Origin Selections Notes – Game II: Changes need to be made not only to the New South Wales team but to the philosophy of selection. They won’t be – and the Blues will lose again – but indulge me.
The obvious inclusion is Paul Gallen. He comes back in and it should be for Boyd Cordner though amazingly it will be for Andrew Fifita. Well done in making the Blues even more boring and easy to contain.
If Robbie Farah doesn’t come up it should be Michael Lichaa or even Nathan Peats who get the run. Michael Ennis will though, heaven forbid someone new gets a jersey.
The real issues come in the backline though, which needs a complete overhaul.
Mitchell Pearce and Trent Hodkinson will be picked despite both playing awful in Origin I and struggling at club level. Hodkinson won’t even be in first grade in a few weeks yet gets picked. Blake Austin is one player who should be there. I could even live with him being paired with Sam Williams, a real bolter, or Jamie Soward.
The three-quarter line needs speed and an ability to ruck the ball out. Brett Morris and James Roberts and Alex Johnston should all come into the side. Daniel Tupou should never play Origin again and it is unclear why Will Hopoate was chosen in the first place. Leave me out of Brett Morris too.
For Queensland there is nothing to worry about. Daly Cherry-Evans is a great replacement for Cooper Cronk and that is it.
The age of conservatism favours Queensland. It usually does.
Great Choke: The Parramatta Eels have been an embarrassment to the NRL for the better part of the last five years and managed to reach a new low with a devastating defeat to the Cowboys. Leading 30-6 midway through the second half, the Eels were home and hosed before a Gavin Cooper hat-trick in six minutes – six minutes! – pushed the Cows to a remarkable comeback win. A mentally fragile team, the Eels are going to struggle to come back from that.
2015 Field Goal Count – 24: Gold Coast five-eighth Aiden Sezer kicked a field goal on Friday night to put the Titans up by 17 with over 20 minutes to play – and was widely criticised for it. Callers Ray Warren and Peter Sterling questioned his maths and declared it a poor play. But it wasn’t. And it turned out to be decisive. Sezer slotted the one after a stoppage in play with zero momentum. The expected return on any kick was far less than a point so he did the right thing. If the Titans had not intelligently taken penalties and field goals when “the maths” of the time didn’t suggest it they could have lost. Sezer played it smart and it worked.
Fun Fact #1: Only one player with a surname beginning with the letter ‘X’ has played in the premiership
Fun Fact #2: Canterbury went from 16-10 down to 29-16 up in the space of 15 minutes once Trent Hodkinson was hooked for Josh Reynolds.
Rumour Mill: James Maloney has been linked to both the Gold Coast Titans and Cronulla Sharks. He will end up at the Sharks, who are willing to throw big dollars at him. Don’t be surprised if the Titans land Chris Sandow while Trent Hodkinson and Jeff Robson end up without a chair. Newcastle or the Warriors could make a play for Hodkinson. Jason Nightingale is set to walk from the Dragons. South Sydney looms as a likely destination. Jamal Idris won’t be at Penrith next year with the Wests Tigers and Cronulla looking at his services.
What I Love About … The Walker Brothers: I never thought a great deal about Ben and Shane Walker when they played in the NRL but I cannot wait to have them back in the big time after hearing about their innovative approach to coaching in the Queensland Cup with Ipswich. Readers of this column know how long I have been pushing for clubs to go a short kick off all the time. The Jets do it. They also do it with drop outs. They are not interested in wrestling and completion rates but are concerned about time in possession and letting other teams get through sets quickly. It is the kind of approach that could revolutionise the NRL and take away the follow-the-leader approach most coaches take. Ordinary teams with ordinary coaches like Cronulla, the Wests Tigers and the Gold Coast should be looking at signing the Walker Brothers immediately.
The Coaching Crosshairs: The rumour mill is running hot that Shane Flanagan may be shown the door by Cronulla at the end of the year. The Sharks have stuck fat with Flanagan through the ASADA scandal and he has two years to run on his contract but the falling out with CEO Lyall Gorman is real and Gorman is running increasingly sick of trying to curb Flanagan’s renegade ways. Cronulla are a lot stronger financially these days and Gorman needs to make his mark, a dangerous mix for Flanagan.
Betting Market of the Week: ANZ Stadium would be of better use to Sydney as:
$5.00: The home of rugby union
$3.00: Post-modern art highlighting the evils of forced commercialism
$1.80: The world’s biggest cow paddock
Manly Collapse Update: The ink is drying on Trent Barrett’s contract with the Panthers assistant set to succeed Geoff Toovey. The only question is whether it will be in Round 15 or whether it will be next season. Manly no longer want anything to do with Toovey but are mindful of not just sacking Toovey, particularly without anything to really gain this year. A coaching change is in the wind and Toovey will be told this week but whether he sees out the season or not is up in the air.
Referee Power Rankings: The standard of refereeing this year has been appalling and will continue to get worse until the rule book is cleaned up. Block plays, double movements, shoulder charges … there is no consistency. Yet a ref like Ashley Klein sees it necessary to report a player for swearing at an opponent. Heaven help us all.
- Jared Maxwell (3)
- Gerard Sutton (2)
- Ashley Klein (1)
- Grant Atkins (4)
- Adam Devcich (6)
- Matt Cecchin (5)
- Gavin Badger (7)
- Ben Cummins (8)
Game of the Year Nomination, Round 13: Canterbury-St George Illawarra, 29-16. A belter of a game that will long be remembered if, by no other person, than Trent Hodkinson, when his fate at the Bulldogs was sealed. Moses Mbye was sensational all game, Michael Lichaa resilient and brilliant and Frank Pritchard a replay of his old self in an off-the-canvas win. The game was played at a huge standard between two very good sides.
Ricky Stuart Stat of the Week #1: Ricky Stuart’s three halves for 2016 combined for five try assists and three tries over Round 13.
Ricky Stuart Stat of the Week #2: A Rugby League side can field only two halves and not three.
Ricky Stuart Stat of the Week #3: Stuart’s total Rugby League fines of $125,000 is approximately the total money earned over Bryan Norrie’s last two seasons at the Storm.
Beard Watch: Akuila Uate has finally found his way to a normal haircut and even better – has combined it with a 1980s moustache that is truly wonderful. It is a fashion that is returning with Brett Stewart also sporting a wonderful lip lizard. Let’s hope the manly mo continues to make a sturdy comeback.
Correspondence Corner: Mark Seymour, I’d be fielding a new halves combination. It is out there but the Raiders pair of Blake Austin and Sam Williams would be great. Jamie Soward if he is fit should also be considered. I’d go with Alex Johnston and Josh Mansour – again, if fit – on the flanks. And Paul Gallen has to come into the team.
Red Raider and Eddo, I have been astonished with how many pundits thought Pearce played well. He was shocking and if he was following tactics then the coaching was shocking. At no point in history has kicking to Billy Slater on the full ever been smart.
Stretell, Origin will never be at its former glory when one state is picking a team to contain rather than win. Embarassing. I totally agree about Robbie Farah. He can no longer be the assumed rake for mine. Hopoate is dreadfully overrated. I can’t cop the changing of the format though.
Balyn, if you can make sense of the shoulder charge you are a better man than me. The rule is a joke. There should be a rule against shots to the head and any shoulder charge to the body should be play on.
Mike Butterfield, a lack of composure has been central to Pearce’s Origin experience that is now at 13 games and counting.
Watch It: We go back to 1964 and see some homemade footage of the great Wigan team and in particular legendary tryscoring winger Billy Boston. The tape looks like the famous Zapruder Film but it shows some truly legendary players. Watch it here.