NRL officials were fuming when three first-grade captains snubbed the annual finals captains’ call.
Melbourne storm captain Cameron Smith missed the engagement for the second year in a row claiming he has a virus. Instead the club sent Ryan Hinchcliffe, who confirmed the news.
“He’s got a little bit of a virus. He didn’t come to training yesterday and today. He is still crook.” But Hinchcliffe assured Storm fans that the captain will be okay when the finals series kicks off.
Other no-shows were Cowboys captain Jonathon Thurston who sited a slight groin injury for his absence.
The club’s co-captain Matt Scott also begged-off with a neck injury.
Veteran backrower Gavin Cooper was sent to replace them both. He said the long flight for the short event was too much of a disruption to both men’s rehab’ and medicos preferred their star playmakers to rest and heal.
Cooper assured Cowboy fans Thurston and Scott should be right to play in time for the finals.
An NRL spokesman said it was ‘disappointing’ that not all captains were able to attend.
“But we understand that players cannot travel due to illness and injury.
“The clubs involved sent replacement players to ensure they were properly represented at the event.”
Whether the absences are legitimate or calculated snubs the NRL is fast losing credibility among its players, power-brokers, and fans – and this years’ captains call only reinforces that.