Dave Craven: Super League talent stepping down is much ado about nothing

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I CANNOT help thinking back to those days as a child when you played a team who had a complete giant of a monster in their ranks.

You know the one. He’d be 13 years old but 16 stone, with a big hairy ’tache and three feet taller than everyone else.

I’m sure he used to drive up in his own car too. Well, that might just have been in Redhill. Happy days.

The ball would continually be handed to the colossus and he would wade through the opposition while reading a comic at the same time.

Judging by some of the over-reaction to news that Leeds Rhinos’ Kylie Leuluai will be playing for Hunslet Hawks on Sunday, you would think he will be having the very same devastating effect on Championship defences.

Admittedly, the hulking Samoan prop was famed for bench-pressing 225kg while at Manly, more than anybody else in the NRL, so he is pretty formidable.

But there has been an outcry that the inclusion of the five-times Super League Grand Final winner against poor, old Leigh goes against the very ideals of the dual-registration system on which he arrives.

Why? Wasn’t this always going to be the case?

Once the Under-20 competition was disbanded at the end of last season, the dual-registration policy was meant to allow players at Super League clubs over the age of 19 who had to yet to firmly establish themselves, a chance to go out and better themselves at Championship outfits. Numerous clubs formed partnerships.

However, given those very same top-flight clubs now also had nowhere to field their over-age experienced players – none are allowed in the new Under-19 competition – it was as obvious as night following day that people like Leuluai would find themselves being farmed out to aid their recovery from injury or simply gather some game time under their belts.

We had it at Swinton Lions last weekend where Warrington Wolves’ Paul Wood, a front-row opponent of Leuluai in the Grand Final just months earlier, was playing against Workington. Challenge Cup winner Tyrone McCarthy was also included.

People describe it as abusing the system but that is just folly.

It was obvious such talent would end up in the Championship, perhaps en masse, and that would probably dilute that as a competition in its own right.

However, whether that original decision was right or wrong, everyone knew at the start what it would entail and, so, there can be no complaints about some now working it to their benefit.

There is nothing in place to stop this happening so it is time to embrace and make the most of it.

Clearly, some front-rows at Hunslet might miss out playing this week but they will have had a rare chance to train and work alongside one of the leading masters of their art.

That experience alone is priceless. Equally so, playing against such a hardened professional will surely bring the best out of Leigh who, let’s not forget, have captured some leading ex-Super League players of their own accord for 2013.

The likes of Sheffield, Halifax and Featherstone, who have similarly all developed their own squads and avoided any temptation to hook up with an elite club, will be aggrieved that lesser lights are upping the ante in this way.

But if it raises the quality in the Championship it has to be good for the sport and will, effectively, help ready such clubs for any potential return to the top flight.

It will be up to the individual head coaches to quell any disharmony among their own ranks – only they can gauge the effect it might have on team morale – while let’s not forget Batley and Whitehaven opted against taking any players from partnership clubs Huddersfield and St Helens last weekend proving they can be selective.

Also, that stellar Warrington contingent still wasn’t enough for Swinton to beat Workington ...