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