a 24-hour-a-day rugby league radio station?

The emerging internet radio industry is awash with specialist stations and Sydneysider Alby Talarico – the man behind the Coogee Dolphins – has spent a pretty penny setting up a footy frequency at his Steele Sports site.

He already broadcasts for six hours on a Saturday during the season, boasts decent audiences and has plans to further expand. He thinks a full day of footy isn’t far away.

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Storm going for perfect 10 in openers

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Melbourne’s quest for a 10th straight round one victory will face its biggest test when they line up against traditional rivals Manly at Brookvale Oval on Saturday night.

The Storm have become the kings of strong starts, winning their first game of the season every year since 2005, including three on the back of arduous trips to England for the World Club Challenge.

The next best active round one winning streak belongs to Manly, who are the only other team to have won their two most recent opening round fixtures of the year. The fact that no other team in the NRL has registered back-to-back opening round wins over the past two years highlights the enormity of what coach Craig Bellamy has achieved with the Storm.

Football manager Frank Ponissi, who has been at the Storm for six of the nine victories, is adamant this year’s opening round clash against arch rivals Manly is by far the most difficult assignment. ”I have to say we’ve had some tough starts to the season but I think this is going to be the toughest of the lot – Manly at Brookie,” Ponissi said. ”With all due respect to the nine teams we’ve played over the nine years, because we’ve had some tough battles away and at home against good opposition, but this takes the cake. This is my seventh year and I can’t think of anything harder to start the year then Manly at Brookie. I hope the record means something.”

The last time Melbourne played Manly in the opening round of the season was in 2011.

On that occasion it was Bellamy’s men who overcame Des Hasler’s Sea Eagles 18-6, however that match was played in Melbourne’s backyard at AAMI Park.

Brookvale Oval, which has played host to several nail-biting and physical encounters between the two teams, is one of the most difficult grounds in the NRL for opposition teams to leave with two competition points.

”The last couple of years we seem to get Manly at the back end of the year at Brookie when they are firing heading into the semis,” Ponissi said. ”To be brutally honest with you, whether you play them round one, round 13 or round 26, they are tough to beat at Brookie. I think this will be the biggest challenge to our record of nine. The three coming back from England have been great, but if we can make it 10, this one would be pretty unique and special.”

Melbourne last lost their first game of the year in 2004, but that 36-26 loss to Newcastle was actually played in round two because the Storm had a bye in round one of the then 15-team competition.

Therefore the Storm haven’t lost a round one game since 2001, when a Willie Mason-inspired Canterbury claimed a 14-10 victory at Etihad Stadium.

”One thing about Craig is that he never lets the side get ahead of itself,” Ponissi said. ”In pre-season everything is geared for round one. That’s what I suppose is spoken about a fair bit – making sure we have the best preparation possible for round one.

”Three of those nine wins were on the back of trips to England, which are never easy to come back from. The travel and the change of temperature and everything else makes it a lot more difficult. I think winning those games coming back from England were the highlight of the nine we’ve won. It’s a record that has never been discussed or that we even knew about. But it’s a pretty good effort and says a lot about the culture at the club.”

Twitter – @MichaelChammas

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