Cricket’s barely over but the footy’s back tonight – and these are things to watch out for this weekend:
1. Rugby league’s relationship with gambling is… complicated. The NRL is receiving $60 million from Sportsbet in an official wagering partnership, but concerns over the sport’s integrity forced the league this week to prohibit a number “exotic” betting options – with bookmakers set to protest in response.
Meanwhile, the career of Wests Tigers player Tim Simona hangs in the balance against accusations that he indirectly placed bets for opposition players to score against him. His ex-partner has received death threats for reportedly going to the NRL with this information. Yikes.
Oh, and did we mention Manly’s homeground is now called Lottoland? So much for Silvertails.
2. Brisbane and Cronulla both went to England last month to represent as the NRL’s best in the World Club Series. And both came back with their tails between their legs, losing to Warrington and Wigan. The two Australian teams now face off tonight in the season opener, keen to revive their fortunes.
3. Concussion protocols will be scrutinised ever so closely this year. Former Newcastle player James McManus this week became the first player to sue the NRL for head injuries he suffered during a 166-game professional career, moving the game down a path that the NFL has trodden in recent years, resulting in the American league paying out $1.3 billion to former athletes.
The rugby league community remains divided on the merits of McManus’ legal action.
4. Parramatta is playing for points again. With a new board and new governance procedures ensuring an end to the administrative bickering that’s weighed down the team in recent years, the players now have no excuses about distractions.
5. Former Parramatta superstar, NFL player and union tryout Jarryd Hayne will start 2017 with a full pre-season under his belt. The team that everyone forgets about, the Gold Coast Titans, might just surprise a few opponents this year with Hayne leading from the back.
The fullback’s contract has a player’s option at the end of this season, so speculation on which team or sport he heads to will also fill the back pages in 2017.
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