By STEVE MASCORD
SO that was it, then. Have we really seen the last of City-Country?
The Big Issue thinks many people have forgotten the fixture was already pronounced DOA in 1997 and didn’t return until 2001. Post-Super League, we all thought we were too grown up for such a down-home concept. So regardless of what happens in 2013, I’m not prepared to say City-Country is gone forever.
Whenever the game’s officials feel they want to buy back the farm – literally – then reviving City-Country is the obvious gesture, just like state governments currying favour by abolishing tolls.
But once again, we are at the point where we think we’re too grown up for it. We have an independent commission, an allegedly billion dollar TV deal and an All Star game that we feel better recognises the more sophisticated tastes of our marketplace. It definitely feels like City-Country is going to go into another indefinite recess, particularly since the ‘representative weekend’ we have been waiting for for so long also looks like being a one-hit wonder.
The biggest indictment on the viability of the fixture was the Danny Buderus affair.
Sure, players have been pulling out of rep games – particularly this one – for years. But what was unseemly last week was the way it played out: Buderus’ club coach – in these very pages – said he shouldn’t have to play, the State coach agreed, he was picked as captain, he didn’t show up for the medical, he was out.
In the eternal battle between club and Country (in this case with a capital C) it was one of the most humiliating defeats the latter has ever suffered. ‘Club’ won by knock-out in the first round, something that should never be allowed to happen.
The precent set by Newcastle and Wayne Bennett has pretty much doomed the fixture we saw in Mudgee on Sunday.
Any player who does not want to represent can now simply not front for the medical. And if the player who does the right thing and replaces him is seriously injured when he should really have been sat at home or sitting on the bench …. HIS club is fully entitled to kick up a massive stink.
See, clubs are built on loyalty, reward, earning your stripes. Those are concepts Wayne and Ricky Stuart have based their coaching careers on. But when administrations start even taking those concepts into account, they are in big trouble.
Sporting competitions and representative teams must IGNORE loyalty, reward and experience. They must treat everyone equally. They must be transparent, consistent and even-handed. It is ridiculous and naive to expect a representative team to overlook a player who is a) very good and b) available.
Pub teams can do that but for it to happen at this level is like something out of the 1930s, like giving someone the afternoon off because they have to mow the lawn. Again, this a cultural problem of the old, pre-Commission rugby league: to massage things through, do it by consensus, minimise the drama handle things ‘sensibly’. No, the professional way is to do things using rigorous process and protocols.
Of course, Buderus really should have been stood down from a club match but given the other players who have skived off in recent years, that would be a tad unfair. Everyone needs a warning.
But I think we are getting to the point where even doctor’s letter is not enough in these situations. Medical reports should only be accepted at the pre-selections stage. If you are picked, you MUST show up and be examined by the same doctor that rules on everyone else in the rep team. If you don’t you are stood down from a club game. If that means crossing the Tasman just to be ruled out, sobeit.
One thing’s for certain, Danny Buderus’s place in the history of the City-Country game will not be the one he wished for himself.
NOT sure what it is but international eligibility just seems to be a topic that gets the blood racing among league geeks like me. It’s got that mixture of the exotic and the anally retentive that we anoraks love!
My ABC colleague Daniel Anderson last week threw up the most basic concept that’s been tossed around in the last few years: you are eligible for a country in the top three and you are eligible for another country outside the top three. This is loosely what applied in the last World Cup.
The concern with this is that Samoa, who Daniel coaches, could just about pick New Zealand A every year, using different players depending on who the Kiwis leave out. In the last World Cup qualifiers, the Samoans struggled in the early rounds and were forced to play off with the United States for their spot.
Samoa recruited a host of New Zealand internationals immediately before that qualifier and easily accounted for the Americans before finishing second-last in the tournament proper.
There should still be some reward for staying loyal to a developing country. Limiting the number of Origin or top-tier Test players in each squad to three would achieve this.
Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK