FLASHBACK: November 1996

Gold Coast Chargers’ coach, Phil Economidis blasted the inflated egos of players signed by the rebel Super League competition, as he talked up his club’s chances in the establishment Australian Rugby League’s 1997 Optus Premiership.

Economidis said he had told his Super League aligned players (in 1996) that just because they had been signed by the News limited backed organisation, it did not automatically mean they were first graders.

(Super League did not get off the ground in 1996 because of a Federal Court ruling, and their players were forced to return to the ARL. At the end of the ’96 season Super League’s High Court appeal was successful, meaning there would be two rival competitions in 1997).

“They (Super League aligned players) thought they had extra status in the game,” Economidis told me, after training at Carrara. “There is a certain amount of brain washing in Super League.

“Marty Bella (Chargers’ club captain) said to me: ‘You listen to what they (SL players) say. They all sound like parrots’. He was right.”

Economidis said SL’s announcement there would be a player pool meant their players could be shipped anywhere in the country, or to England, France or New Zealand.

“The players would be disenchanted to be in a holding pen for other clubs, because that is what this is – a feeder system. They are there for future development use. When they become available, they could end up in Timbuktu.

“There were a lot of promises made initially, because Super League needed to get up and running. Now they are in a position to dictate terms, it is a whole new ball game.”

Super League’s manager of player development, dual international, Michael O’Connor fired back, saying there was no way the pool system could be called a draft, because players had freedom of choice as to where they played.

Perth based Western Reds’ chairman, Stephen Edwards described the pool system as a ‘voluntary draft’.

Economidis said his players were delighted they did not have to travel as much as their SL counterparts. (SL had teams in Qld, NSW, Sth Australia, Western Australia and New Zealand, while the ARL was confined to Qld and NSW).

“Travel is exciting if you are a tourist,” he said. “But I found it was the part of the game my blokes hated the most (in 1996). Our trip to Auckland was the worst I’d ever been on. There was no glamour in that.

“The one hour trip to Sydney is a breeze and we will be playing clubs with history and real emotional support.”

In other news, former Brisbane Wests’ coach, Gary Grienke was appointed coach of Super League club, Canberra’s reserve grade side.

PHIL Economidis

Phil Economidis

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