An issue which has caught my eye this week is whether players who sign with rugby union, or the English Super League, should be able to play representative football for the remaining time on their NRL contracts. The players in focus at the moment are Mark Gasnier and Trent Barrett.
The worst argument I have heard in promotion of the suggestion that these players shouldn?t play at representative level, is that other players should be blooded in those positions. Since when did we need ?blooded? players to beat the Kiwis or the Poms? Long story short, last year was an aberration.
State of Origin is another level at which the states should pick the best 17 players at the time. It?s a three game series, neither state has time to ?blood? for the future. Both Gasnier and Barrett should be selected for NSW and Australia if they are deemed to be the best players in their respective positions.
Just on the Test Match side, debate has been rife about who should be selected in the team on May 5. A fair few pundits have stated a case for Bulldog Hazem El Masri to be picked on the wing. For the record, here is my Test side for the clash on May 5 with the Kiwis:
1. Darren Lockyer (c) - The best fullback in the game, whether he plays there or not.
2. Anthony Minichiello - On the wing ahead of El Masri, just to keep him happy, and just being realistic.
3. Mark Gasnier - Best centre in the game at the moment.
4. Matt Cooper - See above, just replace ?best? with ?second best?.
6. Johnathan Thurston - He?s the best five eighth in the game, and Lockyer is the best fullback, it only makes sense to do things this way.
7. Andrew Johns - This one will be his swansong, or so he says. Don?t be surprised to see the name ?A.Johns? in a Blue jersey if the series is locked at 1-1 after Origin 2.
8. Luke Bailey - The best player in a very talented Dragons line-up, my word they?ll miss him next season.
9. Danny Buderus - I didn?t pick him here as lightly as others, there is a guy named Priddis you know. But ?Bedsy? is having a tremendous season all the same.
10. Steve Price - Despite all the salary cap dramas across the Tasman, Price just keeps taking it up week after week. His team is on the rebound and it?s mainly due to his doing.
11. Nathan Hindmarsh - He picks himself. A tackling machine.
12. Luke O?Donnell - Has done nothing wrong since last year?s Tri-Nations series and as the incumbent deserves his spot back. He was one player who went away last year and actually deserved it.
13. Ben Kennedy - He?s in a similar league to names like Johns, Lockyer and Webcke, that statement alone speaks volumes for why he should be a certain selection.
14. Craig Gower - You have to admire this man. Everyone (myself included) were calling for his head in December last year, but he?s responded in the best possible fashion. Anyone who can block out off-field dramas and produce on the field should be greatly admired, and Gower has responded better than most this season.
15. Mark O?Meley - Showed what an acquisition he is off the bench in the Bulldogs? opening two games this season. And for some reason they decided to start him the next week? O?Meley seems rejuvenated off the bench, just ask Bryce Gibbs.
16. Willie Mason - The big man talks the talk but for now he?s walking the walk as well. In damaging form for the Dogs and he?d be an asset for Australia if picked on the bench.
17. Steve Simpson - He?s been superb for Newcastle this season. We?ve heard so much about how well Joey is playing, this guy has been just as good.
Got any alternative selections? Drop me a line...
It looks as though Billy Slater and Scott Hill are in trouble after their weekend clash with the Tigers. After seeing both incidents, the proposed suspensions of 6 weeks and 4 weeks respectively seem warranted. Looking at the Slater incident, I could have sworn that former All Black Richard Lowe had changed codes and come out of retirement. This will no doubt leave the North Queensland Cowboys as clear favourites for the title, after both Newcastle and the Wests Tigers proved their status as the greatest one-man bands since Bon Jovi in the mid 90?s on the weekend.
Before I wrap the rant up, I made a call a couple of weeks ago to send the wooden spoon via courier to Auckland. I?ll have to ring him back and get that transferred to Redfern. Cronulla should have a detailed look at themselves for only winning that game by two points, because Souths were dreadful. The Rabbits have about as much defensive ammunition as the Swiss navy. Peter Holmes a Court and Russell Crowe must have the same feeling you get when you are given that ace bike for Christmas, but the tyres go flat after your first ride. It?ll take a massive pump to get the air back into those tyres.