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What's off about an off-season in union


Steve Mascord

Rugby play ... Benji Marshall should not be allowed to ply his trade in Japan.

Rugby play ... Benji Marshall should not be allowed to ply his trade in Japan. Photo: Getty Images

There is a simple way for the National Rugby League to head off a move by agents aimed at allowing players to spend the off-season in Japanese rugby union: change the term of the standard playing contract to cover an entire 12-month period.

We always thought Sonny Bill Williams' return to rugby league would be a three-ring circus. Step right up to see Benji Marshall attempting to juggle two codes!

In Discord's opinion, the League is right to stop Danny Buderus coaching rugby union and surely must not allow Marshall to spend the next off-season in Japan. If he wants to do it, he can wait until 2016 when his Wests Tigers deal is up, or he can buy his way out of it.

Enemy territory

Rugby union is the enemy, pure and simple. As David Gallop was wont to say, would Coke let someone work for Pepsi in their holidays?

The danger in the SBW precedent is that more players will in future sign only one-year deals, head off at the end of October or November, and "surprisingly" pop up the following season for another go at rugby league, again for one year.

All year long

Discord has mentioned another worrying aspect of this in the past: players are not available for end-of-season internationals. Surely, we said, SBW should be available for our World Cup in 2013 if he is going to play our code next year.

The NRL can head off these moves by making the standard playing contract start on January 1 and conclude on December 31. If you are going to play our game, you have commit to it for 365 days. If you want to play something else, you can't come back until the year after next.

If Marshall does go to rugby union, he'll come back. They all do, sooner or later.

Northern exposure

THIS week's Discord comes to you from London. The writer's rugby league season finally came to an end in Salford on Sunday when England beat France 48-4 in the final of the low-key Autumn Internationals series (with Mad Monday in Barcelona on the bucks trip of BBC commentator Dave Woods).

England coach Steve McNamara and his players spoke glowingly of their camp in South Africa and of the camaraderie they built up over the course of massive wins over the French and Welsh.

I've read reams about the sports science measures they've taken, with blood tests at airports and skinfold tests in hotels. I've been impressed with the returns from injury of Sam Tomkins and Rangi Chase and the tries scored by Kallum Watkins and Ryan Hall (who probably is the world's best winger right now).

But the series cannot be judged now. Its value will be apparent in 13 months, when we know if England has even gone close to winning the World Cup.

While we're at it, there's a disparity apparent in the fact the Rugby Football League is also responsible for the Wales and Scotland teams. They are lucky to get a trip to the corner shop while millions are spent on England. How does that encourage anyone to play for those countries? Something has to be done about that.

And revelations in Adrian Morley's book that his brother Chris lied about his Welsh ancestry to make 13 appearances for the Dragons should be a warning to us all ahead of the World Cup.

Your say

Thanks for the comments last week.

- Theboov was concerned that under a proposed change to the benefit-of-the-doubt rule, too many tries would be disallowed. I agree with this concern. You are right in saying there is so much evidence now that we shouldn't have too many 50-50 calls. Most should be capable of being adjudicated based on the balance of probability.

- Michael of London says the benefit-of-the-doubt rule has been fine for a century. To the best of my knowledge, we haven't had it for a century and the game has never had it in your neck of the woods, Michael. What we are talking about here is a rule that applies to video refereeing – and we don't have video referees at very many games at all.

- Iambunny questioned the role of “sideline officials”. Iambunny, I am assured by a number of touch judges that they are very active in the areas you mention, but because they are wired for sound, they can tip to the referees who instead talk to the players. Many touchies are very ... touchy about comments such as yours and those by Johnathan Thurston before the Townsville Test.

- Dragonsgr8 goes against most viewers by insisted Foran did not touch the ball. I now want another look at it!

20 comments so far

  • Do you think Benji would then be available for 2016 olympics 7's team?

    Date and time
    November 16, 2012, 11:43AM
    • Dragonsgr8 - Foran did touch the ball.
      In the GF Billy Slater should have been penalised for tackling Morris without the ball when he was going for the try. He climbed all over him.

      Date and time
      November 16, 2012, 1:05PM
    • Yawn

      Date and time
      November 16, 2012, 4:08PM
  • Benji Marshall is soft - overrated - and cleary paying his publicity manger a squillion
    Maybe he can become a boxer...........
    Sick of eading about this guy .......whats he ever done, serously ?
    Beside have Channel 9 and Danny Wilders(?) phone number n speed dial

    Date and time
    November 16, 2012, 12:17PM
    • The magic words are "restraint of trade". An professional in any industry has skills that are worth money. An organisation can't contractually prevent that professional from obtaining market value for his skills from a second organisation if his contract with the first has expired. If you're the first organisation and you don't like it, tough. Make the professional a better offer.

      Date and time
      November 16, 2012, 12:28PM
      • @swampash Did you read the article??? that is exactly why Discord proposed year round contracts.

        Date and time
        November 16, 2012, 1:38PM
    • Steve, lighten up. Be a little more forgiving, and flexible; there is no reason to treat cross-coders like heretics. There is the opportunity for cross-fertilisation and development of new ideas - a growth and evolution of the game helped by people who have spent time in other codes. Mate, think outside the box - be inclusive, not exclusive.
      It will be interesting to see if Izzi's time in the AFL brings new thoughts and possibilities to the game. Should be more of it; rugby league can learn from other codes - and other codes can learn from rugby league.

      Howe Synnott
      Date and time
      November 16, 2012, 12:51PM
      • Hey Steve, welcome to the market economy. Players like any worker can sell their skills and services to the highest bidder and take advantage of whatever contract conditions exist. With a 12 month contract, the clubs or NRL will have to make it worth the players while to forgo the opportunity to sell their services in another market. This just drives home the fact that league is on the football fringes. Rugby, the truly international game, can provide many more riches for a good footballer. And those that switch do not always come back as the number of ex-leaguies playing rugby in UK and France shows.

        Date and time
        November 16, 2012, 12:51PM
        • No , let them go and play Union ! Because as fans that's what we want to see .
          The NRL , is just that . It's a national competition , it's a very good one with a strong local following and the seeming pick of the very best of talent ( Folu and SBW coming back into the fold form 'rival' codes ) . But at an international level there is no interest in league , the State of Origin is the pinnacle of the sport which proves the point . As a fan of both codes I'd like to see it go even further and lets see NRL club players be released to represent Australia in a wallabies jersey . Mostly because I'm sick of smug AB fans , but how cool would it be to see Thruston , Slater and all carving it up in the Green and Gold ?
          This is not troll , I'm not interested in starting some big ' what's wrong with Union ' rant from all and sundry . I'm just saying that their is lots of us out here that will watch both codes and don't consider them to be rivals . To talk about Union as the 'enemy' just makes you look insecure . Instead of spreading disharmony and discord between the codes , you guys could be building bridges and making the most of what both codes have to offer . One a strong and super tough national competition and the other a truly international following .
          Best of both worlds .

          Date and time
          November 16, 2012, 12:56PM
          • They "all come back" mate cause it's good to do something easy in your twilight years, especially after most of them fail to master the complexities of the 'enemy' game. But let's not quarrel, what happened to the time when League was above it all -- in the early 80s providing players that would have been unbeatable in any code and constructing defensive structures and attacking ploys that set the standard in both rugbys? Benji is a gem, but from what I've seen he's wrapping up his career. He'd have to play in Japan, because he wouldn't be able to compete in Oz or NZ rugby.I actually love the idea of cross coders. Other rugger buggers hate it, but I reckon Lote was magnificent -- even W. Sailor was, er, entertaining. Bring it on, and maybe we'll send you back Berrick Barnes. You're welcome.

            New York
            Date and time
            November 16, 2012, 1:04PM

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