CAMERON Smith might be as influential as any active premiership player since the days of Dally Messenger. The decision to use the sin bin for those who throw punches, presumably from now on in all club and representative games, was largely influenced by the Australia captain’s comment on NRL 360 last Wednesday. Hooker Smith said the Gallen-Myles incident was “not a good look” and referees boss Daniel Anderson twice made reference to this comment on ABC Radio yesterday. Anderson said the tough stance was not an edict from NRL CEO David Smith but rather a reaction to changing community standards. He said the game had to preserve its ability to attract young players. There was a sign at Barlow Park yesterday that read “Bring Back The Biff” but Joy of Six reckons if that’s still what you want from State of Origin, your choice is simple – don’t watch. Cameron, meanwhile, reportedly asked for three journalists’ accreditation to be revoked over Jon Mannah story recently.
A LIBRARY FULL OF RULE BOOKS
THE decision by Anderson may turn out to be a milestone. If it is, then it will be because we have finally made a decision that the sport played at Suncorp Stadium next week is the same one played on Saturday morning in parks across the country. These pumped up supermen are not just there to sell whatever product is on their jerseys along with the stuff on the perimeter advertising and TV commercials – every one of them is a recruiter, trying to entice children to play the game. The only problem with that is that it’s not the same game. We have international rules, NRL rules, Super League rules and multiple interpretations of those rules. If we are really going to use players as recruiters effectively, we have to make sure they are playing the same sport they are trying to sell to kids. At the moment, they’re not.
HUNKERING IN THE BUNKER
A VIDEO refereeing ‘bunker’ is being pushed as the answer to all our officiating problems. One video ref could do five games in a weekend, giving us greater consistency of decisions. But is there any guarantee that video referee wouldn’t make mistakes of the same kind we are now seeing? Of course not. In fact, the only guaranteed benefit for the NRL would be to save money on travel and accommodation. As someone who works at rugby league grounds with electronic communications equipment every weekend, this writer is acutely aware of the myriad things that can go awry. But if Daniel Anderson remains keen to press on with the concept, he may be able to save the money being spent on his trip to the NHL bunker next off-season. These days, plenty of rugby league games are broadcast on radio not from stadia but from studios, where very similar facilities with direct v ideo feeds and HD screens have been set up. Daniel could easily check one of them out for a fraction of the cost of going to North America.
RAISING THE ROOF
WE’VE had some pretty handy mid-season recruits over the years – Krisnan Inu at the Bulldogs is one who couldn’t get a game at the Warriors and completely reinvigorated Canterbury. But Josh Dugan may be viewed at the end of the year as the best in recent memory. He was an exciting player in a team of will o’wisps at Canberra. In a more tradesmanlike, programmed outfit like St George Illawarra, he’s simply electrifying. Dugan handles as often as he can in every set of six and tries to create as well as finish. At times, in terms of sheer ability, he seems head and shoulders above every other player on the field – a rare commodity in modern professional sport. Realising the difference he is making at the Dragons could give him the confidence to make one at Origin level.
CAIRNS hosted two of the worst rugby league games your correspondent ever had the misfortune to witness – North Queensland v Northern Eagles in and the Cowboys against Penrith in 2001. But yesterday’s South Sydney-Gold Coast game at Barlow Park was a delight, even if referee Matt Cecchin commented early that there didn’t seem to be much of an atmosphere. It built – and a 16,118 crowd at a provincial venue is a success in any language. Souths fans, drawn from wide geographical origins, are becoming a financial powerhouse and pumped an estimated $1 million into the local economy. The city was awash with cardinal and myrtle on match eve. Cairns is a major battlefront with the AFL and yesterday’s game marked a victory for rugby league. Our game needs more pilgrimage- type events and this is a welcome addition.
ENGLAND ARE THE REAL EXILES
FROM time to time this year, we’ve had a whinge about poor attendances. But what do you say about the English national team attracting just 7926 on home soil in a World Cup year? The crowd at Halliwell Jones Stadium for the 30-10 win over the Exiles came despite months of promotion and must be a concern for RLWC organisers. With more English players coming to the NRL every year and the standard of those going in the other direction eroding, the Exiles concept has probably run its course. How to give England a mid-season run? The answer is simple: that Super League be paused for the NRL’s representative weekend and all countries – including England – play proper internationals with full strength sides as happens in soccer.
Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD