This might be hard to believe, but the Mark
Gasnier saga has now become an embarrassment for rugby union AND rugby league, not to
mention the St George Illawarra Dragons centre himself.

Gasnier first said he would talk to the ARU
if it made the first move – that was EIGHT months ago. On 24 January the
Dragons revealed they would open new contract negotiations with Gasnier.

The ARU first confirmed talks with Gasnier
on 17 March. And in the two months since, the issue has made headline after
headline – Gasnier Going, Gasnier Staying, Gasnier Uncertain, Gasnier Won’t Be
Rushed, Gasnier Talks to Ex-League Players, Gasnier Talks to Gallop, Gasnier
Gets ARU Deadline, and this week, ARU Withdraws Offer, But Does Not Tear It Up!

The ARU and rugby league both look
embarrassed, and a fine footballer has been made to look indecisive. Not what
you want from a centre in either code.

There is one aspect of this saga that is worth
thinking about, and that’s whether the timetable is being manipulated to ensure
he can play for the Kangaroos (as he did a week ago) and the NSW Blues in the
State of Origin series. If he decided today to jump codes, it’s likely
he would still be selected in the NSW Origin team. But there would be pressure
for him to be left out – something the ARL Chairman, Colin Love,
alluded to as a possibility this week.

An embarrassment for rugby league will
become a disgrace if, days after the final Origin game on July 5, Gasnier
suddenly decides to resurrect the ARU’s offer. There are more than a few
observers who think that might be the plan.

The indecision about Gasnier’s future can
hardly be helpful to his club, the Dragons, currently placed 11th on
the premiership table – with four wins and five losses. A very average start
for a team that ended the 2005 preliminary season on top of the table with the
Eels.

For the good of his team, his code, the
code he is thinking about joining, and his own credibility, Mark Gasnier needs
to make up his mind now!

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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