Down Under Blog: #70 In with boots and new recruits

Pommy Rich gives us all the mis-dealing's in the NRL in his world famous Down Under Blog.

I work for one of “those” companies – you know, the ones with a “mission statement”, corporate feel good strategy, and that means that every Monday morning in our daily meeting I have to detail my “highlight of the weekend”.

Now as a father I usually mention something about kids sport or having SUCH a great time standing on the beach watching my kids do “nippers” (junior surf lifesaving). This time however I manfully tried to explain the ludicrous end to our game in the South of France. I mean how can you put that into words? From the agony of watching us kick off with four seconds remaining knowing the chances of us winning the game were probably less than 1%, to being given a masterclass in tactical kicking by the best game manager in the business? Not an easy task, and some of the adjectives I used to describe the refereeing and the brilliance of Marc Sneyd were, I’m fairly certain, not in the vocabulary of our company ethos.

Sneyd was sublime – this is the man tasked and entrusted with the most difficult job on the field. Actually, scratch that the most difficult job in English Rugby League. Think of the people that have tried (and failed) to be a Hull FC halfback since the heady days of Peter Sterling. Probably only Richard Horne has ever caught the supporters imaginations since then, and Sneyd – despite some rumblings about him not taking on the line enough – is probably our best since Sterling. This is the man who has orchestrated two Wembley wins, and won back to back Lance Todd trophies after all. We all read the rumours that Wigan wanted Marc as a replacement to Canberra bound George Williams but personally I think Radders sees Sneyd and Connor as his long term 7 and 6, meaning Kelly could be surplus to requirements? I’d have been tempted to make Sneyd a marquee player, he’s THAT important to us.

Retention and recruitment is high on the agenda it seems with Pearson coming out and stating publicly he wants to bring in “5 or 6 players from Australia” for 2020, it seems like a real change is imminent. By the sounds of that it’s bye bye to Paea, Mini, Sika, and possibly even Kelly? The three players we released recently obviously was a mechanic to get us back to salary cap compliance and to offset Savelio and Ellis coming onto the cap coupled with debuts being handed out to Wynne, Brown etc.

AP’s exact wording is interesting too isn’t it? Not “Aussies” but “players coming over from Australia” – that could mean English players coming over – which brings the possibility of George Burgess to the fore. He’s out of contract at the end of this year, and Souths aren’t exactly making a lot of noise about wanting him to stick around, but with Bennett as coach, he might want to keep his GB brothers   together. How good would that be though, seeing him tearing down the middle with Shaul supporting him looking for an offload? Once upon a time English international Chris McQueen is sitting in the reserves at the Tigers, so maybe him, he wouldn’t count on quota and he’s still a class player.

If I had a “wish list”, I’d have Marty Taupau on there for sure, and Mitch Aubusson, Joel Thompson, maybe Taane Milne from the Warriors, Faitala-Mariner from the Doggies, and that’s just the forwards. There are some incredible backs on the open market (or at least surplus to requirements), our interest in Javid Bowen is well documented, and Bevan French is currently rotting in the reserves at Parramatta, there’s David Noafoluma at the Tigers who can’t get into the first grade because of Mahe Fonua – if he does get the nod, then Mahe drops out, so is he a possibility now his kid is a little older and homesickness isn’t as much of an issue?

Anthony Don at the Titans could be a possibility. Here’s one from left field, what about Eto Nabuli, the ex St George winger currently playing Union for the Queensland Reds? He’s a beast and would be dynamite in Super League. In the Queensland Cup there’s players like Tom Opacic, Brenko Lee, Delouise Hoeter, Kalifa Faifai Loa who are all far too good for reserve grade but are finding it hard to break into the Broncos, Cowboys or Titans. Cas just lauded the signing of Cheyse Blair from Melbourne and he’s not been anywhere near first grade, instead playing for their feeder club the Easts Tigers all season, and he’s a really good player. Reserves is a good standard but Super League first grade is still a step up from that level, so personally I’d be looking for someone with recent, ideally current, first grade experience. If I had to choose my ideal 5 or 6, I’d break the bank for Burgess, Taupau, Noafoluma, Aubusson, and Bowen.

Finally, there are  few rumblings over here that Leeds are “on the nose” with a few player agents now thinking twice before recommending the players they represent that Headingley is a good place to further their career. Segeyaro was a disaster for them, and quite honestly acted like a spoiled kid, but he’s popular with his peers over here and has been very vocal about the way he feels he was treated. Add to that Lolohea and Merrin massively under-performing, and St George quite publicly courting Merrin as a replacement for De Belin if his court case goes badly, then all is not well at the foot of the table. The NRL have brought in a “No Fault” rule meaning they can stand a player down indefinitely, and if they deem the club he plays for not to be a contributing factor in the players indiscretions, the club gets salary cap relief for the length of the ban. De Belin, wo is charged with quite a serious sexual assault, is challenging the whole concept of the rule in the high court, this week and citing restraint of trade as his defence. If he wins, he’ll be back in the St George first team within days. If he loses, St George get his salary to spend on another player – cue Merrin getting a call and trading bottom of the Super League for top eight NRL football.

Until next time, Up the Cream, Gerremonsard and Come on you ‘Ull.

Rich – Twitter @pommyrich

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