BLOCKER: Loyalty must be franked by NRL

How much of a shame would it be to see Glenn Stewart finish his career in anything other than a Manly jumper?

I’ve watched his situation with interest over the past couple of months and it’s so disappointing to think it could end with Stewart and his brother Brett on opposite sides of the field one day.

Maybe instead of bemoaning how the salary cap might force one of Manly’s club legends away from the Sea Eagles’ nest, how about we think of the best way to ensure there are more blokes like the Illawarra junior who we can celebrate.

My biggest gripe is the concessions in the cap for clubs with long-serving players.

'The likes of [Glenn] Stewart, Ben Creagh and Anthony Minichiello are all too rare these days.'

Clubs only receive salary cap relief if they have a one-club player in first grade for 10 years or more. That’s way too long.

I reckon that could almost be halved to five if we’re really serious about promoting loyalty within players and allowing fans to connect more with those who wear their colours every week.

I went through the team lists for this weekend’s games and honestly, it would have only taken one hand to count the amount of blokes in action who would have served 10 years in first grade at the one club.

The likes of Stewart, Ben Creagh and Anthony Minichiello are all too rare these days.

Manly Sea Eagles stalwart Glenn Stewart. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Manly Sea Eagles stalwart Glenn Stewart. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

It’s the blokes who have been at their only club for five, six or seven years who are often lost because of the cap squeeze.

They either get picked up for slightly better money at another club or head over to the English Super League. We could at least stop this drain with a small change to the cap.

This is where we should be offering some sort of compensation to clubs to keep these established players at the place where they’ve served their apprenticeship.

I know the Stewart situation is slightly removed from what I’m proposing, as he’s already a 10-year player at the one club.

Manly have done a tremendous job to keep the core of their squad together for so long, hence their ability to compete at the top of the competition each year.

But more can be done to ensure we have plenty of Glenn Stewarts running around in the future, etched into a club’s history because their career never took them anywhere else.

Knights forward Alex McKinnon. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Knights forward Alex McKinnon. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

I had the chance to meet Alex McKinnon during the Country camp before the match against City last year.

And what a pleasure it was to meet him. He has to be one of the most humble and unassuming rugby league players in the game.

Whatever glowing comments you’ve read about him in the past week, I can tell you they’re bang on the money. The tackle which has most probably ended his rugby league career was nothing more than an accident.

In my opinion, rugby league has never been safer than what it is right now, but the McKinnon tackle showed that even some of the most innocuous incidents can have dire consequences.

I also feel for young Jordan McLean from the Melbourne Storm, who must also be going through a harrowing period at the moment.

My thoughts and prayers go out to Alex and his family in this very difficult time.

Contender: Boyd Cordner. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Contender: Boyd Cordner. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Origin is still a couple of months away but I’ve identified two blokes on the fringes last year who should be high on Laurie Daley’s ‘wish list’ for the opener at The Cauldron.

Boyd Cordner debuted off the bench in the decider in 2013 but I would hand him a starting position this year if he can maintain his form through the first 10 rounds.

He’s one player who I think NSW can build their pack around for the next 10 years.

The other who I’ve got a huge opinion of is prop Aaron Woods.

He never had a chance to show what he’s all about in his only match last year, but I’ve been really impressed with what he’s done so far this season for the Tigers.

It’s still only early days but I thought it was fantastic the way he took it to the Burgess brothers last week. He’s made for Origin.

Keep an eye on this pair over the next month or so.