IT’S not something I’ve ever said before. And, in all probability, not something I will say again.
But: I agree with Garry Schofield.
“It maybe in the rules but, morally, this is bullshit,” Schofield fumed this week.
The former Great Britain stand off turned all-round-grumpy-old-man was talking, inevitably, about Castleford stand off Rangi Chase’s decision to play for England.
Chase has been fantastic in a middling Tigers side this season, form which was recognised by his selection as Man of Steel.
But England? You’re having a laugh.
Not only has Chase played for the Junior Kiwis, the New Zealand Maori and the Exiles in June’s Origin experiment against England at Headingley, he has also made it absolutely plain that he WANTED TO PLAY FOR NEW ZEALAND.
“I would love to play for the Kiwis in the Four Nations,” said Chase last month.
Clear. As. Crystal.
I apologise for shouting, obviously, but which bit of that statement did England coach Steve McNamara not understand?
I joked in this column a few weeks ago - after Brisbane centre Jack Reed, who, to be fair, was at least born here, and Wests back rower Chris Heighington came out for England - that McNamara was locked in his office at Red Hall desperately thumbing through piles and piles of passports.
Right now, I’m not so sure I wasn’t actually right.
What seemed at first to be coincidence - in the same way that St Helens’ Samoan forward Maurie Fa’asavalu’s short-lived flirtation with our national side was - is now looking increasingly like a premeditated plan to plug the gaping holes in the teamsheet by using vaguely-qualified overseas talent.
That impression was strengthened when it emerged that McNamara had also been trying to persuade Manly’s Premiership winning half back Daly Cherry-Evans, the NRL Rookie of the Year, to join England.
Cherry-Evans, as Australian as stubbies and corked hats but whose mother once had a stopover at Heathrow airport (or something like that), thankfully turned him down and is now in Tim Sheens’ Kangaroo squad.
I say thankfully, because that brings me back to Mr Schofield’s point.
I know Chase qualifies under residency rules, and I know cricket and rugby union think nothing of playing fast and loose with the concept of Englishness, but it’s not right, is it?
What kind of message does Chase’s selection - and the fruitless pursuit of Cherry-Evans - send to kids like Johnny Lomax and Lee Gaskell at St Helens? Or Sam Tomkins?
Each player’s case needs to be judged on merit, but I would rather see an England side containing English players - and you can include messrs Reed and Gareth Widdop in that - play with courage and pride and lose to Australia and New Zealand than one containing Chase and whoever else the RFL may wheel out over the next couple of weeks, win.
Not all victories are equal, and what would one achieved with the help of overseas players actually demonstrate?
Only that the birthplace of rugby league can no longer produce its own talent.
And that would be sad, eh Garry?