'Totally unacceptable': Uproar over $2 million NRL farce

·4-min read
Pictured right, Paul Kent has slammed teams like Melbourne for resting a raft of stars for their final round match.
Paul Kent is not happy about the Melbourne Storm's plan to make wholesale changes for the final round. Pic: Getty/Fox Sports

The NRL regular season will wrap up this weekend, although it's set to a have a much different look about it.

As well as the league trialling some experimental new rules in two of the dead rubber games - where all four sides are out of finals contention - the final round will also be devoid of some 29 players who would normally be turning out for their sides.

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Second-placed Melbourne have led the charge with an unprecedented 12 changes, while Canberra have sat out nine of its players despite still being in top-four contention.

Many would argue that both teams have earnt the right to rest players after a gruelling 18 straight weeks of footy and with their spot in the finals assured.

However, NRL 360 co-cost Paul Kent has taken aim at clubs in an explosive rant, insisting it is "totally unacceptable" and should be outlawed by the game's law-makers.

“I think the issue is broadcasters pay a lot of money for high quality talent,” Kent said on NRL 360.

“To rest as many players as the Raiders and the Storm have, I totally understand why they have done it, but the NRL needs to step in and say totally unacceptable.

“These clubs are being paid $2 million a week for this game.”

The Australian rugby league reporter Brent Read backed up Kent's stance and said broadcasters deserve better, considering how much money they pump into the game.

“Kenty is spot on, if I am Fox Sports and Channel 9 I am furious with this,” Read said.

“They pay a helluva lot of money to have the best players on the park every week.

“It is a 20 round season this year and there are some big names missing.”

From the clubs' perspective the moves make perfect sense; why risk a star player getting injured in a dead rubber match and being ruled out of a crucial finals clash.

Fellow league journalist Paul Crawley said coaches should have the right to pick whatever side they choose, and the NRL shouldn't have the power to stop them.

“This has been an extraordinary season where we had the rule change and we had the break and it has gone on forever, they have been living in a bubble and there hasn’t been a bye,” Crawley said.

“You don’t know the circumstances. In theory you would like to think Ricky would play them and try and get into the top four and get that second bite at the cherry.

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“But he might have players there that are absolutely busted.

“He might think if we play those guys this week we can’t win the competition.

“I think the NRL would be completely overstepping the mark if they said you have to play these guys.”

Seen here, Canberra Raiders players celebrate during a regular season match.
The Canberra Raiders will have a new-look side for the final round of the season. Pic: Getty

Parramatta, Newcastle and South Sydney are the only finals-bound teams to go with their best possible side, with the Eels fourth and the Knights and Rabbitohs vying for a home final.

It comes after 18 straight weeks of football, with no byes or representative rounds since the competition's restart in May.

For Melbourne, not one player will start in the same position they did last week, while they have five uncapped rookies on their eight-man extended bench.

Skipper Cameron Smith and five-eighth Cameron Munster, as well as Jesse Bromwich, Josh Addo-Carr and Jahrome Hughes will all skip the clash with St George Illawarra.

Kenny Bromwich (concussion) and Suliasi Vunivalu (hamstring) are out while young gun Tino Fa'asuamaleaui - the only Storm player to have featured in every match this season - is battling a calf issue.

At Canberra, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Jack Wighton, George Williams, Jarrod Croker, John Bateman and Josh Papalii are among those sitting out the match with Cronulla.

They will however welcome back Sia Soliola for his first match since suffering a serious facial fracture 12 weeks ago.

with AAP

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