THE BIG ISSUE: #39

The Big IssueBy STEVE MASCORD

THERE has been some conjecture over the past couple of days that the number of players who have pulled out of City-Country suggests the fixture has (again) run its course – and when it is killed off this time, it shouldn’t make another comeback.

But since when did players decide what games were in the calendar? Maybe they don’t like going to Campbelltown or Canberra in winter or Townsville in autumn so we should call those games off too!

City-Country should be scrapped, or amended, when it is decided it is no longer good for rugby league, not when players all suddenly develop previously unknown injuries.

The problem with the fixture is really that only one of the teams inspires any passion. Have you ever met someone who described themselves as a ‘City’ supporter?

Our All Stars fixture will eventually encounter the same problem. The NRL All-Stars are a little sexier than City but for a while in Origin, NSW were just the Washington Generals to Queensland’s Harlem Globetrotters.

NSW then started caring about the Blues. Sydney has had a century to start caring about City and clearly does not.

We need to approach these fixtures with the same mentality we are attacking our venues problems. The right game for the right venue? Make it the right opponent for the right rep team.

Scrap City and have Country play someone else? Then we don’t have a NSW selection trial. So City-Country will be here as long as we believe the Blues need leading selection candidates to play each other.

Personally, I don’t think they need it now. The absence of selection trial has not hurt Queensland.

But if City-Country goes, I still believe Country has a place on the representative weekend. What if they played Tonga or Samoa? The interest in this week’s Penrith international (almost 500 ‘shares’ of team-sheets on our facebook page at the time of writing) suggests there’d be plenty of support.

What about Country v the Pacific All Stars? Now there’s a representative game!

The other way to prevent players pulling out of games under the assumption that “the clubs pay them, after all” is to make sure they clubs don’t pay them anymore.

The NRL has the expressed ambition of making sure the grant to clubs equals the salary cap. In effect, the NRL will then be providing all the players’ wages.

So why pay the clubs first? Have the NRL put the money straight into the players’ bank accounts, which aside from insulating them against their clubs going broke, will ensure they take games run by the league – their employer – equally seriously, no matter what colours they are asked to wear.

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

1 Comment

  1. Given that Country would no longer serve the purpose of being half of what would appear in selection game for NSW, why not expand Country to include regional QLD as well when playing a Pacific side? Or have NSW Country play QLD Country.

    As for the All-Stars game, I think I’d much rather see two passionate sides there too. Indigenous All-Stars v Pacific All-Stars. And whilst I’m at it, every so often I hear an argument against an Indigenous team as being a racially based side. Well, that’s just not true. If it were, none of the guys in the side who have Torres Strait (Melanesian) heritage or Koories and Murris with Anglo-Celtic heritage would be picked. The side is one that is picked based on history and geography. The equivalent would not be a white team, it would be a side picked from anyone who has historical ties to Celtic, Norman or Saxon Britain, and that would include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders with such ancestry.

    Also, I don’t buy the argument that suggests Pacific Islanders wouldn’t support a combined Pacific team. I’d wager it would also do a lot better than the RU equivalent, in both crowds and finances, where supported by the ARL and RFL, especially if it were also open to the likes of the USA, Philippines and Japan. I would not expect the Japanese to feature in the side any time soon, but it would at least give them something to aim for, rather an occasional low key game in Orara or Cabramatta. I’d also make sure PNG were involved, and you could even go as far as having an occasional invite thrown out to a Kiwi or Aussie of a high stature in the game to build further interest, given that we’re also part of the Pacific.

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