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Mose's match fitness fight highlights need for A team
WELCOME to Super League! That was the message from the four and five Hull KR players queuing up to gang tackle big Mose Masoe last week.
As a result there was never a chance that the man they call the Smiling Assassin would be immediately adding to the crash, bang, wallop video montage that whetted the fans’ appetites so much when the capture from Penrith Panthers was announced.
Understandably he is not match fit after undergoing off-season ankle surgery on an injury sustained in Samoa's World Cup campaign.
However, there was no lack of enthusiasm from Masoe - and how could he not be when the Langtree Park crowd nearly lifted the roof off when he was introduced ten minutes before the break.
Rarely has a debutant had such a welcome, but that ear-splitting roar was based on excitement, anticipation and the eagerness from the fans to will the big man to succeed.
But after taking a couple of carries in the early sets and busying himself in attack the big man soon ran out of steam.
It was understandable, and the coaching staff and the player knew only too well that this is how it was going to be in these early weeks back on the paddock.
Those who had turned up expecting Mose the marauding man-mountain to make mincemeat out of the opposition were sadly disappointed.
This is a classic example of why we still need a reserve grade.
It used to be that any players returning from injury could get some miles in their legs and some juice in their tank by playing in the Academy and before that the A team.
I still have a bit of a soft spot for the A team and spent many a happy Thursday evening in the late 70s down at Knowsley Road watching skipper Johnny Smith pull the strings. And given the crowds were sparse, you could also hear those strings being pulled.
The old A team system allowed youngsters from the colts, fringe players, seniors coming back from injury and those who had been dropped to show what they could do. Players doing well could always earn a spot in the first team panel for the Sunday game – so there was always an incentive.
Admittedly there were faults in that system, not least the hoarding of players in their late 20 that could stifle junior development, but they seemed to be smoothed out with the introduction of the Academy plus an over-age allowance.
The scrapping of that system, and the under 18s, in favour of the one we have now causes issues like the one we have now with Mose Masoe.
Although the younger members of Saints squad can play in the under 19s, and the other home-grown players can go out on dual-registration to Rochdale and Whitehaven – there is nowhere for imports to play.
Mose will have no choice but to get his fitness levels up in the full glare of the fans. And when he really does hit his straps the roof really will come off.
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