2001. Ken Nagas- during round 14 NRL - Canberra Raiders v Auckland Warriors at Manuka Oval.
2001. Ken Nagas- during round 14 NRL - Canberra Raiders v Auckland Warriors at Manuka Oval. AAP Image - Daniel Berehulak - Action Photographic

No surprise at criticism for Raiders picking Nagas

CRITICISM of the Canberra Raiders for naming 41-year-old Ken Nagas in their Auckland Nines squad is not surprising.

Many theories can be expounded for denouncing what has been a left-field selection.

Likewise, there will be those full of praise for this publicity stunt by Ricky Stuart.

The PR already generated has given the profile of the Raiders at the end-of-the-month tournament a significant boost.

For those unaware, Nagas is a former Raiders premiership winger who joined the club as a 17-year-old from Bundaberg.

He spent a decade playing NRL and made 142 top-grade appearances.

He works full-time with the Australian Federal Police in Canberra as a victim liaison officer, but still has connections with the Raiders as a fitness trainer with their NYC side.

And this coming season he will run the water - and messages from the coach - for the NRL side.

Obviously he is not a registered NRL player, and at his age would generally be deemed prohibited from playing in the tournament.

But last year - the maiden Nines event - the organisers opened the door for interlopers by permitting fellow 40-somethings Brad Fittler and Steve Menzies to play.

The NRL is yet to grant special dispensation for Nagas to play, but that is expected to be a mere formality.

An indication the hierarchy won't stand in his way is the announcement on their own website of a fictitious Dream Team of oldies for the Nines - Gorden Tallis, David Peachey, Dale Shearer, Anthony Mundine, Phil Blake, Ellery Hanley, Preston Campbell, Nathan Blacklock, Allan Langer and Bob Fulton.

And while those names might ring a beautiful bell with fans of yesteryear, and the notion of seeing them again strut their stuff on the big stage is romantic, the bottom line is that like Nagas they have had their time in the sun.

The Auckland Nines is about the future of the game, not the past.

Apart from the publicity surrounding his selection, there are few positives to be gained from Nagas playing in Auckland.

And which promising young speedster, who could have gained invaluable experience, has missed the cut because a 41-year-old who retired 13 years ago will be playing?

Interestingly, when Nagas announced his retirement back then it was because he could barely run.

And a very ironic quote from him at the time was that when he was 40 he wanted to be able to "walk around with my kids", adding "I don't want to be in a wheelchair".

Like many others no doubt, I'd be keen to grab some of the elixir that now makes him - and Ricky Stuart - think he can now match it with youngsters not much older than those kids of his.



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