The ridiculous Willie Mason saga
Rugby league's top story this week hardly merits a hearty pat on the back for the game, or its rulemakers. When the latest twist in the Willie Mason soap opera was leaked on Thursday lunchtime, I did my best to explain it to my colleague on the 5 Live sports desk before chuckling and admitting "I know, it's a ridiculous one this isn't it?.
Having been acquired as "arguably the biggest signing in the club's illustrious history" last September and paraded as a rugby league superstar when he arrived at Hull KR only last month, Mason now finds himself de-registered.
Why? Well Rovers were able to exploit a loophole in the laws governing overseas quotas and de-register their injured Australian half-back Michael Dobson to pave the way for Mason's initial arrival.
The plan was for Mason to grab himself a Tongan passport and be excluded from the quota by the time Dobson was ready to return from injury. The problem is that Dobson is now fit, Mason's passport has not been rubber-stamped and two into one does not go.
So the man with monster hits and a monster wage-packet now sits it out until he either gets his passport or the club decide to give up and do a deal elsewhere. Rugby union side Toulon have already been linked with "Big Willie", who has not ripped into Super League as explosively as many expected.
It has been some story for Mason, an Australia international who has a Tongan mother but was born in New Zealand. He even visited the King of Tonga to try to gain a Tongan passport and cut through the red tape that had threatened his move to Super League.
But it is also a story that does not paint our game in a great light. I cannot help feel that this situation should never have been allowed to arise.
I do not blame Rovers. They have had a look at the rules and seen a way to bend them.
But the Rugby Football League can hardly be enjoying this.
Would we even entertain the notion of trying to accommodate a "lesser" player in such a clumsy manner? And does this now give the green light to other teams to make as many marquee overseas signings as they like, safe in the knowledge they can just rota them all on and off the quota throughout the season?
Cue a flurry of major signings just before the play-offs!
I exaggerate, of course, but this is a situation that does baffle me.
Moving on from the Mason story, I spent last Friday at what has become my second home during my exile from Yorkshire - the Twickenham Stoop.
This was a big night for Harlequins given the worrying attendance problems that threaten their licence bid.
RFL boss Richard Lewis said last week that the London club's poor turnouts should not be seen as a reflection of their success or otherwise. But the existence of attendance figures on the Super League licence criteria is an unavoidable argument.
So, having averaged crowds of only 2,500 at home this season, Quins chief executive Gus Mackay made a big call, dishing out 2,500 pairs of free tickets for the game against Castleford via the Evening Standard newspaper.
I put it to Mackay before the game that this was a no-win gesture. If people turned up, then the critics would say the club could only get a decent gate by giving out freebies. If the attendance was still low, then Mackay would be told that he couldn't even give tickets away.
The official gate was 4,128 - and those who showed up witnessed a thrilling 26-26 draw.
Harlequins cannot give away free tickets every week, so the hope is that those who came to the Stoop last Friday will have enjoyed it enough to head back for more.
From having a beer with club captain Rob Purdham and man-of-the-match Luke Dorn in the bar afterwards, it was clear the players had noticed the difference.
Coach Rob Powell told me he felt the atmosphere inside the ground had helped his team fight back to grab a point.
Finally, do not let anyone tell you there are no characters in rugby league. Ryan McGoldrick is a striking Australian covered neck to waist in tattoos, including a topless female torso on his chest.
The Castleford player has been forced to apologise following a newspaper article about a club he has built in his back garden.
McGoldrick insists: "It is neither a night club nor a strip club. It is a kennel/outbuilding." Either way, I am told his club were not too impressed.