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League season is never over

Steve Mascord NRL.com Mon, Oct 15, 2012 - 9:00 AM

Cook Islands played against Lebanon, one of many international fixtures. Copyright: NRL Photos

In Townsville on Sunday, it was like the circus had left town.

All that was missing was a few tumbleweeds blowing down Flinders Street, past the Mad Cow which will no doubt feel the effects of the end of the rugby league season as much as any business in Australasia.

Nate Myles was on his way to Braith Anasta's wedding (landing half an hour before the ceremony).

Johnathan Thurston was heading to New York with tickets to the World Series. Tim Sheens has the small matter of a job for next year to sort out. Reporters and referees and cameramen and sound operators will see their families for the next 20 weekends or so. Sports nuts will turn their attention to cricket and whatever big ball-sport can come across as trendy enough for the summer months this year.

And it will be easy to forget that when the circus leaves down, it doesn't cease to exist.

It finds another paddock, and up goes the tent again. Tackling pads, strapping, ball-work, tickets, interviews, precision and pain in roughly equal doses - they're our trapezes and elephants and ghost trains.

This week in Bangkok, Thailand and Port Vila, Vanuatu, the caravan rolls on.

Titans Kevin Gordon and Matt Srama, plus South Sydney's Andrew Everingham, represented the Philippines against Thailand on Sunday at the Royal Thai Police Stadium.  It was the first full international ever held in Asia and also possibly the first time a husband-and-wife refereeing team will control any sporting event of note.

NRL ref Gavin Badger was asked to take up the whistle for the game. He asked if his wife Kasey, who has controlled Toyota Cup games, could join him. The Thai Rugby League said yes.

After the game, a selection of Filipino players - hopefully including the NRL trio - will conduct coaching clinics in and around Manila, as well as visiting an orphanage. Next year, while 14 countries compete in the World Cup, these two plan a return bout on a military base outside the Filipino capital.

Next Saturday, Melbourne's Justin O'Neill will be part of Vanuatu's first home international, against Greece at the Port Vila Municipal Stadium. Also in the Vanuatu side are Jake and Joe Meninga, nephews of Queensland coach Mal.

A week later, in the rather different surrounds of Kaiser High School, Honolulu, former Brisbane Bronco Ian Lacey will lead the Queensland Indigenous side against an Hawaiian All Stars team coached by NRL star Cory Paterson.

Redcliffe flier Liam Georgetown is also a key member of the Tony Currie-coached touring party, which will be a cultural exchange including traditional dancers.

And get this - an American football game will be the curtain-raiser to the league match!

While all this is taking place, England Knights, Ireland and Scotland are competing in the European Cup. Steve McNamara's main England side - including South Sydney's Luke Burgess - is currently in South Africa for altitude training ahead of the Tri-Nations, which also involves Wales and France.

The final for that tournament is set down for the new City of Salford Stadium on November 10 - the same day five sides including the Coogee Dolphins and fledgling British Columbia Bulldogs compete in the Remembrance Cup in Las Vegas.

NRL players may have demanded a "quiet" post-season in 2012 but you can't keep a good sport down - and your NRL.com correspondent will be going along for the ride.

After all, every circus needs a clown.

Follow Steve Mascord on Twitter: @TheRealSteavis