SO, who is the best NRL rookie? Due to last year?s player boycott of the Dally M Awards we shall never conclusively know if Billy Slater or Brett Firman was the best 2003 had to offer. But as this season hits the mid-point, there has been an influx of new talent that could have a significant bearing on the futures of a number of NRL clubs. Here is a look at the best to emerge for the future this season.
GOODBYE Freddie Fittler ? we?ll miss ya
2004 TELSTRA PREMIERSHIP GRAND FINAL
DALLY Ms Guide
By Warrick Nicolson, Nicolson Sports Consultancy
THORN comeback ... U21s National Youth League ... The Cowboys bandwagon
Loyalty vs Security
Why players should not be abused for going for the money
First Ruben Wiki, then Luke Davico, now Steven Price. NRL clubs Canberra and the Bulldogs have been rocked with the news that the very heart of their team has decided that the opportunity to secure a financial future for their families outweighs the rewards of staying one-club men over their career. There can be no second guessing the overriding motive for each players decision to uproot from the clubs they have been a part of for a decade and move to more lucrative pastures. They simply cannot justify for-going upwards of $100,000 a season to stay with their original clubs.For many fans this financial incentive comes a distant second to club loyalty, but if the roles were reversed and any fan was offered an extra hundred grand to do the same job as they do now with extra benefits, you would be delusional to knock it back. Sadly this flipside is ignored when it comes to football and the players do not deserve the hammering they receive for their decisions.At the end of the day, the clubs who have had ten plus years of service from these players have had to bite the bullett on the age issue. Each player is over 30, and are undoubtedly entering the twilight of their career in positions that place and awful lot of strain on their bodies week in week out. The extra money that is guaranteed regardless of injury is another huge factor in influencing any decision. That is not to say Wiki, Davico and Price won?t ?go the distance? but the reality is the odds are stacking up against them and their already battered bodies.If you need evidence of that find a rookie picture of any player and compare it to them in their tenth year of grade football, there is a stark contrast in appearance. Football is a tough, uncompromising sport not for the faint hearted (although some could argue that is not the case with some players), and the lifespan of a rugby league career is very short. Players make decisions in the end for their family and themselves and fans need to understand that no amount of praise or rejection will override that factor. Nor should we as fans forget the years of great and loyal service these players have given.
Recent established one-club player defections:
Timana Tahu: Knights to EelsJoel Monaghan: Raiders to RoostersNathan Fien: Cowboys to WarriorsPeter Cusack: Roosters to RabbitohsShannon Hegarty: Roosters to RabbitohsHenry Fa'afili: Warriors to Warrington
By Warrick Nicolson, [email protected]
STATE of Origin I
IT appears Stacey Jones will remain a Warrior after all, the star halfback has turned down an approach from the Wigan Warriors to see out his contract with the New Zealand Warriors until the end of 2006.
This news will please a lot of Warriors fans, who have seen their club disintegrate before their eyes over the past few months. But with their best player committing himself to the next two seasons beyond 2004, the club has a chance to refocus and rebuild a club that just last year treated the league world to a style of play that left you on the edge of your seat.
Hopefully this is the first of a number of 'good news' stories out of Auckland, as the NRL's silly season heats up.
WHEN I was a young lad, I absolutely lived for my Saturday and Sunday afternoon football fix. With no Pay TV stations and no Internet, there was only ONE way you could follow the footy throughout the weekend. Sure there was Friday Night Football and the Sunday night equivalent, but since the competition had 16 teams when I started following it, that meant at least six games were not covered each week on free-to-air television. So, enter the (then 2UE) Continuous Call Team.