Rugby League World Cup: England out of order to drop me for missing team swim, says Gareth Hock
30-year-old livid after he is kicked out of tournament for oversleeping after late-night drink
Dave Hadfield was a schoolboy convert to rugby league, the game which, one way or another, has dominated his life ever since. After working for newspapers in Shropshire and Blackpool (where he covered the fortunes of Blackpool Borough) he travelled the world, working mainly in Hong Kong and Sydney. He became The Independent's rugby league man in 1990 and has written five books on the game and broadcast extensively for Sky and the BBC. Dave played his last game at the age of 53 and would have set up a try if anyone could have been bothered supporting his break. When not writing about the sport, he now limits himself to a bit of tick and pass with his local club, the Bolton Mets. Family includes supporters - of varying degrees of dedication - of Salford, Wigan, Sheffield Eagles and St George Illawarra.
Wednesday 23 October 2013
Disgraced England star Gareth Hock said last night he has been unfairly treated over the incident that saw him kicked out of the World Cup.
Hock was sent home from the squad's camp at Loughborough after he and a group of other players broke a curfew to go out for a drink. No announcement has been made about any punishment being handed out to the other culprits.
The 30-year-old admits he was the only player to oversleep and miss a rehab session the next morning. But the former Wigan second-rower, who spent all of last season on loan at Widnes, added: "There were six or seven of us and we all did the same thing. For missing a 10-minute swim – I think it's out of order really.
"I'm really gutted, as I was looking forward to playing in the World Cup. I know people will be thinking the worst, but that was the only thing that happened."
Hock admitted he and his team-mates were in breach of team rules, "but we were disappointed after the Italy game and had a few drinks".
That 15-14 friendly defeat to the Italians was the start of what has been a horrible week for England coach Steve McNamara and his squad. With a daunting first tournament fixture against Australia looming at Cardiff on Saturday, the last thing he needed was a disciplinary problem. Although no other players have been named, there will now be several going into the game at the Millennium Stadium under a cloud.
As for Hock, he has surely run out of last chances. There is no questioning his ability, but his career now looks like a long series of self- destructive decisions. In 2009 he served a two-year suspension after testing positive for cocaine. Wigan stood by him through that, although he demanded a move when he returned to action and was loaned out to Widnes. There he added to an on-field case-load that included a gouging charge and man-handling a referee.
Under the circumstances, a contract with the Australian club Parramatta looked like a fresh start, but he reneged on that and will now play for Salford next season.
The signs since this England escapade are that the Red Devils will stand by him. Tweets from their owner, Dr Marwan Koukash, back Hock's claim he has been harshly treated.
The forward would have been a likely first choice for the game against Australia, his combination of fierce running and tackling – along with a high degree of skill – an increasingly rare entity in the British game. This week has underlined, however, that he is a high-risk selection – on and off the field.
Huddersfield's Brett Ferres has been brought into the England squad as a replacement, but Sean O'Loughlin or Ben Westwood – or possibly both – are more likely to come into the team for the Australia clash.
Sonny Bill Williams, the cross-code super star who will play for New Zealand in their match against Samoa on Sunday, has been comparing the two rugby world cups, after winning the union version with the All Blacks in 2011. "It's probably not as big," he said of the league equivalent. "Union is a bigger sport globally, though I believe league is a lot tougher."
It certainly just got tougher for England with Hock's indiscipline denting their hopes.
* Meanwhile, a meeting to discuss the re-structuring of Super League had to be abandoned when representatives from six clubs walked out.
Hock in the dock: Forward's foul play
Banned for five games and fined £500 after grabbing referee Ian Smith in his Wigan side's defeat by Huddersfield – his second suspension of that year. He was banned for one match for punching Bradford's Terry Newton in April.
Suspended for two years after two of his urine samples tested positive for cocaine. His samples contained traces of a cocaine metabolite after a match with Salford in June.
Handed five-match suspension for gouging during a defeat by Warrington. He was also given a one-match ban for punching Warrington forward Ben Harrison and fined £300.
Hit with a four-match ban and fined £300 for making deliberate contact with referee George Stokes in Widnes' victory over Workington.
Removed from England squad for World Cup for breaking curfew to go out for a drink, deemed a "serious breach of team discipline".
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