ST GEORGE Illawarra coach Paul McGregor says he never considered pulling any of his players out of this weekend’s City-Country clash that has been marred by the decision of a number of clubs to pull their players from the contest.
Dragons players Paul Vaughan and Jack de Belin retained their Country jumpers while Tariq Sims will make his sixth appearance for Country despite also named in the Fiji Bati squad. Euan Aitken and Joel Thomnpsons were withdrawn through injury. Hooker Cameron McInnes will play for City where he’ll directly oppose Souths hooker and Helensburgh junior Damien Cook, while Hame Sele and Jake Marketo also earned City call-ups.
Bulldogs coach Des Hasler caused a storm of controversy when he conformed he wouldn’t allow his players to take part in the last hurrah for the traditional match is played, though he softened his stance slightly allowing Adam Elliot to be picked for Country.
Canberra coach Ricky Stuart followed suit with no Raiders players selected for either side on Monday as City coach Brad Fitler was forced to delay the naming of his team for several hours as he scrambled to find 17 available players.
McGregor is qualified speak after the Dragons played on the Thursday following last year’s match, that also cost his him key forward de Belin for five weeks through injury, but he said the benefits of rep football outweigh the negatives.
“The boys will go away now and play some rep footy and I’m a coach who actually likes that,” McGregor said.
“I think it’s great for them to maturity in the game and what they bring back from the rep round is important for the [Dragons] team.
“It’s also a reward for how they’re playing so they’ll go away and enjoy the week and then we’ll get together with a five-day turnaround into Cronulla. It’s not easy, the calendar, but it is what it is.”
The Dragons will have Tyson Frizell, Josh Dugan, Jason Nightingale and Russell Packer in action in Friday’s mid-season Test at GIO Stadium while Tim Lafai, Leeson Ah Mau will play for Samoa and Siliva Havili (Tonga) and Taane Milne (Fiji) will turn out for the Pacific Nations on Saturday.
Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy also voiced a strong opinion on the rep round following his side’s victory over the Dragons on Sunday.
“I think we’ve got 17 [players] involved in the rep round and that’s over half our squad,” Bellamy said.
“At the end of the day I’m really happy for our guys to be playing rep footy but it does add a certain load to our players and to our club. I understand the other side if it, pulling guys out, but I’d never pull my guys out.
“I wasn’t much of a player and never got to play rep footy and I would’ve loved to so I wouldn’t do that another player.
“I’ve got no problem with the Bulldogs and the Raiders and what they’ve done, it’s their decision, the only little problem I have is that when they pull their players out, the clubs who let their players play have to pick up the burden.”