Time to hoist the protest banners before the NRL gets carried away with the latest whiz-bang advancement in sport - the league power play.

The power play is a term which probably first appeared in that wonderfully violent spectacle of ice hockey where it describes the advantage a team gets when an opponent is plonked in the sin bin.

Cricket grabbed the idea, allowing captains to call various power plays during one-day games. Fans who follow one-day cricket probably know how the power plays work but the intricacies have escaped me.

Lo and behold, a power play rule turned up in the pre-season league match between the NRL and Indigenous All Stars last week, one that involved deliberately having teams of unequal numbers on the field.


So bizarre is the concept that we should feel safe that genuine NRL games will be spared. And yet the NRL is so razzmatazz these days it pays to get a pre-emptive protest in early, just in case.

The All Stars match power play rule enabled teams to reduce their opponents to 11 men for five-minute periods. If the 13-man team scores, the two deleted players immediately return to the field.

This is presumably designed to make league more entertaining by increasing the try-scoring opportunities. Yet there are plenty of tries - proper ones - anyway. Deliberately destroying the legitimacy of the game while placing players under added stamina and injury duress is just weird.

In this case, the Indigenous team turned the power play on its head, immediately scoring with 11 men. (Maybe indigenous people are used to being outnumbered and excel with the odds stacked against them.)

Alarmingly, Indigenous coach Laurie Daley described the power play as an "exciting initiative" before the game, although this was in one of those stories that sounds more like a press release.

There will, surely, be howls of concern should the league bosses try to introduce this horrible gimmick.

Yet you only have to witness a post-game TV interview conducted by one of the Johns brothers to know the game is being encircled by clowns.

I've got an uneasy feeling the NRL will try to introduce the power play. That it was described as an experimental rule in the All Stars game is worrying. Please, please, please, NRL: Keep the circus off the actual field.


Stellar import

Paul Ifill is among the best overseas signings in the short history of professional sport in New Zealand. The Phoenix star plays with a freedom and skill rarely seen in the A-league.

At this level, one player can make a huge difference and that's what Ifill does. Key foreign imports have had a significant impact on our sport. I'm struggling to get a consensus on the best Breakers import although American Carlos Powell was an exceptional player in an unexceptional team. CJ Bruton is a strong choice while his fellow Ocker, coach Andrej Lemanis, is in a class of his own.

As for league, Kangaroo Steve Price just about saved the Warriors single-handedly during tumultuous times, Micheal Luck is a best buy, and Feleti Mateo is something special and way more spectacular.

Back to Ifill, an Englishman who plays for Barbados, and a player who has been a revelation through his skill and influence on matches. He will be the key man again at Westpac Stadium on Sunday when the Phoenix take on champions Brisbane, at their best the most complete outfit in the A-league.

Mustering up some interest

Oooh ... a bit of push and shove at the weigh-in between Sonny Bill Williams and Clarence Tillman III (he's the third; not to be confused with all the other Clarence Tillmans). This must be a really big fight. Then again, one of SBW's handlers, Tony Mundine, was handily placed to pull Big Clarry to the ground. A publicity jack-up by any chance? Combat sport hasn't seen this sort of highly visible action since the heyday of Steve Rickard's hit wrestling show On the Mat.

Special mention goes to ...

1. Piri Weepu, for standing up to the breastfeeding obsessives. Everyone has the right to an opinion, but the Health Sponsorship Council should never have bowed to pressure by having shots of Weepu bottle-feeding his kid deleted from an anti-smoking advertisement.

2. Jerome Kaino, for showing up to Blues training early instead of using his rights to an extended All Black break. Fans are looking for this kind of commitment to turn things around. Kaino was the All Blacks' World Cup ironman, although he looked knackered in the final.