NEWCASTLE Rugby League chairman Trevor Crow has defended the competition against criticism by injured Lakes United prop Adam Woolnough, saying he should focus on how the league had helped him secure a job after his top-level career.
Woolnough, a former Knights, Panthers and Storm front-rower, who joined the Seagulls this season, told the Newcastle Herald on Wednesday that ‘‘I wouldn’t be recommending a place like the Real NRL’’ to other former NRL stars as the referees did not do enough to protect players.
The 31-year-old is out for the season after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament and a displaced patella from a tackle he said was a blatant ‘‘cannonball’’.
The injury will cost him six weeks’ work at Xstrata’s Blakefield South coalmine.
Crow said Woolnough’s comments disappointed him given the Newcastle league had helped him find a career after his retirement from the Storm last year.
‘‘He’s come back to town, because Lakes have seen a good two or three years in him and rewarded him with a great job to take care of him and his family,’’ he said.
‘‘He’s been provided by a Newcastle Rugby League team with life after football and he should be concentrating on that positive aspect of what the competition can do and is now providing players who are coming back to town or coming here as an alternative once they have played out their careers in the NRL.’’
Crow found it strange Woolnough was upset about the alleged cannonball tackle, because Lakes officials had not lodged a complaint with the league over the incident.
‘‘I believe that Melbourne brought in the cannonball tackle 18 months ago and most of the Melbourne forwards were participating in that tactic, and wasn’t Adam a Melbourne player last year?’’ he said.
Kurri Kurri second-rower Daniel Abraham played six seasons with Woolnough at the Knights and returned to the Newcastle league in 2009.
Abraham said he loved playing in the competition but said he understood Woolnough’s point of view.
‘‘Three weeks ago we had three boys unable to finish the game with concussion,’’ Abraham said. ‘‘I don’t know if it’s up to the refs to protect you or you protect yourself. He’s probably right in what he says as older blokes like Wooly, who’s had a good career, can come back to this level and get bashed around and taken advantage of by guys who have nothing to lose.
‘‘In saying that, I’ve really enjoyed my last few years in the local league.
‘‘It gives you a chance to have time to enjoy yourself with your friends and family, but you still get that mateship with the boys you play with.’’
Abraham said the quality of the competition had improved greatly in his three years at the Bulldogs due to the influx of former NRL talent.
The quality had increased the speed of play and Abraham said a greater investment in referee training was needed.
‘‘I was even thinking they should go to two refs to keep up with the play, because you get away with a lot more ... than you would in the NRL,’’ he said. ‘‘There’s a lot of high tackles and swinging arms.’’