Searching for my old boots has taken up quite a bit of my lockdown time of late.
Because if Greg Inglis can come out of retirement and play for Warrington next year, I may as well follow in his footsteps!
Make no mistake, in the days when he was starring on the international stage for Australia, helping Queensland dominate State of Origin and winning NRL titles with Melbourne Storm and South Sydney Rabbitohs, GI was A1 and right up there with the best players our game has produced.
Put him down alongside Mal Meninga, Gene Miles, Michael Cronin and Steve Rogers as one of the most talented centres of the last 40 years.
But when he pulls on that primrose and blue jersey for the first time, he will be 34 and won’t have played for almost two years.
And by the time he pulled the plug on his NRL career, he had suffered both knee and shoulder injuries, and didn’t look too much like the sensational player he once was.
Under these circumstances, I wonder what kind of impact he can make on Super League, and I don’t really get the thinking behind Warrington’s move for him.
When I was at Leeds, we were always being accused of trying to buy the title, and now, 65 years after their last success, Warrington are having to live with exactly that comment.
We all know the Wolves have a wealthy and determined backer in music mogul Simon Moran. But is the money he is putting in being spent in the best way possible, and will coach Steve Price be able to get a Grand Final-winning tune out of the many players he has at his disposal?
I’m curious about GI’s motivation for returning to the game.
Obviously, there’s the financial aspect, although given the salary cap and the fact that Warrington already have their two marquee players in Gareth Widdop and Blake Austin, there is a limit on how much he can receive.
It’s no surprise that Warrington are reported to be one of the clubs in favour of retaining, rather than lowering, the cap as the game tries to get to grips with the new financial landscape.
He’s talked the talk about his new club’s heritage and his desire to add value to the team, but at the age he’s at and after two years out, does he still have the desire, never mind the physical strength and resilience, to deal with the intensity of top-level Rugby League week in, week out?
I’ve seen suggestions of him regaining his Queensland place, but let’s see how he copes with the bread and butter before adding the jam.
And what is Warrington’s real thinking behind this move?
It’s a great club with some very good people on board in owner Moran, chief executive Karl Fitzpatrick, Price and his assistants Lee Briers and Andrew Henderson.
But Warrington are seen as a club that wants to develop young talent. So how does this signing fit into that, and what does it say to the players already at the club?
GI is certainly versatile, but presuming he’s played in the centres or at fullback, his most obvious positions, who is going to miss out and at what cost in terms of their progression as players?
After all, Price can already call on two talented number ones in Stefan Ratchford and Matty Ashton, who was playing really well until the cruel blow of him a sustaining a torn hamstring against Toronto in round four in February.
And Warrington signed two centres from Widnes in Anthony Gelling and Keanan Brand during the last close-season, adding to Toby King and Jake Mamo, who are both contracted to the end of next season.
Then there’s Luther Burrell, whose arrival from rugby union was much trumpeted, but who, if we’re being honest, has been pretty underwhelming so far.
Just as with Sonny Bill Williams at the Wolfpack, there has been much talk of GI’s box-office value, but I’m not convinced people will flock to see the current version.
Had this signing happened five years ago, what a coup it would have been! But in 2021? I’m not so sure.
Giving young players their chance
I’ve already had to eat humble pie over my pre-season prediction that Huddersfield would struggle this season.
The Giants were on the same eight-point mark as Warrington, and above defending champions St Helens, when Rugby League was suspended, and they appear to have made a fine signing in Aidan Sezer from Canberra, who is a cut above most of their other recent imports.
Huddersfield have also produced some pretty talented players of their own over the years, and four of the current crop have been given new deals.
Sam Hewitt and Jon Luke Kirby are both 21 and both forwards who have figured at first-team level while picking up valuable experience at Workington and Hunslet respectively.
And although the Senior twins, Louis and Innes, both big, powerful wingers who will turn 20 this week, are younger, they have both featured for the Giants more often.
It’s good to see a club putting faith in local lads, and the more good-quality English talent we see emerging, the better it will be for our long-term prospects at international level.
Internationals on the back burner
With the NRL due to swing back into action on Thursday, when Brisbane play Parramatta at Suncorp, and various plans for a resumption of Super League in August, at last we’re seeing some positive and encouraging signs of ending the limbo we have found ourselves in.
Clearly the effects of the coronavirus crisis are going to be far-reaching and long-lasting, so as a sport, we have to be flexible and adaptable as we find a new normal.
Playing behind closed doors isn’t ideal, but it’s a necessity at the moment, because our game is so financially reliant on its broadcasters, who are understandably desperate to have some sort of live product to show.
When you think of the logistics of having 16 clubs from New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and, of, course New Zealand, all of which have different regulations on the pandemic, then for NRL bosses to get their competition to this stage is quite a feat.
We’re not sure exactly what the Super League schedule will look like, but at least we have some options, and well done to those concerned for producing some concrete proposals.
With State of Origin set for November, there seems very little chance of a meaningful Ashes series taking place this year.
There’s no point playing the blame game, because the Aussies know that the importance of Origin, both financially and in terms of what the fans want, outweighs the value of playing international matches.
There has been talk of a so-called NHS Cup match between England and Wales, and the sentiment behind the idea is admirable.
But I’m not sure what Shaun Wane would get out of taking on Wales, France or even an Exiles team in terms of preparing for next year’s World Cup.
Realistically, we would need to play Australia, New Zealand or maybe Tonga to produce the kind of playing test and create the spectator interest, which in the current situation would make an England international viable.
But of course that’s not going to happen any time soon.