This time each season I look forward to the
Rugby League Week players’ poll, in
which 100 first grade NRL players participate, because the responses are a fascinating look
at the real views of the game’s stars.

This year’s edition is no exception. There
is brutal and worrying frankness about one issue that should worry society, and
not just rugby league – booze. In answer to the question, is there a
culture of binge drinking in rugby league, 63 said yes, 37 said no. If that is
not a wake-up call to clubs, and the NRL, nothing ever will be!

It came on the same day it was revealed
that the Eels’ Tim Smith has been turfed out of a hotel (again), this time
after a run-in with Test cricketer, Michael Clarke!

But the part I look for most of all is the
players’ views on other players. This year, the “who is the biggest sook in
the game” award went to the Roosters’ Brett Finch, followed by last year’s
winner Simon Woolford. Daylight was third.

The most over-rated player award (probably
the award the players would least welcome) has again gone to the Roosters
Braith Anasta, with Daylight second. And the Roosters were judged the most
over-rated team.

The best coach award went to the Storm’s
Craig Bellamy, who two days ago signed for up with the Storm until 2009,
followed by Tim Sheens and last year’s winner, Wayne Bennett. And the coach you
would least like to play under – surprise, surprise – went to Brian Smith.
That’s cold comfort for Knights players and supporters who will be lumbered
with Smith in 2007.

The “top player in each position” awards
were predictable. The stand-outs were Andrew Johns at half back, Ben Kennedy at
lock, Danny Buderis at hooker, Mark Gasnier at centre and Darren Lockyer at
five-eighth.

And perhaps the most significant player
award of all goes to the who will be the next Andrew Johns or Darren Lockyer?
Storm’s Greg Inglis scored a staggering 63 votes, with Jonathan Thurston second
on 11, and Sonny Bill Williams third on 8.

Peter Fray

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