Clint Newton points out that the argument that young players aren’t getting a go in Super League because of the number of ex-NRL players isn’t one that stacks up. This piece was published in League Express in 2009.
“Where are these kids who are supposedly good enough to play Super League? The truth is they’re not being produced.” – Newton.
CLINT Newton has rubbished suggestions that the number of overseas players in Super League should be reduced in order to help the England team.
Many pundits have called for a sizeable reduction in the number of foreign players in the English domestic game in light of England’s failed World Cup bid, which culminated in a disappointing 10-point defeat to New Zealand in Saturday’s semi-final.
“It’s a very dangerous from my point of view,” argued Newton, who has played in England for one year with Hull Kingston Rovers after winning the 2007 NRL Grand Final with Melbourne Storm.
“The Super League needs imported players to improve the game. Taking my club, Hull KR, as an example, why would you want to kick out players like Mick Vella, Ben Galea and Stanley Gene?
“I read somewhere today that there are far too many players who wouldn’t get a game in the NRL yet are welcomed into Super League with open arms. That’s just ridiculous! Most of us over here have played in Grand Finals or at Test level or they’ve played Origin or they’ve played at City and Country level.
“If you want to sell games to the public you can’t afford to go backwards in standards.
“People keep saying that us overseas players are taking the places of good, young kids but, to be honest, I can’t name many players under the age of 20 who deserve a regular Super League place.
“Look at the Super League reserve-grade comp. Everybody criticised that last season and the criticism was spot on. It’s a very poor competition which isn’t producing many players of the right quality.
“A lot of kids can’t even afford to play Rugby League because you don’t have a minimum wage in the game. How can they expect to train for 40 hours a week and earn next to nothing? It’s only natural that they’ll turn their backs on the game and get into a trade instead.
“There are so many areas that the RFL is underachieving in and that’s just one of them.”
Newton also pointed at the amount of games played by British-based players as a problem.
“[England coach] Tony Smith picked the right team, apart from excluding Peter Fox, but too many of the players just looked a shadow of their usual selves,” he said.
“If teams get stronger and the game gets harder, which is what’s happening, you have to reduce the fixture list.
“If you want to beat Australia you have to increase standards and cutting the fixture list is one obvious way to do that.
“I think you also need a stronger players’ association and maybe you can also look at the fact that there have only been 11 teams in Super League providing players for England. That’s not enough.”
“We all want the Super League to be the best competition in the world. I certainly do but a lot of things need to be fixed up to help the Leon Pryces and the James Grahams when they play for England.
“Another problem is that there’s also a habit of reading too much into the World Club Challenge results and kidding yourselves that the Super League is the best competition when it isn’t.
“I think the World Cup has put the recent World Club Challenge results into perspective. Last year Leeds beat a Melbourne side who were without a number of their Grand Final team. As well as that Leeds were well into their Super League season while Melbourne were still in pre-season.
“If you moved the World Cup to a neutral country and played it in October you’d get a much clearer idea of who the best team in the world is.”
Newton also pointed to the standard of coaching at junior level as a problem in the British game, an argument that Warrington’s assistant coach, Nigel Wright, agreed with.
“You have to look at the coaching in the junior ranks,” said Newton. “In Australia, you’re taught how to be a first grader when you’re 16 and there’s a clear pathway ahead of you. By comparison, the structure and the coaching is poor over here.
“Where are these kids who are supposedly good enough to play Super League? The truth is they’re not being produced.”
Meanwhile Wright, who coached at Penrith Panthers, said: “In Australia the juniors are training four or five days a week and they use all the equipment that the first team does. The stepping stone is there for them to go from a 16-year-old to the NRL.
“You only have to look at players like Israel Folau and Greg Inglis who no one had heard of three years ago. There’s Michael Jennings too. I coached him and he’s going to be a superstar.
“In England, there isn’t enough emphasis on juniors at Super League level. Maybe that will change now they’ve got rid of relegation.
“I hope it does because last year with the Wakefield Under-21s, I went into three games with only 15 or 16 players and that’s just not good enough.
“I was often ringing around players on the morning of a game trying to get enough players together and too often the players who were turning out for us were never going to make the step up to Super League level. Surely that’s what an Under-21 competition is all about.
“I coached at amateur level for a period in Australia and that was a better set up than the Under-21’s grade is here.”