Canterbury coach Des Hasler has launched a stinging attack on the professionalism of the NRL after he was forced to call-up a player less than 24 hours after completing a NSW Cup game.
Rookie Reimis Smith answered an SOS to drive to Canberra on Sunday morning after Bulldogs centre Josh Morris was recalled back to Blues camp in Sydney due to Josh Dugan’s sensational withdrawal.
After watching his side go down 32-20 to the Raiders, Hasler likened the sequence of events to being back in the 1980s, and claimed the NRL competition seemed to play second fiddle to the Origin series.
He also questioned whether the NSW medical staff had done its due diligence on Dugan’s fitness.
“If they don’t learn anything out of today, whether it was the process that’s from the Origin side of things, if the medical staff wasn’t professional enough … it’s a tough one on an NRL side,” he said.
“And this is for anybody. They could’ve been in the same boat that we were, that at this day an age, in an NRL competition, it’s almost as if it’s second fiddle, which is not a good thing.”
Hasler believes a player shouldn’t have to back up in such a short timeframe.
“There’s too much investment of money and time for this to happen. Two competition points in the NRL are vital, but a player shouldn’t have to do it,” he said.
“It’s like going back to the 80s, isn’t it? Let’s hope they learnt something out of it.”
The two-time premiership-winning coach then suggested bringing in stand-alone Origin football.
“Probably can’t run two competitions at once,” he said.
But Raiders coach Ricky Stuart, who only had one player out to Origin (Josh Papalii), didn’t understand why coaches are consistently negative about having representative players.
“The day I’ve got six players going to Origin you won’t here me being critical,” he said.
“I’ll be happy for those Origin players to go because those Origin players get you into semi-finals, those Origin players win you grand finals.”
Hasler did concede that Smith was one of his best players in the 12-point loss, which has kept the Bulldogs in fifth spot, two points behind title heavyweights Brisbane and North Queensland.
Smith, who also scored a try for the NSW Cup team on Saturday, bagged two four-pointers on debut.
“You can’t ask for more. Not only did he play the day before a full match, he found out at 10 o’clock this morning. We got a driver to drive him down in two and a half hours,” Hasler said.
Earlier in a shortened round 12, Mitchell Moses’ late field goal was the difference in the Wests Tigers’ 19-18 win over a depleted Broncos outfit, while St George Illawarra also outlasted a similarly weakened Cowboys unit 14-10 in Wollongong to move back into the top eight.
Newcastle host Parramatta in the final match of the round on Monday.