Off the Wall

The very expensive AFL foray into the Gold Coast could hardly have got off to more embarrassing start - but that must not give the NRL any cause for complacency.

The fact that the Suns were slaughtered by Carlton, and the experts almost all gave "Special K" a "Big F", indicate just how difficult the AFL's task is going to be - especially as Carlton are at around 15/1 to win the premiership.

What will Collingwood do to the Suns?

And yesterday the media universally panned Israel Folau's "performance" as being even more embarrassing than Karmichael Hunt's.

As the Suns management will quickly discover, the fans can be very fickle when it comes to attending home games of a team that gets absolutely hammered week in week out. The new Carrara Stadium may well turn out to be a very expensive taxpayer funded white elephant.

Yesterday saw the publication of some interesting stats which should be ringing alarm bells in the NRL headquarters today.

The number of NRL first grade players who were born in Queensland is rapidly being overtaken by Kiwi born players. Among first graders, 33 were Brisbane born, and 54 born in Queensland country. New Zealand born players in the NRL now number 67.

But it gets even worse, much worse.

The Toyota Cup, the main entry for young players into the NRL premiership, is a good guide to the way the game is going, and it is not good news for Queensland, and not much better news for Country New South Wales.

There are just 18 Brisbane born players in the Toyota Cup, and 27 from Country Queensland. But there are 74 from New Zealand - just 2 fewer than Country New South Wales.

New Zealand is emerging as a powerhouse in the NRL, and the international game.

I have no problem with that at all. But there must be real concerns about the true state of the game in South East Queensland, and across Queensland generally.

The Broncos excellent home crowds, and the success of the Titans in its first few years in the premiership, would give the impression that the game is in good shape in South East Queensland.

The origin of the game's future first graders tells a different story.

So does the stats on eligibility for State of Origin representation among current first grade players. New South Wales has 207, Queensland has 91...but 71 are ineligible because they have nominated themselves as Kiwis.

On current trends, it is only a matter of time before the number of Queensland players in the NRL is overtaken by the number of Kiwi players!

And won't the calls for the "State of Origin" to become a three way contest grow then!

But the game's challenges do look manageable when compared with what confronts the AFL today.

The AFL won't just be alarmed that its ridiculously expensive rugby league recruits are not setting the game on fire - at a time when it is still negotiating free to air television rights the woeful performance of the Gold Coast Suns, and the woes of the injury stricken Brisbane Lions, must be giving Andrew Demetriou more than a few headaches, if not nightmares!

Long may they continue!