Is it a Gen Y thing that being selected for representative honours seems to be regarded as a chore? Or is there something deeper going on? The City withdrawals are pretty much half the NSW Origin team, which raises flags all over the place.
The annual City-Country fixture has been bled try of its status as an explicit selection trial for State of Origin over the course of several years. The reason this is a problem has nothing to do with Origin, per se.
The issue is that it detracts from the real reason this match is played in the first place – to recognise and support Country Rugby League.
Nobody wants to see City-Country become a city-slicker version of Kurri vs Cessnock. The NRL Commission needs to right many of the wrongs, principally a lack of interest, perpetrated against the CRL over the years. To express shock last year when Wagga announced it would pay the GWS AFL franchise to host matches and promotions in the town was breathtaking.
As the Wagga Mayor said at the time, “We met with a representative from the NRL about five years ago, when Wagga Leagues Club folded and the main ground, Eric Weissel Oval, and the junior fields closed … But we haven’t seen them since.”
The failure to nurture the ‘grass roots’ of the game regionally makes it harder to believe that the national and international directions of the game are in safe keeping. One can only hope a worthy share of the TV rights deal makes its way to the CRL.
But again, there is silence from the NRL on the idea that teams take a home game each to ‘the bush’. It’s not a new idea, and on the surface looks like a no-brainer, and an easy way to keep the CRL and its fans engaged in the NRL rather than other codes. It could certainly more than replace the annual City-Country match because it would show a commitment to the bush, as well as provide a regular taste of top class rugby league.
The reason it doesn’t happen can likely be traced back to the very $1 billion deal that is supposed to help sustain rugby league in the country. The game is more about money now than it ever has been, and the crowds in Orange, or Bathurst or Wagga aren’t big enough for teams who can’t afford lower gate receipts. Perhaps some subsidisation can get 15 ‘home’ matches to move to the country. That’s an awful lot of good will!
Further, players understand that their clubs, through the rights deal and the escalating salary cap, are their bread and butter. Why risk injury in a City-Country game that doesn’t count for Origin? That is the message that is coming through loud and clear.
Taking regular games to the country also means that all players, not just from NSW, will be on show because they are regular Telstra Premiership matches. This isn’t Cricket Australia where players get rested! How much more entertaining to see all of the stars like SBW, JT, Sam Burgess, Greg Inglis, Cooper Cronk and more.
Ben Ikin said on NRL 360 last night that “The ARL Commission is only 1-year old …”, as if that is some defence. Well, that’s plenty old enough to have achieved a great deal more than crow about a TV rights deal that had been organised before they arrived. They haven’t even spun the wheels in so many areas. Time to get out of the mud.
The NRL judiciary is to be applauded for refusing to downgrade the Jeremy Smith head slam tackle over the weekend. It was an ugly tackle that was capable of causing more serious injury than it actually did.
Head contact is an issue the NRL/ARLC has not dealt with effectively at all, but is beginning to address. If players cannot see, and do not want to participate in, the direction the League is taking, then they will be watching from the stands more often. Learning the hard way is necessary for some. And when it begins to affect their earning capacity (as it should), it’s amazing how quick that happens.
It’s a shame for the Knights, who miss an intimidating, hard-working player. But players who insist on making these types of tackles, late hits and head contact generally, need to have the book thrown at them.
The NRL judiciary got this one right, but if that’s the case, they clearly got Fa’aoso (1wk) and Krisnan Inu (5wks) wrong. Both should clearly have got more, particularly Inu’s spear tackle. I thought that had gone out of style along with the coat-hanger, squirrel grip and eye gouge.