TRAVELS: XX

Travelsy STEVE MASCORD

IT’S hard to believe anyone could argue what happened at the Provident Stadium on Sunday was good for the game.

Sky’s Rod Studd sent me an email after a dramatically under-strength Huddersfield was lapped 58-6 by Bradford asking if it could happen in the NRL.

I was already planning to write something about it in the Sydney Morning Herald and my first instinct was to ask the NRL. But it only took a few moments’ thought to come up with the answer without making a call.

Under the second tier salary cap at work in the NRL, there is a limit to the value of lower grade (or feeder team) players you can use in first grade. If you are in dire straits, you can apply for dispensation – but it’s not easily forthcoming.

Penrith, in particular, have been refused permission by the League to use their own contracted players this year, because they were over their second tier cap.

Cronulla and Manly had considerable incentive at the weekend to rest swathes of players, given that their positions in the finals were ensured. Some good players were missing, too – like Anthony Watmough and Todd Carney.

But without the second tier salary cap, it would have been much worse.

”That’s right – I definitely thought about leaving out more,” Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan said after I spoke to him pre-match for Triple M and mentioned events at Bradford.

”We don’t have a problem with our second-tier cap but if there was none, you’d consider resting them all.”

There is no point criticising Huddersfield and their coach, Paul Anderson, over the omission of so many players. He was just playing by the rules. But for the RFL to say it was the best available side is ridiculous.

There is a major problem for sports administrations when it comes to medical matters. An official can’t over-rule a doctor. You get medical certificates and it’s case-closed.

Instead, as detailed above, the RFL needs to put in place disincentives to field under-strength teams. I don’t think Rod’s idea of giving teams a points start in play-offs is the answer … it stops being rugby league then.

Perhaps the RFL needs to introduced a second tier salary cap, with only a limited number of players outside the top 25 to be allowed into the first team each year and exceptions the subject of applications.

That way, if we do have to appoint an independent medical officer to check on injuries, he or she would only be called into play when such an application was made, not every time an injury looked doubtful.

The interesting thing here is that the NRL is considering axing the second tier salary cap. When I told the League’s Shane Mattiske what Huddersifield had done, he promised to raise it at headquarters.

.

CAN’T wait for the play-offs to start in both hemispheres this weekend.

The Super League games are being shown on Eurosport in this part of the world and I can report the station is very keen to increase its commitment to the competition next year.

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