By PETER JESSUP
There was an official, unofficial launch of the national league competition yesterday, a low-key gathering of some of the big names in the game in a quiet corner of the Otahuhu Leopards club.
Staring down from the walls at Aussie Warriors Daniel Anderson and Mick Watson were Kiwis, including the man they replaced, Mark Graham.
The New Zealand Rugby League was represented by outgoing chairman Gerald Ryan and incoming chief executive officer Barry McAlister, both of whom registered a vision for a game where the rules - barring a change from four to six tackles - have remained the same since the All Golds toured England in 1907.
There were also Bartercard Cup coaches, last year's 38-24 winner Gerard Stokes from the Canterbury Bulls beaming a $50,000 smile around the clubrooms of the vanquished.
How unusual to see all these guys in the same room at the same time and no blood on the floor. It was like the press conference announcing Gary Freeman's Kiwi leadership - handshakes among guys often giving each other roundhouses.
It can only be good for rugby league, especially at a time when the other game is foundering in refs' interpretations as dictated from the motherland.
Anderson said he was happy to send his players back to the Bartercard Cup, and hoped for support from coaches for his positional requests.
He had been impressed with the commitment of players to run over others instead of into gaps, but there was much work to be done in other areas if they were to make the step up in speed and intensity demanded in the NRL.
Ryan said he would step up to a challenge which rugby-supporting radio and TV announcer Murray Deaker made on his Sky television programme on Monday night.
Deaker told charity boxing organiser Dean Lonergan he would go on the undercard against Ryan and former Kiwi coach Graham Lowe, both at the same time.
Ryan quipped back yesterday that he would happily fight Deaker on his own, with advice from brother Frank who was accomplished at the sport (Olympic nomination in 1956, but he didn't go).
Anderson ate his lunch, mulling over the team he would name to take on his mentor Brian Smith at Parramatta on Sunday.
"Absolutely," he said when asked if there would be something extra in the match.
He hasn't watched the way the Eels lost against Newcastle at the weekend - with first-half errors that allowed the Knights a score that couldn't be reeled in - and does not intend to.
"I know enough about them."
Concentration is on the Warriors, with centre David Myles back and Anderson fizzing on the speed with which winger Henry Fa'afili ran down Dragons fullback Amos Roberts on Friday, Francis Melis' work as a prop substitute in taking the ball up when the pack was depleted, Richie Blackmore's defence and Ivan Cleary's solidity at the back.
Well, not quite fizzing. "We're over it," was his description of coming down from the high of beating the Dragons 34-6.
Five-eighth/fullback Motu Tony will travel as reward for his 10-minute spell of try-scoring and try-producing excellence last Friday.
Former Wests Tigers prop Richard Villasanti comes back after an ordinary first appearance to claim the spot vacated by the injured Mark Tookey.
Ex-Easts utility Nathan Wood is ready to run and is named in an extended bench that will be cut by one before the team flies to Sydney on Friday.
Across the Tasman, interest is focused on the return of B samples taken by drug testers in the off-season.
Craig Field and Kevin McGuiness' ecstasy and cocaine positive As were announced to the world after the word went round the Tigers' establishment that the pair were nervous.
Now there is speculation the B sample results from them and others due next week will confirm other positives.
New Zealand Warriors: Ivan Cleary, Henry Fa'afili, Richie Blackmore, David Myles, Francis Meli, Cliff Beverley, Stacey Jones (c), Jerry SeuSeu, Jason Death, Ali Lauiti'iti, Logan Swann, Awen Guttenbeil, Kevin Campion (c); interchange Clinton Toopi, Monty Betham, Justin Morgan, Richard Villasanti, Motu Tony, Nathan Wood (two to be omitted).
Parramatta Eels: Brett Hodgson, Pat Richards, Jason Moodie, David Vaeliki, Michael Buettner, Daniel Wagon, Jason Taylor, Alex Chan, Brad Drew, David Westley, Nathan Cayless (c), Ian Hindmarsh, Nathan Hindmarsh; interchange Jamie Lyon, Michael Vella, Andrew Ryan, David Solomona, Daniel Irvine (one to be omitted).
Kiwi Ruben Wiki was banned for two matches, but test compatriot Richard Swain escaped suspension after both pleaded guilty yesterday to offences from last weekend's NRL matches.
Wiki admitted a dangerous throw charge on Sydney prop Scott Logan in the Roosters' 24-17 win.
Swain's offence was a careless high tackle during Melbourne's 34-24 victory over the Sharks. However, the hooker's clean disciplinary record meant he avoided a ban.