NRL officials have dismissed calls by Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy for players to be fined for foul play in State of Origin matches rather than suspended.
As Storm captain Cameron Smith prepares to become only the second player in club history to reach 250 appearances tonight at AAMI Park against Cronulla, Bellamy used the example of NSW captain Paul Gallen’s absence from the match to call for a change to disciplinary processes at interstate level.
In his weekly newspaper column, Bellamy said that a suspension from Origin matches only was too harsh and instead “is it worthwhile looking at players being fined a percentage of their match payments, depending on the severity of the charge?”
But officials believe players could conceivably ‘pay’ to take out a key opponent under such system – and even that perception would damage the integrity of the competition.
“All these ideas have already been looked at a number of times,” an NRL spokesman said.
“You can find flaws in any system but the ones we have in place now are the ones most widely supported as being workable.”
The flaw in suspending players only from Origin matches is that someone could commit an act of foul play so heinous he is suspended for 10 interstate matches – but still be back playing for his club two days later.
Not only would this embarrass the code but if the player was a fringe Origin selection in the first place, he may have missed selection in subsequent games anyway so his punishment would effectively be nothing.
Smith, meanwhile, would have been a candidate to follow fellow Origin I star Jarryd Hayne onto the bench tonight if it was not a landmark game.
“We would never bench Billy (Slater) or Cooper (Cronk) after and Origin – Cameron would be the one who would have a rest,” said football manager Frank Ponissi.
“But we can hardly do that in his 250th, can we?”
Ponissi said talks with Smith over his future beyond 2014 had been put on hold until after Origin. Smith’s agent, Isaac Moses, declined to comment on the situation.
Ponissi revealed centre Justin O’Neill was about to re-sign for three years and said for tonight, Brett Finch, Tim Glasby and Kenny Bromwich would drop off the nominated seven-man bench.
The Sharks’ Origin stars, Luke Lewis and Andrew Fifita are expected to play after training yesterday in Sydney but Fifita is tipped to be benched.
With captain Gallen suspended for striking in Origin I, Chris Heighington will come into the back row while Sam Tagataese is elevated from a seven man bench to starting prop in place of Fifita.
Tyrone Peachey is expected to be 18th man. Melbourne have won six of their last seven against the Sharks.
Teams for the match, which kicks off at AAMI Park at 6.35pm tonight, are:
MELBOURNE: Billy Slater; Sisa Waqa, Maurice Blair, Will Chambers, Justin O’Neill; Gareth Widdop, Cooper Cronk; Ryan Hinchcliffe, Ryan Hoffman, Kevin Proctor, Bryan Norrie, Cameron Smith (c), Jesse Bromwich. Res: Jason Ryles, Tohu Harris, Junior Moors, Jordan McLean.
CRONULLA: Michael Gordon; Sosaia Feki, Ben Pomeroy, Jonathan Wright, Beau Ryan; Todd Carney, Jeff Robson; Wade Graham, Chris Heighington, Luke Lewis, Ben Ross, John Morris, Sam Tagataese. Res: Andrew Fifita, Jayson Bukuya, Isaac de Gois, Anthony Tupou.
Referees: Ashley Klein/Chris James.
Filed for: SUNDAY AGE