Skirmishes of a war: The last month has seen many reminiscences of the break out of the Super League War. Ten years ago the first shots were fired in anger. A common refrain has been that ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã…Â“the war is overÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬?. Oh really? Let us not forget what this war was about. It was always about the control of the game for the interests of television and especially the incoming pay television. Despite Australia being a relatively small market in world terms, two companies had been given access to it and from very early in manoeuvrings it became obvious that only one would survive. The content of Rugby League became the most prized pawn in an inevitable fight to the death. The events of ten years ago represented a seismic upheaval in this countryÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s relationship between sport and the media, entertainment and corporate sector. Just as the shift in tectonic plates that caused the Boxing Day tsunami have been followed up by several significant aftershocks, so too do similar rumbles and shocks continue in various ways through the game of Rugby League. Let me deconstruct a recent incident in the game as just one small example of the tensions that continue to be felt between those that took various sides in that war a decade ago. It is not always as obvious as the lengthy diatribe that Phil Gould launched in his column several weeks ago. Have a look at what happened when Ricky Stuart raised the issue of an anonymous e-mail doing the rounds last week at a pre-match press conference. The e-mail mentioned tension in the Roosters camp and particularly between two players after an alleged Carey/Stevens style incident. It was fascinating stuff, particularly for haters of the Roosters. Stuart probably raised the issue as a ploy to create a siege mentality in his side prior to a big clash with the Bulldogs. However it also gave significant prominence to an issue that would have safely flown under the radar of public consciousness given the paltry size of the 2SM audience when the offending e-mail was first mentioned. Stuart blew it into national prominence and the dogs of war were unleashed. Whilst Stuart was a Super League player he now coaches a side that was firmly in the ARL camp. Of course the Roosters are also the bastion of Phil Gould, the staunchest of Super League critics and employee of Fairfax and Channel 9. The Daily Telegraph, a publication of the Super League promoter News Limited saw the opportunity for de-stabilisation and committed its entire back page (and several more) to StuartÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s comments last Friday including the text of the offending e-mail. With the Friday edition of the Telegraph containing the ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã…Â“Main GameÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬? it is the most widely read newspaper of the week by the average Rugby League fan. The TelegraphÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s coverage of the affair seemed designed to create maximum de-stabilisation.* On the Friday night the Roosters secured their win in sensational circumstances after the dramatic (and wrong) sending off of hard-man Adrian Morley. Ricky StuartÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s outburst at the refereeÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s performance kept the Roosters the major topic of discussion for the weekend. Amazingly the Sun Herald, a Fairfax publication that has a regular column from Phil Gould, came out on the Sunday with Jacquelin MagnayÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s column pouring oil on the troubled waters of the Roosters e-mail situation by making out that it referred to events from more than six months ago and that theyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢d been fully dealt with. This ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã…Â“junk mailÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬? was ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã…Â“old newsÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬? according to Fairfax.** Not so at the News Limited bunker where their weekend papers filled with inferences and speculation about tensions in the RoosterÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s camp and the move of one or more players to other clubs at seasonÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s end. StuartÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s fiery performance at the press conference after the game had also provided more grist for the mill. The Sun Herald quoted Wayne Bennett in support of RoosterÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s captain Luke Ricketson saying that the tackle was a non-event. However, the Courier Mail, also in the News Limited stable, used virtually the same quotes from Bennett under the headline ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã…Â“RickyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s ref blast unfairÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬?.*** I think you get the picture. The flurry of the weekend suggests that, whilst the war may be over, our media moguls are not averse to the odd skirmish with Super League allegiances a significant factor in where the lines are drawn. What about the truth in all of this? Who can tell? I somehow suspect that itÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s the casualty! * Daily Telegraph, Sydney edition, 15 April 2005, Back Page. ** Sun Herald, Queensland edition, 17 April 2005, Page 79. *** Sunday Mail, 17 April 2005, Page 126.