JOHNATHAN Thurston is a perfect example of why we should never give up on young people.
This week the Cowboys skipper was awarded the Ken Stephen Medal, presented annually to the player who has made the greatest contribution to the community. Thurston won the award primarily for his commitment to helping Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students through workshops, and encouraging them to stay at school and gain a proper education.
It was not that long ago that Thurston was viewed as a boofhead. As recently as 2010 he was arrested in Brisbane after a drunken run-in with police.
No doubt his on-field brilliance helped save his career, but Cowboys management - and a wonderful young woman - has obviously played a huge part in Thurston assuming a role of responsibility. This award demonstrates he is now a fully-fledged leader in our game.
Irrespective of which team fans follow, and where they were born, Thurston is a favourite. The manner in which he respects youngsters - in particular those who take him his kicking tee - surely endears him to one and all.
While the Ken Stephen Medal acknowledges the work he does with Indigenous kids, the manner in which he puts a smile on the faces of most rugby league supporters should not be understated. He is a terrific champion - on and off the field.
JOSH Papalii and others like him with Kiwi ancestry, have my total empathy. They should not be placed in a situation at this stage of their careers where they need to decide on which country they must swear their allegiance.
During the week the young Auckland-born, Brisbane-raised Raider elected to make himself eligible for Queensland. And that means he has become an Aussie, for rugby league playing purposes, anyway.
The decision is understandable seeing the young bloke has played all is footy in this country. But it does not excuse the fact that the qualification system is absolutely - and embarrassingly - flawed. Their status should have been clear long, long ago.
And for what it's worth, I think Papalii has made the wrong call. Sure he's a young talent on the rise, but in all honesty was anyone genuinely talking about him as possible Origin material before he put a late shot on Paul Gallen recently?
He looked a certainty to win a Kiwi Test jersey for next month's Test in Townsville - he may never play for the Maroons.
I AGREE and disagree with recent comments from Willie Carne concerning the ferocity of the game and the long-term consequence of head knocks.
My angst is with him publically stating he did not want his young sons to play rugby league. As a former international, who gained much notoriety and lots of dollars from a long career in the game, he could have aired his grievances a little more diplomatically.
But I concur with his sentiment that rugby league, particularly through its TV partners, could promote the game more strategically. He says the skilful parts of the game, and not the brutality, needs to be highlighted.
In promoting last Friday night's Storm-Sea Eagles clash, each of the four major free-to-air TV stations ran footage from last year's sideline stoush between Glenn Stewart and Adam Blair. And I reckon the three commercials ran it three or four times, minimum.
Willie is right when he says kids see this and thinks it's the norm. And it is definitely sending the wrong message.
OUR system is flawed when guys who have played at least half the current season at another club will rung out on grand final day.
Krisnan Inu and Sam Perrett were again outstanding for the 'Dogs last Saturday night and their contributions will be crucial in the grand final. And while Richie Fa'aoso may not be as important to Melbourne, his situation has been farcical. Not only did he leave Newcastle mid-season, last Friday night he played against the team he will join next year.
Good luck to the Bulldogs for snaring Inu and Perrett, and great scouting by Des Hasler and his team. But if the old adage that we must play with the cards we're dealt is good enough for society, it should stand in the NRL.
Once a player signs with a team for the season, that should be it. After all, even though they might be out of favour with the coach, they are still being paid.
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