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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.

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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.

read on

THE JOY OF SIX: Round 26

The Joy Of SixBy STEVE MASCORD
CHANGES COULD END IN TIERS
THREE games on the final day of the regular season exposed an unintended benefit of the second tier salary cap and an unforseen danger of changing it without careful consideration. With the finals spots assured, Cronulla and Manly fielded somewhat under strength sides but still put up a fight and provided fans and broadcasters with credible entertainment. Some 16,949 km away, Super League minor premiers Huddersfield rested almost their entire side and were lapped 58-6 by Bradfordon national television. The only thing stopping the same happening here is the second tier salary cap, which limits the number of players outside each club’s top 25 who can appear in first grade. “That’s right – I definitely thought about leaving out more,” Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan told Joy Of Six. “We don’t have a problem with our second tier cap but if there was none, you’d consider resting them all.”

DE JA VU, RUGBY A XIII
RUGBY league just can’t help but go around in circles. In 2005, when 41,260 saw St George Illawarra play Wests Tigers in a preliminary final the Sydney Football Stadium, the outcry over the number of fans locked out led to a policy change which introduced greater flexibility into the scheduling of play-offs. That flexibility was gradually extended to the point where the NRL now has complete control over which Sydney venues are used for which matches. The downside of that is that venues can’t be booked in advance. This opens the door to the AFL getting in first, and that has resulted in a double header at Allianz Stadium this Saturday, back where it all started. And what will be the main criticism of the double header? That fans are locked out. Will we then see a call for finals venues to be booked further in advance?

GOLDEN POINT TARNISHED
THE chattering opposition to golden point is becoming a roar with even Australia captain Cameron Smith joining in after Melbourne’s narrow escape against Gold Coast. “It’s got no rules, there’re no rules in golden point,” said Gold Coast coach John Cartwright. “It’s good for the crowd, the fans, they cheer. But one of the field goal attempts Aiden Sezer went for, Cameron Smith was five metres offside. I understand they don’t want to give a penalty because we were doing the same thing. But does that make it good for the game? ‘Cause it doesn’t. It comes down to a lottery”. As for the try Sezer had disallowed, Gird Bird yesterday put a screen grab on Instagram which showed Ben Ridge not touching the ball as he tackled Billy Slater. Cartwright mused: “They’ll find a way to say they got it right and pat themselves on the back but they got that one wrong.”

TAYLOR MADE TO DO MORE
GOLD Coast giant David Taylor has become such an enigma that friends and foes have discarded the standard diplomacy in describing the mind-blowing extent of his unrealised potential. “He could play like that every week if he wanted to but it comes down to him, whether he wants to do it,” said Cameron Smith after a fearsome DT outing on Saturday. “Hopefully he looks at that game that he played tonight and says ‘why don’t I do that every week?’ He’s a Queenslander, so hopefully he does.” John Cartwright said now that Taylor’s switch was in the ‘on’ position, the trick was to keep it there. “It is pretty simple – as long as Dave don’t complicate things … his last two weeks, he’s been unstoppable,” the coach said. “Where that’s been all year? We’re not the only club where he’s struggled for consistency. We think there’s a player there who can win us games of football. We won’t give up on him, we’ll keep working on him.”

KING ABDICATES

EVEN if North Queensland wins the comp, coach Neil Henry says there’s no hope of him sticking around. The Cowboys are undefeated in six games since Henry was sacked, with the calls for the club to reconsider growing steadily louder. “I think it’s off the table,” Henry said on the ABC yesterday. “I think they’ve canvassed a number of potential coaches … they’ve shortlisted it down for further interviews. I’m down the track with possibilities for me. We’re just getting on with the season. I’, pretty resigned to the fact. I’ve had a lot of support up here.” Henry says the Cowboys will find it difficult to omit prop Matt Scott (finger) next week.

JOINING THE FOURTH ESTATE
A REALLY interesting trend in rugby league is players who have had occasionally prickly relationships with the media seeking to become journalists. Jamie Soward wants to be involved in general sports broadcasting when he retires, Jamal Idris is studying journalism and retiring Scott Prince revealed on Thursday night he was about to commence a Sports PR course at university. All three eemed willing to foster good relationships with reporters early in their careers but somewhere along the line became aggrieved. With Soward it was criticism over his form, with Idris it was unflattering pictures in newspapers and with Prince it was the Titans salary cap scandal. Perhaps their personal interest in the media makes them more aware of criticism. Maybe they want to change the system from within.\

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD