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Why David Gallop changed his mind about external draft for NRL

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Draft of change

David Gallop was originally a fan of an external player draft. But during his time as NRL chief executive, he came to see players representing their local town and city as a point of difference for rugby league in Australia. In practice, a rookie draft doesn’t just help the teams who finish down the bottom; it helps the teams whose junior pool is small. Clubs with huge junior leagues know it can save them a shedload of money by centralising development. But an external draft is at its best if the competition takes in truly virgin territory and the NRL only has one of those, Melbourne. Bottom line: are we happy for players representing their local area to become a coincidence, a statistical anomaly, as it is in the US?

It’s no try

It’s heresy to suggest professional rugby league players aren’t trying. But the evidence is powerful that sometimes they try harder than at others. Newcastle started poorly against Melbourne and look how that ended. Wests Tigers let a kick-off go dead against North Queensland and never recovered. Most compellingly, in the fortnight after Bradford were relegated from Super League and their players’ futures left in jeopardy, they beat Wigan and Leeds! It doesn’t matter who’s verbally or politically undermining who, if influential people believe players aren’t trying for a coach, the coach is on borrowed time.  Michael Potter and his supporters don’t believe he should be judged on the last three weeks or the next four – but he will be.

Origin is innocent

Teammate Josh Morris says Josh Reynolds can’t blame an Origin hang-over for his bizarre performance on Friday night. The Canterbury and Blues half was reported for tripping and kicking and sent to the sin bin for a high tackle in a 41-10 pizzling by Brisbane.  “Grub had three weeks off – that freshened him up and he was ready to play,” said Morris, who made his own comeback from injury at Suncorp. “He always competes well; sometimes he hands himself in hot water. If we just hold onto the ball instead of trying to off-load it, and work for that quick play-the-ball, it can make a massive difference. We’re pushing passes because we probably need to win off every play.”


Sad times

A double dose of sadness now. Cronulla wore black arm bands at Mt Smart Stadium for Alex Daleo, a 24-year-old Australian who died in Croatia a week ago. It was reported he struck his head while jumping between two boats. “He’s a Sutherland Shire resident, he’s close to a number of the boys and the club thought it fitting to wear that armband for him.” Still in New Zealand, Lieutenant Sam Scott, 21, died from injuries sustained in a nines tournament last week at Linton Military Camp near Palmerston North. No information about the nature of his injuries has yet been made public.

Better left unsaid

Some rather earnest types thought Johnathan Thurston was “disrespectful” shooting for goal with his left foot at the end of the North Queensland-Wests Tigers rout. Well, blame the referees too. “Shayne Hayne told me he’d give me the two points even if I missed,” Thurston said. Next day, Penrith’s Jamie Soward seemed to be making a bunny ears sign as he left the field after starring against his former club. Some sort of ‘‘up yours’’? No, the symbol was a scorpion – an in-joke with hospitalised clubmate Bryce Cartwright, he said. Finally, crowds are not an issue in Toronto, where 7356 saw Canada beat the US 52-14 in the Colonial Cup on Sunday.

Hear all about it

To Australian eyes and ears, one of the best aspects of the Challenge Cup semi-finals at the weekend was the live broadcast of video referees checking would-be tries. There was none of this sanitised explanation after a call; the video ref asks the director live on air for replays and explains his thoughts as they enter his head. It’s compelling stuff. What do our referees have to hide? Could it be that some things they do – like “rocking and rolling”, or moving between one frame and the next repeatedly – are merely a charade to placate angry club coaches each Monday morning when they have long since made up their minds about what call they are going to give?

Twitter - @therealsteavis