Cameron Smith of the Melbourne Storm.
Cameron Smith of the Melbourne Storm.

NRL whingers are throwing stones in glass houses

Each week, The Courier-Mail's chief sportswriter Robert Craddock looks at the big talking points coming out of the NRL.

 

Cameron Smith’s call for the Melbourne Storm to have their premierships reinstated is off the mark. Picture: Michael Dodge/Getty Images
Cameron Smith’s call for the Melbourne Storm to have their premierships reinstated is off the mark. Picture: Michael Dodge/Getty Images

 

OFFSIDE

1. GLASS HOUSES

Rugby league is full of clubs doing a lot of whingeing when they have no right to whinge at all.

Case One: Cameron Smith calling for the Melbourne Storm to regain premierships lost for salary cap rorting when there were clear and severe breaches of the cap. How no player was ever sanctioned remains a mystery to rival the Loch Ness monster.

Case Two: Penrith blowing up at Laurie Daley for questioning their culture after the sex tape scandal. New coach Ivan Cleary said critics were "jealous'' to which most sane observers would ask "of what?''

 

 

 

 

Case three: An irate Paul Gallen saying he would give back his premiership ring and quit the game if the Sharks were stripped of their 2016 premiership. Maybe they were not over the salary cap in that year but they were still making illegal third party deals.

Case four: The Cowboys branding Scott Bolton's 10 game suspension (he will serve five) a "disgrace'' when the truth is the more disgraceful act is assaulting a female which Bolton has pleaded guilty to.

 

Jack De Belin’s Dragons were the only team not to endorse the no fault policy.
Jack De Belin’s Dragons were the only team not to endorse the no fault policy.

 

2. SAINTS AND SINNERS

Has there ever been a more obvious example of self-interest than the vote for rugby league's new "no fault'' policy?

The vote to stand down players facing serious police charges was endorsed by all but one club.

You guessed it, the dissenter was St George, the home of Jack de Belin who is facing rape charges.

 

3. WILDCARD OR WET FISH

Professional sport is about excellence rather than rewarding mediocrity.

That's why the NRL's Wildcard Weekend which features a 10-team finals series leaves me cold.

In recent years that would have meant a team like Canberra with just 10 wins from 24 games could technically have won the premiership. It doesn't wash.

 

4. SACRED TURF

Cricket Australian officials should be on red alert for an attempt by the AFL to get management rights at the Gabba.

The Gabba is having enough trouble attracting major Test matches without handing over the rights to a sport which would almost certainly push for a drop-in wicket which could ruin the venue's greatest cricketing attribute.

 

Cronulla sings the team song in 2016. Picture: Brett Costello
Cronulla sings the team song in 2016. Picture: Brett Costello

 

5. YOU'RE THE VOICE

It's disappointing NRL clubs won't let the television cameras in to sing the team song.

What have they got to hide? Surely not bad voices. Have they heard the AFL teams?

 

ON-SIDE

1. STILL A CHAMPION

Darren Lockyer was open and honest in his interview with Robert Craddock. Picture: Tara Croser.
Darren Lockyer was open and honest in his interview with Robert Craddock. Picture: Tara Croser.

Darren Lockyer has nothing to apologise for in his candid admission that the decision by the Broncos board he is on to sack Wayne Bennett has fractured a friendship.

In fact it shows that he is doing his job with square-jawed tenacity, without fear or favour. Lockyer is a major rugby league figure making major decisions with the same unruffled grace he displayed as a player.

When he answered questions at The Courier-Mail season launch about falling out with Bennett he did so without any dramatic effect or self-justification. He simply gave us the cold hard facts. There's not enough of it in rugby league.

 

2. MORGAN'S MOMENT

Among the rabble of rugby league's off-season from hell comes one genuinely popular appointment - Michael Morgan as Cowboys captain.

The sort of unpretentious, humble yet gifted character that epitomises the best of his sport, Morgan grew up watching the lights of the Cowboys home stadium in the distance and while there will only ever be one Johnathan Thurston, Morgan will enter the job with immense goodwill.

 

Thomas Flegler’s impending debut speaks volumes about his ability. Picture: Peter Wallis
Thomas Flegler’s impending debut speaks volumes about his ability. Picture: Peter Wallis

 

3. TOM TERRIFIC

For a 19-year-old to play first grade NRL is a special achievement but when he's a front-rower it's truly special.

Which is why the debut of Broncos hulking youngster Tom Flegler will be such a captivating part of the Broncos season opener against the Storm. Broncos scouts insists he is one of the best signings of the past decade and this is the start of something special.

 

4. COURAGE UNDER FIRE

Rugby league powerbrokers Todd Greenberg and Peter Beattie may not be perfect but they have done a solid job in recent months to try and reconstruct the sport's horribly damaged image.

Greenberg was initially criticised for a slow response to the behavioural scandals while Beattie is now under fire for being "too visible'' so, collectively, they have allegedly been too timid and too bold. Seriously, the game's gone mad.

 

The Wayne Bennett at Souths story is one of the more enchanting of the season.
The Wayne Bennett at Souths story is one of the more enchanting of the season.

 

5. ENCHANTING TALES

For all of the sordid off-field events this is a special season for rugby league.

My favourite storylines, in order, are - Bennett at Souths, Anthony Seibold at the Broncos, Des Hasler at Manly, the Cleary's at Penrith, Mal Meninga at the Titans, the Storm without Billy Slater, the Newcastle Knights, the Cowboys without Thurston and Shaun Johnson at Cronulla. Bring it on.