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.
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.
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly – Origin Selection Notes: Laurie Daley is the new NSW coach and as expected, he has become nothing but a Bob Fulton lackey who has picked a rotten team that cannot bring the Origin shield home for the Blues.
Once again, the Blues have gone for the default: size out wide, meaningless experience in the pack, a halfback who has shown nothing.
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.
The big move this week came from sometimes Gold Coast outside back but always strong Willie M poller Steve Michaels. Rightly on the outer at the beginning of the season, injuries have seen the clumsy and testosterone challenged Michaels poll in each of his last four outings. He claimed the three votes for his shocker against the Warriors with the Fifth and Last Podcast adding in correspondence with your author that he “is the worst first grader ever”. It is tough to argue with.
Salary Cap Shakeup: While all of the talk in league circles has revolved around the appointment of Todd Greenberg as the NRL’s Head of Football, more needs to be made of new COO Jim Doyle. The former boss of the NZRL will start his post next month and is already making the right noises. Doyle has indicated there will be a complete overhaul of the salary cap with Ian Schubert’s position as Cap Dictator seemingly all but over. This will be good for the game. Too often, small-minded bickering and a cumbersome process has cost the code players. Doyle will implement a system that ensures parity but allows the game to get the best athletes and then keep them in rugby league. He is a sensational appointment.
While Ben Roberts is firmly in the mix to win back-to-back Willie M Medals, Wests Tigers utility Tim Moltzen won’t be joining him. Moltzen ruptured his ACL in the Tigers’ loss to the Broncos on Saturday night. He collected the three Willie M votes and has finished 2013 on five votes.
Two players to watch – both who made moves this week – are Warriors centre Konrad Hurrell and Titans outside back Steve Michaels. Hurrell was almost as bad as the refereeing on Thursday night and is now tied for fifth in the count while another Michaels pissweak effort for the Titans when the club was most in need. The only thing stopping him from another high finish will be the prevalence of Queensland Cup in his future.
Tony Williams has extended his lead at the top of the Willie M Medal standings with another worst on ground performance. It was his fourth in six games. He is an unmitigated disaster and he didn’t deserve his City Origin jersey.
The big mover in Round 6 though was Warriors fullback Kevin Locke. The talented custodian moved to second place with his third worst on ground showing against the Raiders. Locke has been in dreadful form this year with the Billy Slater comparisons of 2011 now nothing but a distant memory.