Stuart speaks out

Roosters and New South Wales coach Ricky Stuart says he's fed up with NRL players using rugby union as a bargaining chip in contract negotiations purely to up the player's asking price.

Stuart, a rah-rah himself before switching to League, says players who want to be involved in the 15-a-side game should just go and spare the rest of us the talk. He insists that rugby league has the depth of talent to cover for the loss of any players to the rival code.

His comments emanate from concerns over the futures of Bulldogs forward Willie Mason, who is off-contract at the end of the year and the suggestion he could be interested in switching codes has surfaced in the negotiations.

Mason has been linked to a few clubs in the competition, but has publicly stated he would like to remain at the Bulldogs if possible.

Elsewhere, Ricky has problems of an immediate nature, admitting that it may take until halfway through the season proper for his new halves combination to be effective.

The retirement of Brad Fittler saw a large void emerge in the Roosters line-up, with Brett Finch and Brett Firman touted to fill the gap left. But with the loss of Finch, who broke both his hands in a pre-season loss to Penrith, those plans have suffered a setback.

This week Stuart has named Chris Flannery at five-eighth with Firman in the number seven jumper for the club's clash with the Panthers at Penrith Stadium on Sunday.