BRIAN Carney believes Super League clubs are missing something that lies underneath their noses – picking up players from rugby union and Ireland.
And the Sky Sports expert believes it would not even take much looking to unearth a gem, as they are ‘hiding in full sight.’
Huddersfield’s Ronan Michael became the first Ireland-born player in Super League for 11 years when he made his debut towards the end of the season.
Carney, who played for Gateshead, Hull, Wigan and Warrington, was the last and he feels many more can come over the Irish Sea and make the grade.
All it takes is a bit of effort – even looking further into union ranks in the UK.
He said: “We’re looking in the wrong places. What we continually do is look at Wakefield and look at Hull, they’re going to be there and have to be nurtured.
“We’ve also got to look at other areas. Are you telling me there’s no player that’s not contracted to Ulster, Muster, Connacht or Leinster that can’t play in Super League? I don’t believe it.
“Also, what about in England? In a country this size, with rugby union such a popular sport, don’t look in the Premiership.
“There are union clubs all around the country that are filled with players that have the potential to make it in Super League.
“If I ran the game, I’d have a task force of scouts and would be sending them to all four corners of this island and over to Ireland.
“I’d have open trial days and start bringing in athletes to see if they can make the transition to rugby league.
“You don’t have to look for the Luther Burrells or the Owen Farrells, a lot of that is pie in the sky. Go to clubs in the second, third and fourth division, you’ll find players capable of making the step up into Super League.
“That’s not a slight on Super League, that’s just saying there’s talent out there we haven’t identified. Ireland is the same.”
As well as fronting Sky’s rugby league coverage, Carney also hosts shows on GAA – Gaelic football and hurling.
And he is adamant it is not out of the imagination to see some of their stars head to the 13-a-side code.
He added: “It wouldn’t at all. They’re some of the best athletes in their country.
“Australia has the pick of their athletes, that’s the difference to here. The first choice for athletes there is the NRL.
“What we’ve got to do is broaden the pool of athletes we’re choosing from. I didn’t know what rugby league is before 1998, five years later I was playing for Great Britain and Ireland.
“I’m not an outlier in the sense there’s no-one else capable of doing what I did. There are hundreds capable of doing it.
“Dedicate some money to get some competent scouts and go and look – it’s not even under a stone, they’re hidden in full sight.”
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