If the Dragons’ Mark Gasnier is genuinely
undecided about a switch to rugby union, then some poorly timed comments
overnight might help him make up his mind sooner rather than later.
When the Tigers’ captain, Scott Prince, was
considering a switch to the Gold Coast Titans next year, an attack on him by
Tigers “legend”, Benny Elias, almost certainly helped him decide the sun, surf
and sand of the Gold Coast was a more amiable environment.
Gasnier is the form centre in rugby league
today. He has represented the NSW Blues and the Kangaroos with distinction, and
he is in superb form this season (three games – six tries). He will be one of
the first players chosen for the “Anzac” Test in early May.
But he won’t be if league greats Brett
Kenny, Wayne Pearce, Glenn Lazarus and Mark Carroll get their way. They want Gasnier excluded from
consideration for the Kangaroos if he signs with rugby union in the meantime,
regardless of his current status as one of the best backs in the game, and
regardless of the fact that the Kangaroos’ domination of the “international”
scene ended last year.
The timing of their demand could hardly
have been worse. The main news out of the rugby code
yesterday was the appointment of former dual international, Michael O’Connor,
as a Wallabies selector.
And who has been involved in negotiations
with Gasnier’s manager on behalf of the ARU? Michael O’Connor! So if O’Connor offers Gasnier the certainty
of a walk up start in the Wallabies 2007 World Cup squad, he will be in a
position to deliver.
With the NRL doing everything possible to
dampen demands, or even expectations, of a significant salary cap increase, the
chances of Gasnier switching codes increase by the day. Worse, the game’s
greats are helping make a code switch more likely. I’m sure the Dragons won’t
be thanking them.
And nor should rugby league fans generally. After
Wendell Sailor announced he was switching codes in 2001 he was selected for a
Kangaroos team. The same rule, for an even better player,
should apply in 2006.