SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 17: Milos Ninkovic of Sydney FC reacts after a shot at goal during the round 6 A-League match between Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium on November 17, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 17: Milos Ninkovic of Sydney FC reacts after a shot at goal during the round 6 A-League match between Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium on November 17, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Why horror off-season actually helped Latrell

An off-season publicity blitz has actually helped Latrell Mitchell land one of the richest player sponsorship deals in Australian sport.

The South Sydney Rabbitohs fullback is about to become the face of sportswear giant Adidas in rugby league.

His co-managers Matt Rose and Warwick Wright were in Melbourne on Friday to sign off on the deal, which is understood to be the company's biggest agreement with an NRL or AFL player - certainly the biggest since Sonny Bill Williams became one of their ambassadors.

Mitchell will be the face of a mid-year Australia-wide promotional campaign.

Adidas recognised the interest in the Kangaroos star from the mass media coverage of him leaving the Roosters to join the Rabbitohs.

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Mitchell is one of rugby league’s biggest names. AAP Image/Bianca De Marchi.
Mitchell is one of rugby league’s biggest names. AAP Image/Bianca De Marchi.

 

 

SAINT

Roosters star Sam Verrills celebrated his 21st birthday last month. His party of 100 guests raged into the early hours of the morning but Verrills was in bed and fast asleep by 11pm. He had an early commitment to meet a seven-year-old boy Ryder Grierson, a mad Roosters fan who was raising money for bushfire victims and he didn't want to be late or hungover.

Verrills is one of rugby league’s good guys. Picture by Phil Hillyard.
Verrills is one of rugby league’s good guys. Picture by Phil Hillyard.

SINNER

The terrible summer scheduling of Australian cricket. No international game on Australia Day, crap Test matches against New Zealand and Pakistan and no-back-up plan for a weather-hit BBL final.

SHOOSH

Which two senior rugby league media types had an angry midweek exchange when they bumped into each other at NRL headquarters?

SPOTTED I

NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg having a beer with Collingwood president and TV personality Eddie McGuire in Miami before the Super Bowl.

SPOTTED II

Racing boss and independent commission chairman Peter V'landys at the Australian Open tennis and later meeting with Storm coach Craig Bellamy and chief executive Dave Donaghy.

SPOTTED III

V'landys again, this time spotted by a punter catching a train from Sydney airport to Town Hall, a much cheaper way to go than former chairman John Grant in his hire cars.

SPOTTED III

He's baaaaack. You know the footy season is upon us when Phillip Ronald Gould reactivates his Twitter account. Tormented by the trolls, Gus shut it down last year for the millionth time. Suddenly he reappeared last week at @PhilGould15.

SPOTTED IV

One of the really nice guys of the rugby league media, colleague Michael Carayannis, getting married to Clara Davis at St Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church at Marrickville followed by a reception at Taronga Zoo. Mick is sure punching above his weight. They are off to Tahiti for a honeymoon, but will back in time for round one.

Mr and Mrs Clara and Michael Carayannis after getting married in Sydney.
Mr and Mrs Clara and Michael Carayannis after getting married in Sydney.

SPOTTED V

Canberra Raiders assistant coach Michael Ennis in Coffs Harbour for the State Cup Oztag tournament, helping out with the coaching of his daughter Koby Fox's Under 12s Cronulla girls' team.

SPOTTED VI

Fox Sports stars Bryan Fletcher and Nathan Hindmarsh filming in South Africa for upcoming episodes of The Matty Johns Show.

A-LEAGUE HAS FALLEN OFF A CLIFF

Soccer's A-League Sydney derby used to be one of the great summer sporting events in the Harbour City.

Now it's been relegated to a sideshow on a kids TV channel.

Before weather intervened on Saturday and forced the match's postponement, the Sydney FC-Wanderers derby had been embarrassingly shunted from the ABC's main station to the national broadcaster's secondary kids channel, ABC ME.

Instead Aunty showed the Victorian Open golf, a tournament with little interest and no big names.

The fans have deserted the A-League. Picture by Peter Lorimer.
The fans have deserted the A-League. Picture by Peter Lorimer.

What was once a marquee Sydney sporting event got jammed in between Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Sailor Moon Crystal, Spirit Riding Free, How To Do Stuff Good and Jamie's Got Tentacles.

Unbelievable for a game that used to be such a hot-ticket affair.

Last week's A-League ratings on Fox Sports probably explain why: Adelaide v Melbourne City (17,000), Newcastle v Western United (15,000) and Perth v Melbourne Victory (15,000).

This compares with the Crusaders v Waratahs (66,000) and the Big Bash Strikers v Thunder (222,000) on the same night.

In the good old days, the Sydney derby attracted over 60,000 people. Blockbuster matches would get up to 80,000 viewers.

The Sydney derby was once the hottest ticket in town. Picture by Gregg Porteous.
The Sydney derby was once the hottest ticket in town. Picture by Gregg Porteous.

The terrible TV ratings show why so many fear for the A-League's future once their TV deal expires in 2022.

Making matters worse is the fact so many big sponsors are pulling out NAB, Aldi, Caltex, Harvey Norman and Bet 365 are all gone. Hyundai is also considering its options.

Even the A-League's most ardent supporters are worried for its future.

A-League has been trending down in TAB betting for the past few seasons, with this season dropping 10 per cent. No proper free-to-air coverage hurts and no marquee players leaves a big gap.

With no star power and little global relevance, it's losing ground against US sports such as NBA basketball, which is Australia's fastest-growing betting market and appeals to a younger demographic.

 

COWBOYS CIRCLING RABBITOHS STAR

The Cowboys have already boosted their attacking strike power with the signing of Valentine Holmes for his NRL comeback. Now they have made an approach to South Sydney Rabbitohs star Alex Johnston, who has been given permission by coach Wayne Bennett to look elsewhere.

Johnston has a year to run on his deal at Redfern but has lost the fullback spot to Latrell Mitchell. He knows it will be tough, but at this stage he is reluctant to leave.

CALL THE PSYCH WARD

Some punters have no respect for money, especially the one who has plonked $15,000 on the New Zealand Warriors to win the premiership on the TAB.

Since January 9, the punter has twice backed them at $34 and $29 and stands to collect $517,000 if they can go all the way. The Warriors finished 13th last year.

The Roosters are $4 favourites to become the first team since Jack Gibson's mighty Parramatta Eels in 1983 to win three straight titles.

Souths have been heavily supported ($15-$10) after picking up Latrell Mitchell. They will shorten even further if Jai Arrow gets a release from the Gold Coast Titans.

Josh Dugan is on a very good wicket. Photo by Matt King/Getty Images.
Josh Dugan is on a very good wicket. Photo by Matt King/Getty Images.

DUGAN NOT WORTH THE MONEY

Josh Dugan is earning a ridiculous $16,000 a week for being idle for much of the off-season.

It gets even worse next year when his contract goes from $800,000 to $900,000.

It is why Sharks coach John Morris is cracking down so hard on the veteran centre/fullback.

Morris knows he needs results at the Cronulla Sharks this year to secure his own future and will not accept anything but 100 per cent commitment from his senior players.

Four of the highest paid on the Sharks' roster - Dugan, Matt Moylan, Andrew Fifita and Shaun Johnson - struggled for much of 2019 and all need to lift.

BROTHER, CAN YOU SPARE A RUN?

Not even Steve and Mark Waugh ever achieved what brothers Sam and Angus Robson did in Sydney grade cricket last weekend.

Sam (113) and Angus (132) became only the sixth pair of brothers to score a first-grade century in the same innings in a 219-run partnership for Easts in 40-degree heat at Mark Taylor Oval.

Their dad Jim Robson is also a handy cricketer himself and was there to watch. Jim is travelling with the NSW over-60s team on a tour to New Zealand next week.

Sam and Angus Robson set a Sydney grade cricket record last weekend.
Sam and Angus Robson set a Sydney grade cricket record last weekend.

DRAGONS STAND BY DE BELIN

The St George Illawarra Dragons continue to stand by Jack de Belin, who is facing sexual assault charges in Wollongong court. Clubs legends - board member Craig Young and CEO Brian Johnston - were in court for each day of his hearing last week. Johnston will remain in his position as chief executive until the court case has been finalised and a new CEO appointed.

YOUNG STAR EXPECTED TO STICK WITH SOUTHS

Latrell Mitchell is no certainty to be a long-term fullback at the South Sydney Rabbitohs. Boom teenager Joseph Suaalii, who is being chased by new Wallaby coach Dave Rennie, is expected to reject the rugby union offers to stick with Souths.

This 16-year-old is an extra special talent. The likes of Greg Inglis and Sam Burgess have been blown away by just watching him at training during the off-season. Most good judges believe his best position is fullback and that he will be ready for first grade once he turns 18.

Joseph Suaalii is considered a special talent.
Joseph Suaalii is considered a special talent.

 

FUNDRAISER FOR YOUNGSTER IN NEED

Alex Noble is the youngster who broke his neck and became a quadriplegic in a training accident with the Under-17s NSW Rugby Sevens youth squad in 2017.

There is a fund raiser for Alex at The Star on February 22. There is also an online raffle for the best sporting prize you could hope for … two tickets to all of these events - the NRL, AFL and A-League grand finals, the F1 Grand Prix, the NBL final, Australian Open Tennis, Bledisloe Cup, State-of-Origin, VRC Oaks Day, International Polo and Sydney-Hobart yacht race including flights and hotels ex Sydney. Visit here for details.

EELS FANS EXCITED FOR YEAR TO COME

Eels legend Peter Wynn has been in his Parramatta sports store for 32 years. He says the pre-season interest and sales for Eels merchandise is as strong as ever.

"The fact they've come from the wooden spoon in 2018 to 5th last year has the fans really excited," Wynn said, "Plus they've added Reagan Campbell Gillard and Ryan Matterson. Sales are as strong as I've ever seen them."



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