Is there enough quality?

The rolling debate about who should, who will, and who won’t be given a Super League licence in July will be over in a couple of months. Obviously, there will be ramifications, and, I’m pretty sure, a short and futile legal exercise that will tarnish the reputation of the game well into the 2009 season.nnOff the pitch, for the National League sides who have submitted their dossier to the RFL, things seem to be looking bright. Widnes, with arguably the best off the field set up in the history of the club, are confident enough to be courting the services of two players who appeared in this week’s State of Origin encounter. Salford City Reds are progressing, albeit slowly, with their planned showpiece stadium in Barton. Leigh Centurions’ fantastic new sporting village is almost ready to move into, and Celtic Crusaders have convinced Sky Sports that a Welsh based team can improve Rugby League for the better. nnIn some quarters, especially those close to me, it is been argued that the National League side mentioned above are in a better position than some existing Super League members such as Castleford, Wakefield and Hull KR.nnWhilst it is easy to assess, and even speculate, on the quality of teams off the field, one problem still remains. Is there enough quality to sustain 14 full time teams without resorting to a new influx of Australians chasing their final big pay day before retiring to a life of surfing on Bondi Beach?nnI had a look through all the National League teams rosters, sorry squads, and I feel I have come up with a team that I believe would hold their own in Super League.nnThere are some fine and underrated players in the National League. Many of them still playing part-time Rugby League. Place them in a Super League environment, with quality training and coaching and I believe they would go from strength to strength. Plus there is a greater choice of quality players than you would think. In fact I found it quite difficult to settle on a final 17.nnAt full back you would have to narrow it down to Salford’s Karl Fitzpatrick, who has lit up to top tier on many occasions, Widnes’ Ian Hardman, tipped as a future GB international when at Saints, or the consistent Halifax number one Shad Royston.nnAs for wingmen any two from Widnes’ Dean Gaskell, outstanding this season, Salford’s pace man Paul White, Celtic’s Anthony Blackwood, with 9 tries in 11 starts this season, and, Leigh Centurion’s Mr Reliable, Dave Alstead.nnIn the centres Celtic’s Mark Lennon and Mark Dalle Cort could more than hold their own. Leigh’s Toa Kohe-Love still has enough class about him to make a difference, or even Halifax’s James Haley could trouble defences.nnScottish international Lee Paterson, described as National League’s Wally Lewis by some supporters after a fantastic display at Salford, and the experienced Graham Holroyd would both pip Robbie Paul to the number six shirt. Although I would find it difficult to leave out Salford’s Stephen Ratchford who has a big future in the game in front of him.nnJace Van Dijk, of Celtic, young Richie Myler of Salford, and Fax’s Sean Penkywicz head an impressive list of scrum halves in the divison.nnI would find it hard to look past the Salford duo of Craig Stapleton, at times too good for this league, and his barnstorming partner Phil Leuluai in the prop forward slots. Celtic’s Jordan James, Widnes’ Jim Gannon, and Featherstone’s Tony Tonks would have to run them close.nnAt hooker you would be spoilt for choice. Mark Smith, Widnes’ captain marvel, has to be the pick at the moment. Malcom Alker, a proverbial tackling machine, and Halifax number nine Mick Govin would be disappointed to miss out on a place.nnIn the second row Widnes’ pair Danny Hill and Tommy Gallagher, outstanding before his injury, would have to be considered along with former Viking, now at Leigh, Lee Doran. Add to that list Salford’s Ian Sibbit and you have the making of a strong mobile pack.nnComplete the scrum with either Widnes’ playmaker Bob Beswick and Salford’s young star Jordan Turner at loose forward and I believe you’ll have a squad that could more than hold its own among the elite, albeit at the bottom end.nnFinal 17nn1 – Karl Fitzpatrick (Salford City Reds)n2 – Dean Gaskell (Widnes Vikings)n3 – James Haley (Halifax)n4 – Mark Dalle Cort (Celtic Crusaders)n5 – Paul White (Salford City Reds)n6 – Graham Holroyd (Halifax)n7 – Richie Myler (Salford City Reds)n8 – Craig Stapleton (Salford City Reds)n9 – Mark Smith (Widnes Vikings)n10 – Jordan James (Celtic Crusaders)n11 – Lee Doran (Leigh Centurions)n12 – Danny Hill (Widnes Vikings)n13 – Bob Beswick (Widnes Vikings)nn14 – Stephen Ratchford (Salford City Reds)n15 – Tony Tonks (Featherstone Rovers)n16 – Malcom Alker (Salford City Reds)n17 – Phil Leuluai (Salford City Reds)nnCan you come up with a better selection? Let me know at lasttackle. kevin.finney@lasttackle.com

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