Writer Rick Edgerton talks #MHFBeanie Round, the harrowing statistics behind Brain Cancer - and what...
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Rugby league clubs are funny beasts caught somewhere between modern professionalism and the old world of brown paper bags, half-time scotch and cigarette advertising.
Fried chicken and betting agencies have replaced the cigarettes. Players use painkilling injections instead of scotch to soothe their aches while you can still spot the old brown paper bag if you look hard enough.
NRL 2018 is a mostly slick operation - the 16 clubs know what they're doing - mostly.
What has become clear this year is that some football departments still have no idea about roster management.
Signing big name players for the sake of it and squeezing them into your 13 somewhere doesn't cut it. After all, when is a five-eighth not a five-eighth? When he's a fullback.
The Brisbane Broncos were overly (arrogantly) confident they would re-sign halfback Ben Hunt. He signed with St George Illawarra in January last year. They freaked out and within three months had announced Cronulla utlity Jack Bird was on his way to the Queensland capital for a reported $900,000 a season. Any way you look at it, it wasn't bright. You don't replace a legitimate half with a guy that plays mostly centre and a little bit of five-eigth.
Bennett previously confirmed Nikorima would be his side's halfback long term. But with Nikorima racing the clock to be ready for the weekend, Bird trained in the halves on Wednesday at Red Hill.
At Cronulla, Shane Flanagan kept banging on about offering James Maloney to rival clubs because he deserved a monster deal before retirement. Talks begun between Flanagan and Penrith General Manager Phil Gould. Before you know it, Panthers captain Matt Moylan is headed to the Shire and Maloney to the foot of the mountains. Maloney still hasn't spoken to Flanagan.
To make his job a little harder, Flanagan signed Josh Dugan from the Dragons. That's three fullbacks including premiership-winning Shark Valentine Holmes. Dugan passes as a centre, Holmes is a better winger anyway but Moylan a five-eigth? Come on. He's not even in Maloney's league when it comes to week-in-week-out performances.
Flanagan gave up one of the best five-eigths in the premiership for a shiny new toy.
The Parramatta Eels have real issues too. We all agree Corey Norman and Mitch Moses are two of the most dangerous attacking weapons in the country on their day. But they're too similar. In fact, they're clones. One of them recently said that neither had to be the dominant half. Instead of a dominant half, the Eels have two guys that are waiting for someone else to lead the side. They need a real halfback.
Then there's the Canterbury Bulldogs.
In one corner you have the inspirational James Graham and Josh Reynolds. Legitimate legends at Belmore. They have spilt blood and broken bones for their Bulldogs. Someone however thought it would make sense to replace them with Aaron Woods and Kieran Foran. Yep. They really did that. Clubs are forever trying to build loyalty and unity - amongst their players and their fans. You don't rip the heart out of the racehorse and still expect it to come first.
Some teams are getting it right. Take a bow Wests Tigers, Warriors, Dragons and Newcastle.
The moral to this story is simple.
Rugby league hasn't changed.
Specialist positions are alive and well and a champion team still beats a team of champions.