It Was Over Before It Began

Filed in Other by on December 11, 2010

“O what made fatuous sunbeams toil
To break earth’s sleep at all?”

-Futility, Wilfred Owen

There are times when I sit alone, looking deeply into my half drank whiskey as Merle Haggard or Johnny Horton or Patsy Cline plays softly in the distance and wonder what the point of it all is. I feel like I am butting my head against a brick wall. My voice is hoarse and my vocabulary drained and still the New South Wales selectors have their jobs and the same ridiculous selection philosophy is employed and the Blues continue to lose. When deep in the throes of those Nashville blues, as I was last Wednesday night, the sense of futility is overwhelming and you do consider just giving it all away and declaring yourself a Queenslander. Frustration has never frazzled my nerves to such a fray.

As is the case in most sports, your opinion is considered worthless if you haven’t played the game. That is certainly the arrogant attitude of the powers-that-be in the New South Wales team who consider anyone who hasn’t laced on the boots in first grade or pulled on a rep jumper or shed blood at Brookvale or Belmore or Bruce unqualified to offer an opinion on rugby league. It is that insular, blinkered, arrogant, nonsensical attitude that has New South Wales in its current parlous state.

Bob McCarthy may have played 15 Tests for Australia, coached first grade teams and been lauded as one of the great running backrowers of his era, which just happened to finish in the mid-seventies. It doesn’t mean he understands anything about modern rugby league. His last coaching gig was in 1994 and he was a terrible coach at that. He is about three generations out of touch.

Bob Fulton may be an immortal, a premiership winning player and coach, an international player and a coach and a man once regarded to be among the most astute minds in rugby league. His time has come and gone though and his politicking and insistence on playing players out of position has done so much damage to rugby league in New South Wales that he should be driven from the state, dumped on the wrong side of either Goondiwindi or Albury and told that he will be shot on sight if he ever steps back within the bounds of the state. He is the man responsible for Jamie Lyon wearing the six jersey.

Laurie Daley was a decorated player but his analysis on Fox Sports and the fact he has never been able to pull a full-time coach gig clearly shows he was an instinctive player who got by on natural ability and very little understanding of the game. He certainly doesn’t seem to appreciate how Origin football has changed. He has no idea how to tackle such a great Queensland team.

Geoff Gerard. Well, who the fuck is Geoff Gerard. He may have played 300 games but he finished up in 1989 and even when he was playing he was an irrelevant nobody, a Chris Armit like character with greater durability.

And Craig Bellamy, well, he may be one of the great modern day club coaches who tactically is as smart as they come but his role in team selection shows he has a fundamental misunderstanding of what is required to win an Origin series. Selectors were quoted as saying they would give Bellamy the team he wanted in the lead-up to game one and though he did appear disappointed at the press conference when the team was announced, it has to be assumed that he got most of the players he was after. The likes of Brett White and Tom Learoyd-Lars and the omission of Paul Gallen are certainly on his card.

These five think they know it all. They think because they have played and coached at the highest levels that they know more about the game than those of us who have watched and studied and understood the game for most of our lives with a reasonable perspective. Bob McCarthy should have taken my advice when I offered it to him outside a lift in the bowels of AAMI Stadium three weeks back but he arrogantly marched on figuring he had all the knowledge required. I should have gutted the fat bastard right then and there, for the good of us all.

Had he have listened, the Blues would have at least stood a chance in game one. It would not have been all over before it all began.

The aforementioned punks cost New South Wales any chance of victory last Wednesday. The game was over before it began and played out as predictably as any good judge figured. New South Wales selectors followed the same philosophy they have for the majority of the last four years: defence, big bodies and grit. The Blues were going in with one plan and one plan only: to stop Queensland. When that inevitably failed, the Blues had no answers. They weren’t built to chase a lead and Queensland isn’t a team that can be stopped. Containment is the best you can hope for.

It is hard to be overly critical of the seventeen Blues who took the field. Matt Cooper went off with the softest Origin injury in history, a bruised hip, proving what an absolute impostor he is. Josh Perry and Brett White played 72 minutes between them for a pathetic 108 metres on 20 runs combined with a lowly 38 tackles. Jamal Idris made some questionable defensive reads. Trent Waterhouse went missing. For the most part though, the players out there gave their all and did their best. The simple fact of the matter is that the team was poorly built with obvious weaknesses that were, of course, exploited by Queensland.

Prior to the game I noted that New South Wales lacked playmakers, a kicking game, forward punch, flair and a workhorse to patrol the middle. New South Wales lost due to a dearth of playmakers, a lack of a kicking game, no forward punch, a distinct lack of flair and the lack of a workhorse forward to roam the middle.

The selectors, as always, went for big bodies and a horde of defensive players, a number played out of position. It was clear the game plan was to choke Queensland out of it and win a low scoring battle. It was such a misguided plan that even a drunk meth-head who hasn’t uttered a word of sense in a decade could have pointed out the failings in it and at least recommended a plan b get placed in the back pocket.

New South Wales, of course, did not stop Queensland from scoring. Even in wet conditions with driving rain picking the best defensive team New South Wales had to offer, Queensland posted 28 points. From early in the second-half, Queensland had opened up an uncatchable lead. This came as a surprise to nobody bar the New South Wales Blues inner-sanctum. It happens every year. You simply cannot stop talent like Thurston, Lockyer, Slater, Inglis, Folau and Boyd. The best you can do is hope to contain them and then get them on the back foot with some attacking play of your own. The best defence is offence, or so the old saying goes. The clowns picking the Blues team would do well to remember that. At least players like Jamie Soward, Michael Jennings, Josh Morris and Terry Campese could throw something at Queensland.

When Queensland did inevitably score points, New South Wales couldn’t run them down. Kimmorley, Lyon and Ennis do not have the creativity get through the Queensland team, particularly behind a pack that was not only beaten but stomped on. Kimmorley is the only real playmaker among the trio and he could not do it by himself. He toiled but that is what he is these days: a toiler, the safe option. Lyon did not look comfortable until he was pushed out to the centres. Not a single New South Wales try was constructed. They came from kicks and they came from mistakes.

The final two tries, both scored in the final seven minutes, actually benefited Queensland more than New South Wales. Now the morons running the New South Wales team can justify not making changes, not distancing themselves from their absurd selection philosophy, not injecting new blood by stating how close the Blues got and talking themselves into the fact the team just needs a little tinkering. The final score may have been 28-24 but Queensland had wrested control of the match mid-way through the first half and were never going to lose after Darren Lockyer gave the Maroons an 8 point lead on 47 minutes.

Sounds are already coming out that a shift in selection philosophy and subsequently mass changes, entirely necessary if the Blues are to get even close to Queensland at Suncorp, is not on the cards. These stubborn old fools are going to persist. And they won’t ever change. That is why we need to be rid of them. That is why I would be the first to hurl a rock if a public stoning was required, the first to yell “yaaahhhh” if we were drawing and quartering.

According to The Australian, McCarthy ruled out wholesale changes. “If you keep changing the side you’re not going to get the combinations going. We’re not going to tinker with it too much.” The selectors chop and change key positions every year. There are no combinations. That was quite apparent Wednesday evening. There has also been no plan for the future and that is why no combinations have ever developed because McCarthy and his cohorts are happy to be stuck in selection purgatory year after year.

Laurie Daley said: “This could be our finest hour.” He is clearly delusional and may need immediate medical help. We are a single win away from five straight losses and a selector/assistant coach is optimistic. He is like a 19 year old on pills for the first time: ecstatic and deliriously optimistic despite the fact there is vomit on your shoes, you are sweating from every pore and you are being robbed by some skanky bar charging $14 a beer.

Craig Bellamy declared that this was the “most talented team he has coached in Origin.” Despite his Origin survival riding on it, Bellamy wants to stick with the same losing philosophy and the same inappropriate style and the same unsuitable players.

The players held a meeting straight afterwards and in a move that surprised nobody, called on selectors to be given another chance. That is some nerve. To come out in such an obviously self-interested manner hours after a home Origin loss and demand one more chance defies belief and should sicken all Blues fans.

McCarthy’s big solution is to put Jarryd Hayne back to fullback. That should solve everything. Why not just reshuffle the current team. That should work out. And what will New South Wales do when they are behind? And how will they win the battle in the trenches? How will they get any field position? Where will the tries come from? And what of the future?

Queensland lost three straight series between 2003 and 2005 and over that period the likes of Cameron Smith, Johnathan Thurston and Billy Slater all debuted. Selectors stuck with their young attacking talent and allowed them to mature and develop safe in the knowledge they were firmly part of Queensland’s plans for the future. There was very little chopping and changing while Queensland went down a path of selecting the most skilled players and giving New South Wales a score to chase.

New South Wales selectors have had no plan over a losing run that will soon reach a record five seasons. No young ball players have been given a chance to develop. No philosophy of attacking football has been fostered. Players should not even have the confidence that the best players will be picked at positions they are most suited to play.

Calls for the immediate axing of the selection panel as well as coach Craig Bellamy are most likely futile. The back-patters and the yes men they all surround themselves with are telling them that they are oh so close. But here goes:

Bob McCarthy, you out-of-touch germ: Fuck Off.

Bob Fulton, you stubborn and arrogant deadshit: Fuck Off.

Laurie Daley, you dim-witted and delusional fool: Fuck Off.

Geoff Gerard, you nobody: Fuck Off.

Craig Bellamy…well, I respect him too much for what he has done at the Storm so I won’t tell him to fuck off but he should make haste for the door as quickly as possible. The man to replace him is Chris Anderson, one of the great motivators and thinkers in recent times, but that won’t happen either.

You can be sure that all the selectors will be back next year though. The Blues will get touched up in game two and again they will escape accountability and responsibility as the boys club that hires the selectors, most of them ex-footballers themselves, pats them on the back and tells them that next year is the year. It is a vacuum of irresponsibility.

Lord, how long must we deal with such stupidity, such ignorance, such mind-numbing idiocy for?

O what made fatuous sunbeams toil, to break earth’s sleep at all?

So Merle Haggard sings and the world rushes by and the barman fills the glass and the aging hooker heads out with her mark and the New South Wales team stays the same. At some stage change will be forced. How long that will take though, I have no idea.

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