Robert Dillon: Seven Days in League

Thursday

THE NRL has announced a crackdown on slapping but Broncos coach Wayne Bennett reckons it’s not enough.

Benny also wants head-patting outlawed.

"It shouldn't be allowed to happen," he declares. "I think it is disrespectful.

“That's not what it is about to me. I don't want them [Broncos] doing it — I told them that."

It’s a fair point. I mean, in this era of concussion and litigation, how long before a player suffers career-ending brain trauma from a pat on the melon?

It’s also evidence that the great coach is getting soft in his old age.

It wasn’t that long ago, after all, that Brisbane enforcer Gordy Tallis went ballistic and punched holes in Penrith’s Ben Ross, after which Bennett observed: “That's football, no one condones it [fisticuffs] but that's what makes the game what it is.

“They're tough men and big men, and it's going to happen from time to time ... it's no more than an isolated incident and that's how it should be treated."

Meanwhile, Laurie Daley announces a squad of 52 Blues contenders and there is not a single Newcastle player in it.

What an outrage. What about, or, or umm … or.

Yeah well, bloody typical. Newcastle treated as second-class citizens. Again.

Queensland, conversely, will pick and stick as usual. Knights flyer Dane Gagai will be on their right wing, and no doubt he will score at least one hat-trick in the series.

Bugger it. Seven Days is cheering for the Banana Benders this year. Go you Toads.

Friday

I note with interest a newspaper investigation into the war of words during last week’s grand final re-match between the Storm and Sharks.

Apparently in a half-time flare-up, Melbourne’s Will Chambers called Paul Gallen a drug cheat, and the Cronulla skipper responded by labelling the Storm salary-cap rorters.

All of which raises the question of who deserves the high moral ground?

Call me a mercenary, but I could live with copping a free speedboat or thousands of dollars paid in a brown-paper bag. Not so sure I’d be that keen on injecting a product labelled “for equine use only”.

But each to their own.

In the Friday night clash between the Knights and the Roosters, a high-tempo contest entertains a bumper crowd of 21,412.

All except the long-suffering journalists and photographers wrestling with the McDonald Jones Stadium wifi, which is officially the worst on the planet.

If not for my trusty homing pigeon, there would be no match report in Saturday’s Newcastle Herald.

Saturday

Newcastle Jets lose their last game of the season to join their rugby league counterparts, the Knights, in the competition cellar.

In what seems a classic case of “anything you can do, we can do worse”, our two footballing flagships now have three wooden spoons apiece.

While Jets fans are suicidal, graphic artist/photographer extraordinaire Grant Sproule sees a tourism opportunity.

Coffs Harbour has the Big Banana. Goulburn has the Big Merino. Ballina has the Big Prawn.

Why can’t Newcastle have the Big Spoon, proudly on display at McDonald Jones Stadium?

Good thinking, Sprouley.

You’re such a stirrer.

Sunday

Memo Newcastle Knights. When the Sharks visit in round 26, lay on the VIP treatment for their nearest and dearest.

I suggest transporting wives, girlfriends and kids of the Cronulla players to the game in stretch limos, then entertaining them in the plushest corporate box.

Don’t spare the Dom Perignon and lobster. Maybe a bouncy castle and face painting for the kids.

Whatever you do, don’t repeat the silly mistake Penrith make before their 28-2 belting from the Sharkies at Pepper Stadium.

"I couldn't believe our wives and partners got general admission tickets," Cronulla skipper Paul Gallen fumes. "Our wives and partners sat on the hill. They are supposed to get seats ... that was extra motivation for us, too.

“I thought that was pretty ordinary.”

Given that the Sharkies hammered the Knights 62-0 in their last visit to McDonald Jones Stadium, it might be wise to roll out the red carpet.

Monday

Knights chairman Brian McGuigan confirms the NRL is deep in negotiations to sell Newcastle’s NRL franchise to the Wests Group.

In keeping with the looming change in ownership, Seven Days suggests a fresh start with a new team nickname might be appropriate.

The Newcastle Maggots has a nice ring to it. Well, at least compared to the Ipswich Knights.

Elsewhere, Jack Bird’s dad and Sharks coach Shane Flanagan appear to have contrasting views on why he signed with the Broncos.

“Everyone is giving him shit about it, saying he is money-hungry ... but it's not about the money,’’ Mick Bird says.

Coach Flanagan begs to differ: “In the end, it's probably about money.”

The bottom line for the Knights, unfortunately, is that Bird brushed them, as did his namesake Greg a few months ago.

As they say, Birds of a feather ...

Tuesday

Newcastle coach Nathan Brown confirms the club’s interest in signing Warriors playmaker Kieran Foran.

I suppose there’s no harm in asking ... but if I had a dollar for every player linked to the Knights in recent times, I’d be docked competition points for breaching the salary cap.

TOURIST ATTRACTION: Why can't Newcastle cash in on our status as multi-code wooden spooners? Digital carve-up: Grant Sproule

TOURIST ATTRACTION: Why can't Newcastle cash in on our status as multi-code wooden spooners? Digital carve-up: Grant Sproule

Wednesday

Off-contract Wests Tigers skipper Aaron Woods discusses his options on his weekly radio segment, just as he did last night on his weekly Foxtel segment.

He’s about the only player in whom the Knights haven’t expressed interest. Watch this space, perhaps?