State of Origin II – A New Dawn: This is the end. This is the end, my beautiful friend. The Doors are front and centre in all my thoughts about Origin II, New South Wales’ best chance to roll Queensland and end the domination in the better part of nine years. Sydney is buzzing. People only want to talk one thing – the end of Queensland.
There is a general thought that Queensland are trying to put the ruse on New South Wales with all their injury concerns, the big squad and all the drama. The Maroons are trying to build a siege mentality. The Blues don’t want to be treated as rubes. The truth is the Maroons have dramas – I don’t think Daly Cherry-Evans will play – but not nearly as many as they would have you believe. They know though that for the first time in a long time though, the Blues may have them on class. Queensland need to find something else, something inside, something to take them to a new plane. All this drama should be building the confidence of the Blues contingent. It is a begrudging sign of respect from Queensland.
At ANZ on Wednesday, the game is certainly there to be won by the Blues. If they knuckle down, play it through the middle, mind their handling, kick to space, compete on every play, they should win. It will be far from easy. The Maroons are class from nearly top to tail and they know how to win. Being unburdened by the albatross of history won’t hurt the Maroons either. But the Blues are big favourites on their home track with one of their best players returning. They can touch it.
The biggest worry for the Blues – and the area Queensland can save their bacon – is on the Blues’ right edge. Josh Dugan and Will Hopoate will play in some formation. They go up against Origin’s two greatest tryscorers in Inglis and Boyd, a duo who have exposed and embarrassed any number of NSW wingers in recent years. They could do it again with two players out of position.
The Blues win for mine though. Ding dong, that witch is heading out the back door with her bus ticket and she ain’t coming back.
NSW 19 – QUEENSLAND 12
The Best and Worst Buys of 2014: At the halfway point of the season, it is time to examine what teams have won at the recruitment roulette wheel and which teams have lost. Ladies and gentlemen, the best and worst recruits of 2014 so far –
1. Tyrone Peachey – The Sharks must be tearing their hair out over letting this kid go. He is a unique player who will one day soon wear the green and gold.
2. Nathan Peats – His on-field play has been excellent for the Eels but it is his professionalism and competitiveness that has helped turn the Eels around.
3. Jamie Soward – The maligned five-eighth has been superb in a new environment with stable coaching and talented outside backs.
4. Will Hopoate – It is astonishing that a player could go on a Mormon mission for two seasons and return to play Origin footy.
5. Gareth Widdop – The Dragons have struck out with most of their recruits but Gareth Widdop has been quality without much to work with.
6. Pat Richards – Richards has nailed the drop goal of the year, been reliable on the wing for the Tigers and has revolutionised kick offs and drop outs.
1. Russell Packer – Moved to Australia hoping to kick start his career and has found himself serving two years prison without a club.
2. Daniel Holdsworth – Holdsworth does not rate in, arguably, the top 100 halves in the world so it seems astonishing the Sharks would buy him, even as a backup.
3. Blake Ayshford – The Sharks decided to replace their slow, unreliable, poor handling centre Ben Pomeroy with Ben Pomeroy-lite, aka Blake Ayshford.
4. Martin Kennedy – The Broncos’ recruitment has taken a battering in recent years and Kennedy has become the face. Now the best paid Queensland Cup player.
5. Benji Marshall – The Dragons took a huge punt on signing Marshall midseason after his failed rugby union switch. He has been appalling in every game he has played against a first grade team.
6. Jamal Idris – Made the surprise move to Penrith late in the offseason but started the season lethargically and now his career swings in the balance after a very serious off-field incident.
An International Incident: International Rugby League has been dealt another significant blow with Australia looking likely to spurn an end-of-season Ashes Tour by the British Lions. It is an absolute disgrace that players are attempting to kibosh this wonderful initiative and that the NRL are allowing it to happen. Australia has a responsibility to the international game and we are failing markedly. Rugby League has lost a lot without the Ashes, Kangaroo Tours and Lion Tours and it is about time this is rectified. The British want to do it. We should welcome them wholeheartedly to a full and proper tour with Test footy, midweek fixtures and bush travel.
Private Ownership in Rugby League: The debacle that was the Nathan Tinkler ownership of the Newcastle Knights is now over. The club is now owned and operated by the NRL. It is pleasing that the League can afford to save a club – it is something that certainly wouldn’t have happened all that long ago. The failure of the Tinkler experiment though should not deter the League or clubs from engaging in private ownership. It is the future. South Sydney are the showpiece for what private ownership can do. The club was – and there is no other term for it – an absolute rabble for two decades. They have been star recruiters and title hopes for three seasons now. Manly have internal problems at board level but have been one of the best performed clubs. The Warriors have been leaders in marketing off the field even if they have struggled on it. Private ownership is critical to the game and the League cannot walk away from it now.
What Happened to Akuila Uate: Without question the top winger in the premiership when he won three consecutive Dally M Winger of the Year awards, played five Origins and five Tests, Akuila Uate’s form has fallen quicker than it takes for him to come charging in off his wing in key defensive situations. He almost certainly will never play rep football again. When the open Blues wing spot for this Origin was discussed, Uate’s name was rightly nowhere near the discussion. He is a liability, pure and simple. His defensive displays were embarrassing against the Chooks on Saturday night with some horrific reads where he just charges in without a care in the world. Uate has so many natural tools but he needs to pay more heed to the intricacies of the game if he ever wants to be a star again.
NRL Mascot Power Rankings: Ranking the NRL mascots from best to worst … the criteria are likability and creativity.
- Reggie the Rabbit – South Sydney
- Victor the Viking – Canberra
- Buck – Brisbane
- Boots – North Queensland
- Rocky the Rooster – Sydney Roosters
- Brutus the Bulldog – Canterbury
- Egor the Eagle – Manly
- Stripes – Wests Tigers
- Sparky the Eel – Parramatta
- McHammerhead – Cronulla
- Scorch – St George Illawarra
- Storm Man – Melbourne
- Tryton – Penrith
- Toki – New Zealand
- Knytro – Newcastle
- Blade – Gold Coast
Quote of the Week: “I’ve got all Proctor and Tedesco’s money. It’s gone straight to me. They just crossed out the name at the top,” – Josh McCrone. In unrelated news, every Raiders fan has gone to get a mental health assessment.
Fun Fact #1: Referee Jason Robinson has not refereed an NRL fixture this year – after becoming involved in a serious falling out with colleague Gavin Badger.
Fun Fact #2: The records of home teams under senior referees over the last two seasons in order of biggest home town officials:
Gavin Badger (27-9 SU, 20-16 ATS)
Matt Cecchin (24-15 SU, 21-18 ATS)
Adam Devcich (21-14 SU, 21-14 ATS)
Gerard Sutton (24-16 SU, 21-19 ATS)
Ben Cummins (23-15 SU, 23-15 ATS)
Jared Maxwell (22-16 SU, 19-19 ATS)
Shayne Hayne (17-19 SU, 14-22 ATS)
Ashley Klein (14-23 SU, 13-24 ATS)
Rumour Mill: Adam Reynolds is rumoured to be on the outer at South Sydney but I have no idea why. He will remain a Bunny. Terry Campese is rumoured to be off to Hull at the end of the year but don’t be at all surprised if he ends up in North Queensland or Auckland. He won’t be in Canberra, that is for sure. Tautau Moga is set to knock back an offer from Canberra to head to Cronulla. Ben Hannant will be at the Titans in 2015 though could head to wherever Wayne Bennett lands, which is looking increasingly likely to be the Dragons. The Broncos are supposedly off Bennett though I doubt it is that settled and if he wanted back they would welcome him with open arms. Marika Korobiete is likely to be at Cronulla before the June 30 deadline. Canterbury will be chasing a fullback to cover for the injury to Sam Perrett. Names on the list include Kevin Locke, Nathan Gardner, Clint Gutherson and Zac Santo.
What I Love About … Brad Arthur: No person in the NRL – other than Ricky Stuart himself – has made the ex-Eels boss look like more of a rotten coach than Brad Arthur, who has taken essentially the same Eels roster and turned the back-to-back wooden spooners into a team well inside the eight who play with a distinct identity. Arthur didn’t get a gig leaning on his reputation as a player or shooting from the hip, he served an apprenticeship and sought to improve his understanding of the game through apprenticeships under some of the game’s finest thinkers. Arthur is a star on the rise. Parramatta’s only better decision in the last decade was to release his predecessor when he sought to jump ship.
Betting Market of the Week #1: The odds of a rugby union defector winning this year’s Dally M Medal:
Betting Market of the Week #2: The odds that your author goes on a brutal rampage through NRL HQ if judges award a rugby union defector the Dally M Medal:
[Not So] Funny Eels Moment of the Week: Canterbury became the first team to lose to the Eels at ANZ Stadium in 1424 days. The Bulldogs also became the first team ever to lose to a Parramatta team that played Chris Sandow at fullback.
1. South Sydney 9-5 (1)
2. Manly 8-4 (2)
3. Sydney Roosters 9-5 (3)
4. Penrith 9-4 (5)
5. North Queensland 6-7 (6)
6. Canterbury 8-5 (3)
7. Parramatta 8-5 (7)
8. Brisbane 8-5 (8)
9. Wests Tigers 7-6 (9)
10. New Zealand 6-7 (10)
11. Melbourne 7-6 (11)
12. Gold Coast 6-7 (12)
13. St George Illawarra 5-8 (13)
14. Newcastle 2-11 (14)
15. Canberra 4-9 (15)
16. Cronulla 2-10 (16)
The Coaching Crosshairs: John Cartwright’s tenure as the Titans coach will end this year if the club does not progress to the finals. With its wretched injury toll, the Gold Coast would seem unlikely to be playing finals football. The only coach the Titans have ever known, Cartwright has been given every chance but his record simply does not lend itself to continuing on. If the Dragons do want Neil Henry, they’ll have to move quickly because Henry will likely get an offer from the Gold Coast.
Ricky Stuart Stat of the Week: The last game in which Ricky Stuart coached consecutive victories:
– 1 player has died (Jon Mannah)
– 13 players have retired (Jharal Yow Yeh, Reece Williams, Luke Covell, Scott Porter, Corey Hughes, PJ Marsh, Joel Clinton, Grant Millington, Terrence Seuseu, Nick Kenny, Palmer Waupau, Guy Williams, Jacob Selme)
-1 player is on indefinite NRL suspension (Blake Ferguson)
-Only 11 remain NRL first grade regulars.
Game of the Year Nomination, Round 14: Penrith-St George Illawarra, 18-14. Soward up against the Dragons, a nice finish. In a split round, you can’t ask for much more.
Correspondence Corner: Witty Reference, I think you make a valid point about the responsibilities of the pocket referee. I think they need to be far more clearly defined. I think the senior ref should be able to ignore him but there needs to be a mechanism where the pocket refs view is stated like when a flag is thrown in the NFL.
Grumps, Tim Napper has gone on to somewhere that has seen him earn money writing. Congratulations to him. We all miss him plenty though and hope he remembers where he got his start and will join us again one day.
Mav63, Kennedy does have a rather large snake collection. Perhaps that pushed the Broncos over?
Beard Watch: If Ben Hunt does make his debut for Queensland, expect a poor showing with the rising Broncos No.7 – unforgivably and astonishingly – shaving off his perfect mo that has, unquestionably, given him his powers. Don’t mess with facial hair when all the chips are on the line. Ever.
Watch It: This week we go back to 1979 and the Amco Cup clash between Combined Brisbane and Queensland Country. Graham Quinn scores the match-winning try for Brisbane in controversial circumstances. Watch it here.