Off the Wall

In the years I have now been writing this column, I cannot recall being more furious at a newspaper piece than I am at today's story that the Broncos have AFL "converts" Karmichael Hunt and Israel Folau in their sights, should they want to return to the NRL.

According to the Broncos Football Manager, Andrew Gee, apparently they would be welcome back at anytime if they decided to abandon what he described as their "courageous" move to the AFL.

Courageous? How about - driven by the obscene money the AFL offered them?

I hope David Gallop tells the Broncos in no uncertain terms that the NRL won't automatically re-register either of them, and in fact they would be required to serve a year or three on the sidelines before being allowed back into the NRL.

Why? To me it is a straight forward simply matter of loyalty to our code.

Hunt and Folau knew full well when they took the AFL's millions was that it was all about using them to undermine rugby league on the Gold Coast and in Western Sydney - something they have been more than willing to do in numerous PR stunts ever since their defection.

While the Broncos might not be targeted by the AFL's multi- million dollar stunts, the Gold Coast Titans, Western Sydney NRL clubs, and the NRL most certainly are.

Let's be blunt about it, the AFL is tipping a couple of hundred million into two teams - and probably a total of ten million all up into two former NRL players - for one main drive up the AFL's value to the free to air and pay television stations, and drive down the NRL value as a consequence!

But even if that was not happening, and it most surely is, why should the NRL re-register two players who abandoned the game at a time of maximum inconvenience for the game (during the season) and for the proverbial fist full of dollars?

I find it profoundly disappointing, and troubling, that the Broncos have effectively opened the door for their immediate return if the current charade fails, and fail it looks like doing.

What I hope is that David Gallop will put a stop to the idea. He needs to say that the NRL, not the Broncos, will decide if and when they can return...if they want to return.

As Leigh Matthews said on radio this week, the AFL poached them, and did so for an obscene amount of money. He does not like it, and we should not be offering them a way back if it turns out to be an expensive flop.

And players who are thinking about being used to undermine the code which has treated them so superbly - often from a very young age - should understand that an automatic return to the NRL is not a given.

I hope David Gallop takes a minute out of his busy day to send that message to the Broncos loud and clear!