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Rugby League: Hock proves you don't need a lot of A levels to have a rugby brain [Jun. 25th, 2009|11:32 am]
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If his B sample tests positive for cocaine and he cops the standard two-year ban, Gareth Hock will be missed.

For all his moments of madness - notably grabbing a referee last year - he can really play the game. He's living proof that you don't need a lot of A-levels to have a rugby brain.

Hock will be 27 if he comes back, two of his best years wasted. Actually, I fear for him over those two years and I wouldn't like to predict what he'll be like by June 2011.

He is a loss for both club and country. Tony Smith knows the down-side of him perfectly well, but he would always have him in his England squad - as he did in Paris less than two weeks ago.

The more immediate impact is on Wigan, because he is one of the few players on the books who can actually turn a game. I'd say the odds against them beating Warrington in the Cup semi have lengthened already.

I hope he can serve his time and come back, but I can't go along with those who would abandon testing for recreational drugs entirely. Obviously, trying to stamp on performance-enhancing drugs has to be the priority, but to turn a blind eye to cocaine and the like would send out all the wrong messages.

The other impending departure is that of Lee Smith. After months of rumour and innuendo, he has finally confirmed that he is off to Wasps. Leeds never suffer any angst over these things - remember when everyone outside the club was moaning and groaning over the loss of Chev Walker? - they just get on with filling the gaps.

Even by their standards, though, there was a rare symmetry about the timing of the announcement that they had signed Ryan Smith - Lee's equally talented (it is claimed) younger brother. What I don't know is whether any of Gaz Hock's siblings would be a suitable replacement at Wigan.