Origin Selection Notes – The Final Call: Let’s start with Queensland. There are few points of interest with the wide fairly stable.
Darius Boyd’s return from injury will probably keep Dane Gagai out of a debut spot. Gagai should hold out Chambers but won’t. There will be plenty of interest in who claims the No.9 jersey if Cam Smith is suspended. Jake Friend should be the man but will be pressed by James Segeyaro. The bench should see Daly Cherry-Evans picked ahead of Ben Hunt while Dylan Napa and Josh McGuire are fighting for the one slot – one Napa will win but McGuire should.
Queensland: Slater, Boyd, Hodges, Inglis, Gagai, Thurston, Cronk, Scott, Friend*, Myles, Thaiday, Guerra, Parker, Cherry-Evans, Gillett, McGuire, Lillyman
The NSW situation is much more fluid – and the general feeling is that the Blues will pull the wrong rein, particularly in the halves.
The No.6 and No.7 are legitimately wide open. Trent Hodkinson and Josh Reynolds are the incumbents while Mitchell Pearce, James Maloney and Blake Austin are all in the mix. There are no good answers to this. The first acknowledgement should be that Mitchell Pearce should not be picked – now or ever. He has had 12 chances and the Blues lost five series. Daley is best off sticking with either the incumbents or Hodkinson and Austin. I’m also not so sure Jamie Soward shouldn’t come under some consideration. He has had an excellent year and was good enough playing for the Blues. If the Blues lose Origin I, he should come into the mix for Origin II.
Fullback is compelling as well. Dugan probably has the edge but James Tedesco and Matt Moylan should both be considered very carefully. Tedesco could even be used on a wing – he is going better than Daniel Tupou and with Josh Mansour out, Alex Johnston will need a partner. Michael Jennings and Josh Morris will be the centres – Morris’ spot should come under much more careful consideration though.
The selectors can either stick with veterans Beau Scott and Ryan Hoffman in the backrow or plump for some youngsters. It would be a disgrace if Josh Jackson isn’t picked. And if Luke Lewis is selected, get on board the Maroons now as he is done. Wade Graham is a much better version of the player the team needs. Tyson Frizell needs to be named for his debut. He is going as well as any forward in the premiership.
New South Wales: Dugan, Tedesco, Morris, Jennings, Johnston, Reynolds, Hodkinson, Woods, Farah, Tamou, Scott, Jackson, Merrin, Graham, Fifita, Cordner, Frizell
Smith Has To Go: Cameron Smith has to be suspended for what can only be called a deliberate kick to the head of Isaac Luke. Smith is one of the game’s all-time greats and an eminently fair player and Origin will be better for his inclusion but Smith has to be sidelined for a pretty obvious kick to the head. Josh Reynolds was suspended for a kick that was arguably less deliberate or damaging. Straight up he needs to go.
Cronulla Carnage: The Sharks deserve to finish with another wooden spoon after their shoddy treatment of delightful win-cum-fullback Michael Gordon. A petty political brawl cost Gordon – who has given a decade to Rugby League and never given anything short of 100 per cent – a contract in 2016 when Cronulla won’t offer him one. The club don’t want to use him much this year either. Give the battler a break.
Silly Sandow: Chris Sandow was offered an extension to his contract early this season. He knocked back the downgraded offer, betting on is ability to win him another ridiculous contract. It didn’t and he will now spend a good portion of 2015 playing NSW Cup again. With his test driving fiasco showing how much commitment he has to the club and the game, Sandow will do well to find a contract anywhere in the NRL next year.
2015 Field Goal Count – 18: What a sensational weekend for the field goal with four kicked through the first seven games. Johnathan Thurston kicked it off on Friday night before a rare two field goal game in the Eels-Warriors. Valentine Holmes then sealed the deal in Golden Point against the Titans. Spectacular.
Fun Fact #1: Courtesy of David Middleton on Twitter … Saturday’s 17-13 win by the Warriors over the Eels was the first such scoreline since the 1979 Grand Final.
Fun Fact #2: Parramatta’s Richie Fa’aoso has started 134 of his 159 NRL games off the bench – the third most games off the bench in NRL history behind Danny Williams and Ashton Sims.
Rumour Mill: Player movement is all the talk at the moment. Joey Leilua has left the Knights and will be announced as signing with the Raiders this week. He will be joined by James Tamou. Jeremy Smith is also expected to leave Newcastle and return to St George Illawarra. Todd Carney is expected to sign with Manly in the coming weeks and there is a better than 50-50 chance he will be partnered by Daly Cherry-Evans in 2016. Ashley Taylor is Gold Coast’s backup option if Cherry-Evans does backflip. Chad Townsend will leave the Warriors at the end of the year and return to Sydney with Cronulla his most likely destination. Chris Lawrence is also set to join the Sharks – fulfilling their permanent need for slow outside backs. Michael Gordon will be given a release to go to the Eels before the season is out.
What I Like About … Michael Maguire: I’ve always been inspired by spiteful coaches. Players who turn their backs on a club are entitled to do same but they are also entitled to feel the wrath of their coach. Chris Anderson dropped Darren Smith when he signed with the Broncos and ensured Jarrod McCracken never played for the Bulldogs again when he pissed on the club that made him. Wayne Bennett pushed Justin Hodges to reserve grade. And over the last fortnight Michael Maguire has dumped Issac Luke to the bench and severely culled his minutes after Luke announced he was joining the Warriors. It is good for club culture to make the club actually stand for something. Well done Mick Maguire. Hopefully more coaches take a similar approach.
Betting Market of the Week: When Cameron Smith is rubbed out of Origin I this week, Queenslanders will:
$101.00: Take the news with good grace and general acceptance
$8.00: Carry on about declaring independence from Australia
$6.00: Drink mid-strength beer at the Caxton Street Hotel and cry into their togs
$1.10: Claim Cam Smith is a deity and NSW have inflicted religious persecution
Manly Collapse Update: The Sea Eagles have gone all-in on Nate Myles in the hope that his friendship with Daly Cherry-Evans can keep the talented No.7 at Brookvale. If Cherry-Evans turns his back on the Titans, the signature of Myles will be rightly hailed as a masterstroke. If he doesn’t, Manly have burnt a big chunk of cash on a player clearly on the downslide in a team that is going to struggle over the coming seasons.
The Coaching Crosshairs: There are more than a few rumblings coming out of Auckland that Andrew McFadden could be in some strife. The Warriors have been pretty quick to cull coaches and the Warriors have again underachieved with a pretty talented roster. New Zealand are 15-14 under McFadden and he certainly has some leeway but if they don’t start playing better football soon he could find himself on the chopping block. And the man who the Warriors are set to target is Craig Bellamy, in what could be one of the coups if the Auckland club does land him.
Referee Power Rankings: A quiet weekend for the referees is a good weekend for Rugby League. The worst call of the round (to date) was the no-try to Jarrod Croker for allegedly being tackled that swung the Raiders-Dragons clash very early.
- Ashley Klein (1)
- Adam Devcich (2)
- Gerard Sutton (3)
- Jared Maxwell (5)
- Ben Cummins (4)
- Matt Cecchin (6)
- Gavin Badger (N/A)
- Grant Atkins (7)
Game of the Year Nominations: The game of the year noms for the last two weeks:
Round 9: Brisbane v Penrith, 8-5
Round 10: North Queensland v Brisbane, 31-20
Ricky Stuart Stat of the Week: Ricky Stuart’s Raiders’ 56-16 Round 9 win was the first time a Ricky Stuart coached team had scored 50 points since 2006 when the Roosters defeated the Raiders 56-20.
Beard Watch: It was most disappointing to not see the big flowing wild beard of Konrad Hurrell this week after he was unjustly outed for busting Anthony Tupou’s jaw. Hurrell’s beard and eyes combo has the look of a genuine madman. His career certainly suggests it is an apt look.
Correspondence Corner: Stretell, no doubt all NRL clubs should have to give up their players for designated international weekends. We all need to support the growth of international footy. And you are spot on about Mal Meninga and international Rugby League. He has done serious damage with his total disregard for Queensland’s state boundaries.
MagpieMick, I spent the weekend in Adelaide for the Goodwood. Couldn’t find many joints willing to show the Rugby League.
Davey G, Hodges deserved a game because he is one of the best two centres available. Luke Lewis is not one of the best 25 backrowers available. I am coming around to your side with Blake Austin as well.
Zig, Blake Austin certainly looks like a better version of Josh Reynolds at the moment.
Tony Monero, there are better forwards than David Klemmer at the moment.
Watch It: A northern English accent and kicking rugby union in the head are two of my favourite things, making this video one that really dug in deep to the heart region. Watch it here.