WHILE this column, among others, has welcomed the advent of the representative weekend as a step forward for international rugby league, the mass withdrawals from the City and Country teams reveal an inherent flaw in the scheduling.
When City-Country or a Test was played on the same weekend as a full round of club games, players who were unfit for the rep match were most often unable to play for their clubs that weekend. Sometimes this was enforced, sometimes is was a convention followed out of guilt.
The rep weekend gives clubs a get-out-of-jail-free card – there is no punishment for compelling a player with a minor injury to sit out the weekend and back up for his club the following week.
Even so, there have been reports Country already expected Brett Stewart to miss the clash with City before he played for Manly at the weekend. If so, it’s got me beat.
City-Country pretty much has to stay as long as NSW believe they need a selection trial. Any other format, such as Probables v Possibles, would be even less attractive to fans and less digestible to clubs.
But we need to tighten up and standardise the procedure at representative medicals. All players MUST be examined by the representative team doctor. If they don’t show up to the medical, they have to sit out a club game. If that means flying from Auckland to Coffs Harbour in a plaster cast just to be ruled out, sobeit.
The time for doing things by “consensus’ is over because the goodwill is being abused.
And when the NRL grant to clubs equals the salary cap, then cut out the middle man and have the League pay players directly. That way, the clubs won’t be able to say “we pay them” any longer. It will also make the salary cap a little easier to police and protect players from their clubs going broke or their superannuation not being paid on time.
By the way, I don’t think NSW needs a selection trial any more. But hopefully the Under 20s Origin and Pacific internationals with grow in stature as City-Country fades, and eventually they;ll replace the fixture as a matter of evolution.
A QUICK word about Ross Livermore.
Ross was the last of the traditional league administrators who had, a touch of showbusiness and a talent and instinct for hype.
I had my disagreements with Ross but I knew that if I called him, he would invariably say something interesting – especially around Origin time.
In latter years, State Of Origin was supposed to raise money for the NRL Partnership and the state leagues were expected to just live off a grant. But Ross know how to “leverage’ the prestige of the series with stadium tours on match-day and the like to bring in a few extra dollars for the QRL.
Ross was a showman. He was more worried about creating interest for the game than avoiding conflict by saying nothing. These days, we have administrators with greater academic qualifications and more experience in the business world but I doubt we’ll see more flair and enthusiasm for a long time.
You’ll be missed, Ross.
THERE were a few comments last week. Jim wanted to know why the Sharks have got more bad publicity than Essendon over the drugs drama. I’ll be honest here Jim and say I don’t follow AFL at all and don’t feel qualified to comment.