Country Bulldogs' mixed thoughts
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs duo Aiden Tolman and Josh Jackson have expressed differing opinions about not being eligible for the final City-Country fixture on May 7.
While both players respect the club's decision to impose the ban based on a short four-day turnaround in the lead-up to their Round 10 clash with the Cowboys, Tolman was adamant only a select few from Des Hasler's side would have been included for the game.
The 28-year-old has played three games for the Country outfit but has been overlooked the last two seasons and expected no different this time round.
"To be honest our first job here is to play rugby league for the Bulldogs and that's what the club have decided," Tolman said.
"I didn't make the side last year and probably wouldn’t have this year, it might just be a storm in a tea cup.
"It's one of those things where you don't know what the side is going to be and last year they pulled the Origin guys out that were a guaranteed selection [for New South Wales] anyway.
"We need to move on, our biggest goal now is the Raiders this week after a disappointing loss last week."
Bulldogs teammate Jackson expressed a different mood at the prospect of not being eligible for the clash in his hometown of Mudgee.
After being judged New South Wales' best in 2016, the 26-year-old revealed he would still head out and attend the fixture at Glen Willow Regional Sports Stadium despite not being able to take the field.
"It's obviously disappointing, I'd love to play for Country [on that weekend], I always do," Jackson said.
"I was really happy with that [decision to play at Mudgee], it would have been enormous to go home and play in front of family and friends.
"As a kid I remember a couple of players come out and speak to us and we were talking about it for months so it's just great for promoting and good for a town to get quality footy.
"Des [Hasler] came to us last week and just explained that it's the four-day turnaround and that he wants the Bulldogs to be a priority."
The opportunity to take NRL games to rural areas is something Jackson hopes clubs incorporate more in the coming years to compensate the loss of the annual hit-out.
"It's an important game and I'm really disappointed they’re getting rid of the whole thing because it does mean a lot to people in the bush and it's also a good opportunity for people that are in the NRL from the country to represent the places that they're from and their people and the families," he said.
"It's also a good opportunity for young players coming through to get a crack at representative footy because I know when I got my first jersey, I was extremely proud and honoured.
"You get a lot of confidence as a young guy coming through the ranks to play with players that you normally wouldn't get to play with.
"Pulling on the Country jersey is always a proud moment for me and the bush people love their footy and don't get to see a lot of NRL-quality games at home.
"Hopefully the NRL can have a look at it and maybe take some normal round games out to the bush for those country people."