Parramatta coach Brian Smith has attacked detractors of this weekend?s World Sevens, advising league officials to bar clubs that refuse to take the tournament seriously.
Speaking shortly after he announced a powerful 12-man squad ? that was later weakened by the loss of second rower Nathan Hindmarsh through suspension - to defend the Eels back-to-back titles, Smith said:
?I think this is one time where we need to forget about the NRL. This is not an NRL competition.?
?We all just need to pull our heads in and recognize [the tournament] for the promotional angle it will be for those countries to be the focus of attention.?
The profile of this year?s event has been somewhat lowered by the decision of several strong NRL clubs, namely the Bulldogs, Roosters, Dragons and Panthers, to select squads made up of players with little or no first grade experience.
Smith, who on the other hand named a line up that includes Internationals Jamie Lyon and David Vaealiki alongside of a host of seasoned top graders, believes the solution to deter clubs from mothballing their stars is simple.
?To be quite honest, organizers would do well to say if you don?t want to play then forget about it and let?s just let all the teams who want to play be in it and do their best.?
The Eels? coach?s remarks echo those of ARL chairman Colin Love, who yesterday accused clubs that planned to field second string sides as ?narrow minded.?
Smith conceded the team ?desperately? wanted Hindmarsh, the tournament?s standout player last year, to take the field.
But late this afternoon the star second rower, who is currently serving a one match suspension incurred during the final match of the 2003 season, was ruled ineligible to take part by NRL Judiciary Commissioner, Judge Greg Woods.
In his verdict of an appeal launched by Parramatta to allow Hindmarsh to play, Woods concluded that sevens matches and trails organized by clubs do not count against suspensions.