Man in demand: Anthony Milford playing for Samoa would make a big difference to the game.

Man in demand: Anthony Milford playing for Samoa would make a big difference to the game. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

Those of you who read a story on this site four days ago titled 'Canberra Raiders urge Anthony Milford to stand down from Samoa' would be expecting some fireworks in this week's Discord.

You will be anticipating a a blistering attack on the Raiders and their coach Ricky Stuart for apparent blatant disregard for international football outside the top three nations.

You'll expect me to ridicule Stuart's comment ''He wants to focus on Queensland and that's what he should be doing, too" with the obvious question: why should he? Why is Queensland more important than Samoa?

But that would be predictable. So I want to talk about the impact of players not representing their countries, using the Raiders as an example.

Last year Italy were reportedly furious at the Raiders and Stuart for "forcing" Terry Campese to withdraw from the Azzurri's World Cup side. Stuart, to be fair, did counter at the time ''I didn’t make the final decision on Terry. Terry did."

Having attended as many World Cup games as humanly possible, and having an extremely high regard for Campo as a player, I believe Italy would certainly have made the quarter-finals with him on board. I believe they would have given Australia a better run at Wembley than Fiji in the semi, had they progressed that far.

Now, the top officials of the Italian Rugby Union - that's right, the rugby union - had undertaken to attend the quarter-final that Italy was involved in.

Imagine that for a second. The head of rugby union showing up to support a rugby league World Cup team. It would be unprecedented and would have given the sport, and the likes of Campese, enormous exposure and opportunity in Italy.

Although the draw would have made it difficult, can you conceive of an Italian rugby league team, supported by the rugby union hierarchy, playing at Wembley? The course of our game's history - pockmarked with in-fighting, myopia and self-interest - could have changed.

Likewise, it is entirely possible that the absence of Milford will swing the May 3 international in Fji's favour. Samoa last year received a heap of government funding which - like all such political support - is encouraged and perpetuated by good results and endangered by bad.

Imagine the impact of playing against Australia, New Zealand and Australia on the health of rugby league in Samoa when it comes to sponsors and government support. Imagine how attractive it would make the sport for kids.

Put yourself in a bar in Apia when the Four Nations game is on, and compare it to how it would be in the same bar if Fiji were playing instead.

Rugby league's future in Australia was assured when one player - Dally Messenger - switched codes. Had he stayed in rugby union, Wests Tigers might be playing at Birchgrove Oval this weekend. The entire course of our game's history in places like Italy and Samoa can also swing on a single player, be it Campese or Milford.

These men playing in these games is exponentially more important than someone turning out in an Origin match or an Anzac Test. League in New Zealand is not going to sink or swim on Sonny Bill Williams playing next weekend.

So I'm not going to bag Ricky Stuart or the Raiders or any other club that prevents their players representing developing nations. I'm just going to plead with them to please consider the impact of their decisions to "rest niggling injuries' might have generations from now.

From the readers

Comments time and first to Set Of Six.

KellyBellyFont said to get rid of interchange completely! Um, I think with all the player welfare changes recently, that is not going to happen. Let's not forget that Darren Lockyer once suggested reducing the number of players on the field when the game got too defensive.

Davo said the media "they only focus on contentious issues that allow articles to be written!". One hundred per cent Davo: when was the last time you saw a paper with no articles in it? When was the last time you saw a first paragraph that read "Wests Tigers won a good game yesterday"? The aim is to tell you something you didn't glean from watching the match, since in this country it is assumed most people who care enough to read a match report have already seen the match. A match report in the paper is not an archival, scholarly account of events.

Lots and lots of comments for last week's Discord.

John, Paul and Chuck agreed that Origin is on borrowed time and international footy was the future - a great testament to how esoteric this column's readership is. The vast majority of rugby league fans would disagree with us violently!

I reproduce Joe The Expat's comment in full here: "On Saturday, the 26 April, whilst on holiday in the Czech Republic, I shall be taking my family to watch Hradec Kralove V the Teplice Dragons - two teams from the Czech Rugby League first division.

The game kicks off at 3pm (just like the old days at home). If the NRL followed the Czech Rugby League scheduling, crowds would be much larger. But then we wouldn't have received a billion dollars."

Synchronised Dragon had some ideas for the timekeeping problems which you should check out.

Ordinary bloke says video referees should be able to check whether chasers are onside by drawing an electronic line on the field. Good point. Canberra's John 'JR' McIntryre told me on Sunday that he watches Super League and thinks NRL video referees are using 'box brownies'.

Mullet said the ball should explode at fulltime. Great idea.

Plenty of other comments about timekeeping, all interesting. Check out last week's column.

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