Canterbury coach Des Hasler and the NSWRL have become embroiled in a State of Origin stoush over the availability of Blues centre Josh Morris.
Hasler launched a stinging attack on the professionalism of the NSWRL and 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 and was driven to Canberra on Sunday morning after Bulldogs star Morris was recalled to the Blues camp in Sydney due to Josh Dugan’s withdrawal.
After watching his side go down 32-20 to the Raiders, Hasler said the sequence of events was a throwback to 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.
NSWRL CEO Dave Trodden hit back at the claims on Sunday night.
“There appears to be confusion on the part of the Bulldogs as to the circumstances behind what happened to Josh Dugan,” Trodden said.
“The difficulty that caused him to be ruled out didn’t manifest itself until this morning and was communicated to them as soon as it became apparent to us.
“We totally understand why Canterbury would be upset about their plans being thrown into disarray because of the late withdrawal of Josh Morris.
“But when they reflect on the comments made about the professionalism of the NSW medical staff, they may think those comments are unjustified.
“These comments are about people who are leaders in their profession and who have been involved in Rugby League for many, many years and don’t deserve to have their professional standards questioned.”
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.