• Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs NRL coach Des Hasler says he's not going to risk his players injured in City-Country Match (AAP Image/Paul Miller) (AAP)Source: AAP
Over the Black Dot panellist Owen Craigie takes a look at the weekend of rugby league and saying Canterbury coach Des Hasler is right to snub the City-Country game, Joel Thompson should make the Australian team and gambling and the NRL.
By
Owen Craigie

26 Apr 2017 - 4:05 PM  UPDATED 26 Apr 2017 - 4:15 PM

Representative footy is just around the corner and I think people shouldn’t take offence at Desy Hasler because I agree with what he’s saying.

At the end of the day, everyone wants to win a grand final, and Desy making the call to keep his players out of the City-Country representative match clearly shows here that he wants to win a grand final. He’s not going to risk Josh Reynolds and Moses Mbye and all these other players to run around out in Wagga Wagga for 80 minutes in a City-Country game that no one really cares about.

He’s not going to risk Josh Reynolds and Moses Mbye and all these other players to run around out in Wagga Wagga for 80 minutes in a City-Country game that no one really cares about.

If those players get injured, well, there goes their season. So it’s a strategic move he’s making but at the same time, he’s focussing on what’s real - and what’s real is winning the comp.

The City-Country game is a non-valid game – in my opinion, it’s a game that no one really watches or cares about anymore. Because if you’re talking about representative football, back in the old days, City-Country was designed to see who the best players were to play for New South Wales, and then could follow on to New South Wales–Queensland Origin to see who the best players were to play for Australia. But it's as though everything’s done in reverse now. They pick the Australian team before the Origin team and they pick the City-Country team last. So it means nothing.

The Australian team is meant to be officially released tomorrow, and I think there’s one player that stands out clearly with me and that’s Joel Thompson from the Dragons, who needs to be strongly considered.

They’re talking about Frizell and they’re talking about de Belin and Vaughan and that Dragon's pack is unbelievable, but you look at Joel Thompson; he’s aggressive, he runs good lines, he’s got great hands.

I don’t know how they pick footy teams anymore. I don’t know if they pick players on reputation or if they pick players on performance. I’m confused just like everyone else.

I don’t know how they pick footy teams anymore. I don’t know if they pick players on reputation or if they pick players on performance. I’m confused just like everyone else.

I know for me being an ex-player, if I were to come back and play footy again I’d love him to be on my edge and second row and play alongside him, and I believe he showed what he can do yesterday in the ANZAC match.

 

ANZAC Match 

And what a weekend of rugby league it was. Some high-quality games and the game that stood out for me was that ANZAC Day match yesterday between the Dragons and Roosters.

I think it was a high-quality game, a lot of emotion was playing a big role in the game and I suppose, it just goes to show the importance of Gareth Widdop for St George Dragons. As soon as they lost him, the Dragons not so much lost their way a little bit but just lacked his leadership and quality finishes in their attack.

There were some clutch moments across the weekend and the ability to make a play when needed is massive, it means everything.

And the referees, as always, were in the spotlight. But I don’t think we should be too hard on the refs - it’s their job, it’s what they have to do. We need the referees, if we only had the one ref, then the game today would be very sloppy and not evolve into what it’s become. The game’s only evolved to what it is today because of the setup of the bunker and the third and fourth eye on the oval and the referees that are out there.

 

Gambling in NRL

Gambling, for example, as we've seen over the last couple of years has played a big part in rugby league with just about every team in the NRL sponsored by a gambling agency, as well as had players being charged with gambling - myself battling my own addiction. Here, imagine if you didn’t have the bunker or the referees. A lot of people have got to understand that not only are they there to make the right decisions on the game, but also there to make sure that players are not throwing games or not doing silly things.

We need the refs. The game’s evolved to a stage where we need all the refs, we need the bunkers, we need all the third and fourth eyes of the referees on the oval as well.

It’s one of those things where I see the game in a different angle because of my gambling addiction background years ago. We need the refs to have the structure and system in place so a person is not only watching tries and this and that, but you’re capturing other things in the game as well.

With the role gambling companies have in the game, it’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t type of thing. On one hand it’s bad, because young kids are at home watching their favourite team play and start trading footy cards at a young age, knowing the odds of what the team pays. It creates bad learning behaviours for younger generations of players around gambling. Then on the other end, a lot of these clubs can only survive purely on sponsorship, and the ones with all the money are the gambling agencies.

The problem for players and the lure is that you’ve got a lot of money and too much time on your hands.

If players are not studying or doing a traineeship or apprenticeship or doing some formal plan B option around work, I think that’s where you start to develop bad habits. These bad habits can easily turn into addiction, then those addictions rule your life.

If players are not studying or doing a traineeship or apprenticeship or doing some formal plan B option around work, I think that’s where you start to develop bad habits. These bad habits can easily turn into addiction, then those addictions rule your life. Before you know it it’s crept right up and bit you in the arse and you’re retired. You’re retired in your 20s because of these stupid decisions you’ve made.

I’m living proof. I was a gambling addict. I lost everything, absolutely everything and I had a fair bit of debt when I retired as well. No one cared about me when I hit rock bottom. Your managers, no one rings you and says ‘how are ya goin, what’s happenin?’.

But the funny thing is I’m more successful now than what I was playing footy. That only comes down to going and getting my diploma in counselling and doing some education and going out and doing some studying.

It’s funny how the world works. It’s not so much how much money you earn, it’s what you do with it.

Hear more from Owen Craigie on Over the Black Dottonight at 9.30pm on NITV Ch. 34

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