The Right Decision: Well done to the NRL judiciary for not bowing to public hysteria and downgrading Josh Reynolds’ dangerous throw charge. Those comparing it to the tackle that damaged Alex McKinnon know nothing of Rugby League and are nothing but cheap and nasty scaremongers. Reynolds simply went in for a tackle around the legs. Yes, it was spectacular. But penalties should not be determined by the result. They should be consistent with the action. The downgrade ensured Reynolds was right for Origin II and more importantly ensured justice was done.
An Origin Classic: There have been few games where I have been more proud to be a New South Welshman than last Wednesday night. And if I were a Queenslander, I’d be bloody proud too. The courage, the toughness, the skill displayed is why we all love the Great Game. The Morris boys playing on with serious injury. Hodkinson sticking fat with a busted nose. Cam Smith and Billy Slater fighting through serious injuries. It was heart-warming stuff.
There was plenty of heart-pounding as well. When the Maroons came back late it seemed like fate that they would win. The Blues just refused to relent. Laurie Daley, win or lose this series, has made his mark and he should be damn proud. He has given this state – and Rugby League – something to be proud of.
Ring in the Changes: Changes will be plentiful for Origin II with the first game a war zone. This is how the open slots should go:
QLD FULLBACK: Greg Inglis is a certainty to go back, as long as Daly Cherry-Evans is fit. It is the right call. Will Chambers will move to centre in what will be his Origin debut.
QLD HALFBACK: Daly Cherry-Evans is an absolute no-brainer despite only a fair showing when coming on in Origin I. If he isn’t fit, it opens things right up but he should be right. Anthony Milford coming into the halves is the best play if DCE doesn’t come up.
QLD BENCH: Anthony Milford needs to be selected immediately as the replacement for Cherry-Evans. Some players could go on form as well with Chris McQueen and Josh Papalii both poor in Origin I. Dave Taylor and Josh McGuire loom as potential replacements.
NSW RIGHT WING: Josh Mansour. He is a far more reliable proposition than Jorge Taufua but offers a lot more in attack than James McManus, who has probably played two more Origins than his ability dictates.
NSW RIGHT CENTRE: The toughest position to fill – and the selection should almost certainly be on whether Greg Inglis plays at centre or not. If Chambers does play, Will Hopoate could be risked. If not though, a defensive centre is required and there aren’t many about. Aside from begging or blackmailing Jamie Lyon, the best option is shifting Jarryd Hayne from fullback to the centre and playing Josh Dugan at the back. That seems a ridiculous notion but it isn’t nearly as stupid as picking Jack Wighton or Joey Leilua or trying the very slow Beau Scott there.
NSW BACKROW: Greg Bird is an automatic selection and he should come in for Beau Scott. There is talk Bird and Scott will both remain in the team but Scott was only fair in the opener. I love his toughness but it will be a big call to keep him and Hoffman with the addition of Bird.
NSW BENCH: If Scott does stay, Tony Williams will be the man to go for Bird. Williams didn’t do a lot but he seems more a bench impact player than Scott.
Give Me A Break: At what point did control again become part of the video referees mandate and when did they again get total authority to make a full decision rather than simply confirm or overturn on-field decisions based not on clear evidence but ‘benefit of the doubt’ and ‘feel’? Monday night was disgraceful. There was no evidence to overturn George Burgess’ try. Full stop. It is time we go to a full NFL system and eliminate video referees altogether.
The Most Frustrating Player in the NRL: Jarrod Mullen must be driving Wayne Bennett to retirement. Bennett surely has never had a player so frustrating, one with plenty of natural talent but the IQ of a dunce and the mental fragility of a newborn. His chip kick inside his own half was about as actively stupid as you are likely to see on a football field. The Warriors had dominated the first half but the Knights had ground their way to within a try on the scoreboard. Making no ground in their first four tackles on their own line with a minute in the half remaining, Mullen tried an idiotic kick across field. It went out on the full – naturally, as Mullen’s kicking game is one of the most overrated in the NRL – and the Warriors scored next set and never let up and handed the Knights a hiding. This is Mullen’s 10th year in the NRL, he has played rep football, his first grade position has never been brought into question – he owes the club more than what he regularly turns out.
Doing a Dandy of a Job: Andrew McFadden is doing a bang-up job at the Warriors and it would seem is worthy of that extension he got. The Warriors are just 4-3 since McFadden took over but two of those losses have come by less than a converted try to front runners Canterbury. They have a differential of +61 in McFadden’s seven games while the side has not conceded over 21 points in any game. The Warriors made just four handling errors against the Knights. McFadden is getting the Warriors to play simple, disciplined, defence-first footy – it is absolutely the right approach.
A Sad Story: It was with some sadness that news passed throughout the week that brilliant young fullback James Tedesco has joined the Canberra Raiders and will play under Ricky Stuart. Another career ruined, unfortunately. It is hard to blame Tedesco. The money was far too great and the Tigers insulted him. Few players get better under Stuart though. It will be sad to see his career come to a grinding halt. Hopefully when the inevitable comes and the Raiders wise up, Tedesco is still there and is the man to save a club in desperate need of salvation.
Full Time for ABC Duo: The ABC can no longer justify standing by ancient calling duo David Morrow and Warren Ryan. Once upon a time there was no team I would rather listen to. No longer. And that is before their latest in a long string of racist and misogynistic incidents that have marred the duo and tainted the station over the last 18 months. To call some of their commentary cringe-worthy would be too kind. There are a ton of promising callers and analysts out there and ABC Grandstand would be well advised to look at them.
Fun Fact #1: Josh Reynolds is one of just five players to debut for NSW at five-eighth and win. He joins an elite club with Laurie Daley, Greg Bird, Shaun Timmins and Jim Dymock.
Fun Fact #2: The New Zealand Warriors started an incredible 10 players whose last name ended in a vowel on Sunday. The Warriors have played 18 players whose surname ends in a vowel in just 2014 alone.
Rumour Mill: The rumours are flying thick and fast that former Great Britain coach Tony Smith will be appointed St George Illawarra’s next coach. There is a reportedly a lot more to the Jamal Idris than is being let on and it would seem highly unlikely that Jamal Idris will play for Penrith again this year and perhaps never again. Michael Ennis will almost certainly leave Canterbury, most likely shifting to Canberra, though Cronulla remains an option. Josh Mansour will be playing in Canberra next year. Ben Te’o will be playing rugby union in France in 2015. Josh McCrone is being touted as moving to the Storm but the Melbourne five-eighth role next year will likely go to Blake Green, who wants to return home. The Broncos salary cap drama is extremely serious and there is the very real possibility of points sanctions being implemented this year. Anthony Watmough is a better than even money chance to be playing at Parramatta next season.
What I Love About … Cameron Smith: To hell with what anyone else days – Cameron Smith is the best player in the game and the toughest to boot. There is a fair argument that puts him at the top of the list for the all-time greatest captains. Smith playing on Saturday night against the Cowboys was as tough and as committed as you could hope for. Suffering a high ankle sprain in Origin I, Smith shouldn’t have been playing until Origin II at the very earliest. He continues to build on an already tremendous legacy.
Betting Market of the Week: New South Wales’ answer at right centre will be:
$2.50 – Will Hopoate
$3.00 – Jarryd Hayne
$4.00 – Josh Dugan
$4.00 – Beau Scott
$11.00 – The ghost of Jamie Lyon
$34.00 – Laurie Daley, pulling the boots back on in the greatest selection comeback ever
Funniest Eels Moment of the Week: Two words: Justin Hunt. Ouch, he looked horrific last Friday night. The Eels had want to hope Jarryd Hayne doesn’t cop a season ending knee injury.
1. Canterbury 8-3 (1)
2. North Queensland 6-6 (4)
3. South Sydney 7-5 (5)
4. Manly 7-4 (3)
5. Sydney Roosters 7-5 (7)
6. Penrith 7-4 (8)
7. Melbourne 6-5 (2)
8. Parramatta 6-5 (6)
9. New Zealand 6-6 (9)
10. Brisbane 7-5 (11)
11. Gold Coast 6-5 (10)
12. Wests Tigers 6-5 (12)
13. Newcastle 2-9 (13)
14. St George Illawarra 4-7 (14)
15. Cronulla 2-9 (15)
16. Canberra 4-8 (16)
The Coaching Crosshairs: Brisbane’s recent win – and return to form – will mean nothing to the future of Anthony Griffin, sadly. Griffin, a smart football mind and a good coach, is gone with the Broncos set to go hard at bringing Wayne Bennett back into the fold. Griffin should find another job as a high-ranking assistant and may get another chance elsewhere in the future.
Ricky Stuart Stat of the Week: Ricky Stuart teams have conceded 50-plus points six times since the start of 2013. Mick Potter ranks second with three. No other coach has more than one.
Game of the Year Nomination, Round 12: New Zealand-Newcastle, 38-18. Not a great weekend of footy by any stretch of the imagination. The most complete performance by any team though was that of the New Zealand Warriors, who played strong, smart and disciplined to put on a big win for Simon Mannering in his 200th appearance for the club. Darius Boyd’s tremendous cover tackle was a bonus.
Correspondence Corner: Jason, one of the most erudite comments I have received. Totally agree on all fronts. Anthony Griffin seems a great fella but he won’t be coaching the club in 2015. He will make a very good assistant at another club though or, perhaps in a different setup, could prove himself a good top grade coach. And Jake Granville is a real talent on the up and needs more time in the top grade.
Adsoes, Pixies were as good as the Sharks are bad. Morris has Prince covered for mine.
Cam, I believe it is a song dedicated to the one and only Tony Trudgett.
Witty Reference, Canterbury are always willing to push the envelope but they need to be very careful about taking advantage of a rule designed for player safety.
Andrew, Channel Nine are a disgraceful network and always will be. The blame here lies with the NRL, who do not attempt to put any pressure on the network to use their multi-channels. For years it was the case in Melbourne and it is seemingly still going on in SA. Abhorrent.
Beard Watch: Josh Mansour has one of the most impressive beards in the NRL and it will hopefully be matched against a Blue jersey soon. Mansour was one of Penrith’s best on Friday – and has been all year – and should be the front-runner for Brett Morris’ Origin jersey.
Mo Watch: This week we have some bonus facial hair watch because of Ben Hunt’s magnificent moustache. His tight little number is one of the best moustaches in the long and storied history of Rugby League facial hair. Amazing.
Watch It: This week we go back to 1995 and the World Sevens clash between Brisbane and Western Suburbs. See some Andrew Leeds brilliance, Greg Smith hosting a real sport, Wayne Bennett in baggy jeans and Brandon Pearson before he was Costin. Watch it here.