City-Country no 'nothing game': Roach

Two of yesteryear’s most celebrated rugby league chums have joined the debate surrounding the annual City v Country Origin fixture, with both men offering differing views on the match’s future.

Forwards Steve ‘Blocker’ Roach and Ben Elias, who were partners at club, state and international level throughout the 1980s and early 1990s but foes when it came to City v Country Origin, both agree that the contest is a fan favourite but take different sides in the argument over the game’s validity.

“I think it’s a disgrace if they get rid of it. It’s detrimental to the game,” Roach told Big League. “I don’t know about the City boys, I don’t know if it means that much to them, but to represent the people where you come from…also a lot of the people that follow the game are in the country.

“They should never misjudge City-Country [Origin]. I mean, 70 per cent of players playing in the city now are from the country. How dare they call it a nothing game? You ask all the players who play for Country now whether they want to play. They do.”

But former Balmain, New South Wales and Australia team-mate Ben Elias takes a different line to his old scrum partner, admitting the City v Country Origin fixture can be a one-off game with the potential to dent players’ future representative ambitions.

“I can see why they’re getting rid of it,” Elias said. “It is one extra representative game that your team has a risk of a player getting injured.

“It really is a non-event when it comes to selection criteria for State of Origin because basically the coach nearly has it pointed out already.”

In response to the strong support for the game in the bush, Elias says a return to the old Country Firsts v City Firsts could be a way to go.

“I used to love it when the no-name country people used to get picked. Terry Fahey made a name for himself, Mick Cronin made a name for himself,” he said.

“It was different because you didn’t know the people. You didn’t know the players, you didn’t know what to expect… It was the unknown and it’s like the ‘Rocky’ movies where they get a chance at the title.”

Earlier this week hooker Danny Buderus withdrew from the Mudgee fixture citing an Achilles tendon injury but many critics believe it was a thinly-veiled attempt to avoid the representative weekend in lieu of a fortnight’s rest.

In Elias’s view, Country sides should instead be made up of players who still play in the bush rather than NRL players who grew up in rural New South Wales.

“They could mix it up, have three to five half-established NRL players and 10 country players who they pick from the Groups,” he said. “And include country kids. There are some terrific kids who play in the country who don’t want to come to the city.”

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Remember you can access all the team lists, live scores and stats from Australia vs New Zealand and City vs Country on your mobile this weekend.  Visit m.nrl.com on your mobile device, or download the free 2012 Official NRL iPhone App ( live streaming radio available too ). Match highlights from both rep games are available 20 minutes after each game has ended, so you can relive all the big hits and tries from Auckland and Mudgee.
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