State of Origin I Preview: It takes a game man to tip against Queensland these days – and while your author may be valiant, he does not have such courage.
All the talk leading up to Origin I is that the Blues finally have the team to beat Queensland. I have heard that before. It is a better policy to be one year late on the Maroons than it is trying to get the Blues whenever the tide has apparently turned.
The Maroons have won four straight series openers and four of the last six at ANZ and for mine, the Blues have not taken the necessary step and Queensland have not regressed enough to suggest a change of result.
Canterbury flop Tony Williams seemed a lock for the fourth annual Willie M Medal after an inept start to the season. But we now have a race with Rooster Shaun Kenny-Dowall coming from the wings to sit just two points from the Bulldogs bust. The ex-Kiwi backpacker might soon find himself thumbing rides and sleeping on crowded floors if he continues the way he is playing. The highlight of his performance against the Warriors was beating all the defence only to lose the ball in the put down. Ouch. The Roosters are trying to offload him. Not many clubs are knocking down the door to get him.
Zero Tolerance on Zero Tolerance: Once again the NRL has caved to the vocal minority and insisted it is cracking down on violence. This will no doubt be as enforced as consistently as the obstruction rule and for about as long as the game enforced players standing in front of the kicker at a re-start.
I had plenty of faith in Daniel Anderson when he signed on as referees boss. I am quickly losing my faith as he has once again caved to some silly campaign to “think about the children”.
David Gallop was whacked for being reactionary. The Welsh banker now in charge has hardly been any more proactive.
Origin I Wrap: Are we witnessing history? Is the witch about to die? Perhaps. But while the Blues’ win in the opener of 2013 was dominant and impressive on so many levels, it is best New South Wales does not get ahead of themselves as behind the scoreline and the statement, there were plenty of flaws that need ironing out.
There is no question the Blues were deserved winners. Of the match, and the fight. They came out with more energy and more intent and never lost the upper hand. They rolled through the Queensland pack, forced the hand of the Queensland halves and eliminated the Queensland outside backs. Most notably though, they made Queensland look old and more than fallible.
Roosters centre Shaun Kenny-Dowall has thrown down the gauntlet to Willie M leader Tony Williams, bursting to second place despite the Roosters sitting near the top of the table. It has been a stellar effort from the feeble-fingered former backpacker.
In the week that Brisbane halfback Peter Wallace was offered $1.5 million over three years to return to Penrith, the Broncos No.7 jumped to second in Willie M polling after another inept performance. If the Broncos are so keen on a halfback who is slow and soft, I’ll happily take on the role for $300,000 a season.
Well, he lasted just 14 minutes before being felled like a giant oak but Tony Williams managed to extend his lead at the top of the Willie M Medal count to seven by polling two votes in the loss to the Knights. In those 14 minutes, he managed two errors and conceded a penalty in another dreadful showing from the man destined to be crowned the worst buy of the year.
The big mover in this week’s polling has been the Tigers’ so-called star half Benji Marshall. In a week where it was reported that the club would be offering him a multi-million dollar extension, Marshall turned in an insipid performance against Cronulla. His heart, clearly not in football, led to just three piddling runs. Marshall has now polled in his last three games and is shortening in betting (hello, Damian at Sportsbet, when will the official market be open!) to claim the 2013 Willie M Medal.
Viva La Counter-Revolution: After four of the most entertaining years imaginable – at least for those who despise the Parramatta Eels – revolution is over. Roy Spagnolo and his bandits who overthrew ‘The Emperor’ Denis Fitzgerald in 2009 on a platform of systematic change have been thrown from office, replaced by a team with close links to Fitzgerald, led by Steve Sharp. In the three full seasons of the administration, the club finished 12th, 14th and 16th and currently sits 14th. Spagnolo appointed arguably the least qualified CEO in the history of the game – Paul Osborne – who assisted in the firing of a coach who only 12 months earlier had guided the club to the Grand Final, a sacking that had more than a small stink of politics. His replacement, Stephen Kearney, was given nearly two seasons before his position became untenable. The team then forked out $800,000 a season for the most overrated coach in the modern game, one who has a win rate of less than 45 per cent since the retirement of Brad Fittler.