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It has been reported in today's Telegraph that a deal to have former St George winger, Nathan Blacklock, move across to the New South Wales Waratahs is as good as done and an announcement is expected as early as today.
While the loss of Blacklock will be felt hardest by Dragons fans, his reasons for leaving the Dragons only to sign with a rival code two weeks later now seem a little hollow. Blacklock stated it was not the Dragons or the game in general that forced him into a premature retirement, but ongoing personal problems that had taken the edge off his desire to compete in the NRL. Nathan needs to give the average fan a little more credibility, well more than he has anyway. I would have more respect for Blacklock if he had been up front and honest about his desire to switch codes and join the likes of Wendell Sailor and Mat Rogers in search of the Wallaby jersey and the 2003 Rugby World Cup instead of giving the sympathy pitch and wearing his heart on his sleeve. It tarnishes his impeccable reputation as a footballer and human being.
Blacklock, as charismatic and talented as he is, is not at the level of Mat Rogers and Wendell Sailor and would be long odds to make the Wallabies as he will be a signing of the NSWRU and not the ARU. I can't fathom why someone would switch codes to test themselves in the Super 12 as opposed to the NRL, whose competition is tougher, longer and infinitely more skillful than the kick n' clap code.
The defection of Blacklock and the impending departure of Brisbane Broncos winger, Lote Tuqiri, shows that the NRL need to act swiftly to stop the games superstars leaving for greener pastures and the lure of international exposure. It is the responsibility of those in charge to make the game more marketable to the public and that simply isn't happening. The game is treated with contempt by those in charge and the attitude of out of sight out of mind is sending the game into a state of decay and the approach needed is one that is pro-active, not reactive. This all stems from the ludicrous amount of governing bodies the game currently has. The administration of Rugby League needs to centralised to one governing body that is empowered to handle all facets of the game, including junior development, international and emerging nations development and the retention of high profile players through superior marketing and promotion of the game. Until this happens, the trickle of players defecting to Rugby Union will soon turn into a flood as the lure of more money and international exposure compared to a regional game with no international recognition becomes too great a desire for every player in our great game.