Petero Civoniceva
Petero Civoniceva Brett Wortman

Bennett delighted to be wrong

WAYNE Bennett was watching a Broncos Colts game back in 1995 with recruitment guru Cyril Connell, showing particular interest in a lanky Fijian kid playing somewhat ponderously in the centres.

With a smile on his face he said to the big-hearted Connell - "I'm not sure what you see in this kid Cyril".

That 'kid' was Petero Civoniceva, who tonight plays his 300th NRL game and becomes just the second prop in the history of the game to reach that remarkable milestone.

Bennett was never one to second guess Connell, but he sometimes thought the wily talent spotter harboured a soft spot for some of the boys he had recruited. To say Connell saw something in young Petero that the master coach did not is an understatement, obviously.

The career that has followed has been quite remarkable. In his 14 seasons at the Broncos he has been involved with five premiership sides, the first in that Colts team of 1995 that early on boasted a young bloke named Darren Lockyer.

And while Big Petero has been a remarkable player, he is an even more remarkable person. His heart is as big as his stature, but as soft as he is hard. Despite having four kids of his own, his unannounced visits to children's hospital wards are as regular as clockwork.

He is the most respectful elite rugby league player I have met, yet his softly-spoken demeanour has in no way diluted his 'follow me' leadership qualities. In a nutshell, he is a quality human being.

He may no longer coach him, but Wayne Bennett will watch Petero again tonight, delighted that his assessment 16 years ago was way off the mark.


No PR stunt

ONE terrific legacy David Gallop left the game of rugby league is the Women in League round, which will be celebrated this weekend. It kicked off six years ago and has grown in to a special event.

Initially the idea was greeted with scepticism, and no doubt viewed mockingly as nothing more than a PR stunt and a headline grabber. After all, a bloke in a pink jersey and pink socks doesn't exactly represent the macho, blue-collar image for which rugby league was branded.

But statistics released this week give quite a fascinating overview of female involvement in the game. Since 2006 the number of women on boards or in executive management positions has increased by 70%, general management positions by 10% and female club membership by more than 20,000 - and that's in just 12 months.

With ARL development staff now delivering skills and curriculum-based lessons to almost 750,000 female students across Australia and New Zealand, it is little wonder female participation in playing numbers has increased by 20% in the past year.

But the irrefutable fact is that women constitute half our population, and are mothers to the other half. And in many families it is the mums who often influence decisions on which sports their sons and daughters play, and which ones they watch.

Take a bow David Gallop.


Early Choice

The ridiculous situation of clubs signing players up to 12 months in advance has possibly come back to bite Wests Tigers.

In March the Tigers announced they had signed Roosters skipper Braith Anasta to a two-year deal, which would almost certainly see out the career of the rising 31-year-old. As a five-eighth throughout most of his 12 seasons in the NRL, Anasta was seen as being a stabilising influence in the youthful Tigers backline.

But in the interim 18 year-old Curtis Sironen, son of Tigers legend Paul, has emerged and well and truly looks the goods. And while the experience of Anasta still makes him a handy acquisition, he now seems at long odds to wear the No.6 at the Tigers.

In hindsight, maybe a centre or backrower may have been a more judicious buy, but that's the folly of scouting so far in advance. These absurd NRL rules that permit the signing of players from other clubs so far in advance are an absolute blight on the game and must be addressed by the administration sooner rather than later.

To other sports - in respect of this situation - we are a laughing stock.

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