Mercy is for the Weak and Defeat is the Lover of Gutlessness

Filed in Other by on December 5, 2010

“Open thy gate of mercy, gracious God,
My soul flies through these wounds to seek out thee”
-William Shakespeare, “King Henry VI”

My new assistant, Allison, also known as Roxy for some reason, was in my ear on Thursday. “The Punting Ace boys are flying in today. You didn’t forget did you?”

I was gripped in some sort of paralytic fear. Recovery had only just been made from the previous weekend, a trek to the heart of Wagga, where the horses raced true and the belly filled with beer. Another heavy weekend seemed undoable as the winds cried mercy and Roxy looked on in undisguised disgust.

She will have to go. I cannot deal with judgment or moralization in this state and in the comfort of the Officers Club. She frowns upon Tuesday afternoons of cool mangoes and warm words and the interesting hours have left her nerves raw-edged. She may just be a little too professional, a little too much of an s-q-u-a-r-e. So, the axe must fall, as the Executioner said to the Bishop…

I hadn’t as much forgot as expunged it from my mind. Matt and Jess were abandoning the Punting Ace fortress, loading the private jet and heading down to “take care of some business”. That quote is attributed to either Matt or Jess, the memory of your near-defeated author still hazy fog of their stay. “And then we’ll have some fun”.

Ominous words. Ominous words indeed.

That fun ended around 6:30am, two days after their arrival. Somewhere outside a casino, the sun on the horizon, buttons ripped and heads sore, blackjack the winner and common sense left probably at O’Neils the night before. Through the dancing and the drinking and the drawling of high-minded ideas, business was probably taken care of. Even a late night/early morning phone call by a certain Punting Ace high flyer engaged to be married in the very near future to his soon-to-be (or at least presumed still soon-to-be) wife to discuss important matters of state and philosophy I’m sure was all done in the name of business.  We gave ourselves every opportunity and those taking notes can make sense of it all sometime around Wednesday, when our bodies and minds and heads return to a state of equilibrium.  

Mercy is for the weak and sticking to that creed, we fought on like La Motta, taking the shots and coming back for more heavy hits…

The word is that the Punting Ace jet was late to depart. Presumably, they made it back and hopefully with a minimum of turbulence as certain parties would not have reacted too well to much of the old shake-and-rattle. And their fleeing has allowed me to crawl around in the solitude of darkness, Fox Sports and the paper boy my only contact with the outside world. Even marks keen to be fleeced on the Sunday afternoon rugby league were turned away by jerking screams at the door and depressing phone calls warning of the high chance of violence.

As a result, the final Origin shoot-outs were watched in sobriety and for once, not through the prism of high-wire gambling in an atmosphere so jacked that most two-up dens look like libraries in comparison. Monday was spent watching replays, doing the tapes. All the while, poreing over the statistics, doing the numbers, making sense of it all. The stock-standard process. Though this time, your cock-eyed commentator had Origin selection on his mind and who would and should get picked.

So, in the fashion of all hard-drinking writers still feeling the pinch come deadline time, a topical list, of sorts. From Grantland Rice to Bill Simmons, the list is the tool of the hungover professional.

Having a little more vision than most of the selectors and mainstream media and with a grand knowledge of the game to support the selections, the would-be Tedeschi Origin side of 2007:

Fullback: Brett Stewart (Manly)

The game is flush with fullbacks now and Brett Stewart is the best with origins south of the Tweed. The Manly custodian is the future and the simple fact is, the future is now. He has speed, safety and a sound league brain. He won’t get the gig- Anthony Minichiello will- and it is a travesty. But that is what happens when the selection process becomes staid.

Wing: Hazem El Masri (Canterbury) and Chris Hicks (Manly)

El Masri is the finest goalkicker of all time and as safe a winger as there is in the competition and should be a certainty to be chosen. Again, his size has become an issue. It is one of the most deplorable facts that at the age of 31, Hazem El Masri has still not donned the sky blue of New South Wales. Chris Hicks is not in contention but his brilliant partnership with Brett Stewart would be blinding to watch and he is a really bright footballer. Expect Jarryd Hayne to get one wing spot and Matt King the other. If Eric Grothe gets selected, it will be another sign that the selection panel is stuck somewhere between stupidity and insanity.

Centre: Matt King (Melbourne) and Matt Cooper (St.George-Illawarra)

King chooses himself. Big and skillful and a certain choice. Cooper is another who should choose himself. He is probably the best defensive centre in the game and his footwork can get him over the line. Jamie Lyon, who will be picked by Blues selectors who may or may not think the year is 2002, is but a shadow of his former-self and seems redundant in the modern game. He is just another player at the moment and has hardly done enough since returning to the NRL to demand an Origin jersey.

Five-Eighth: Kurt Gidley (Newcastle)

He is the form back of the competition and a brilliant talent who will be the game’s premier attacking threat in a few years. Brian Smith has given Gidley a roving role and it has suited him to perfection with his precision passing game and threatening running around the ruck an ever present threat. Gidley has taken on extra responsibility with the premature retirement of Andrew Johns and has thrived on it. He is a better player than Braith Anasta and should be selected ahead of him.

Halfback: Todd Carney (Canberra)

If Todd Carney played for a big name team, he would be the young talent being touted as the halfback on the verge instead of Jarrod Mullen. Carney has a brilliant kicking game, the ability to create holes with his running game and is a genuine match-winner. He single handedly carried the Raiders home in the final twenty minutes against Souths on the weekend. No hope of selection but is a player who should seriously be looked at.

Backrowers: Andrew Ryan (Canterbury), Willie Mason (Canterbury) and Nathan Hindmarsh (Parramatta)

The three premier backrowers in the game. Workhorses, game breakers and impact players, Ryan and Mason and Hindmarsh have it all. None will miss out. One of the few positions the selectors and your Punting Ace rugby league analyst agree completely on.

Props: Luke Bailey (Gold Coast) and Mark O’Meley (Canterbury)

Luke Bailey is an inspiration and Origin is made for his type. Hard and fearless and the foundation upon which New South Wales can build. He has the heart of a lion and should be one of the first players selected for the Blues. He will most likely be partnered by Brent Kite but for mine, Kite goes missing when it counts. Mark O’Meley is a better and harder player and (despite my severe dislike for the manner in which he betrayed the Bulldogs) has a lot more upside than Kite, who is just a good solid prop in my book. Which, of course, is the book.

Hooker: Danny Buderus (Newcastle)

The skipper and fearless leader of New South Wales. He is still fighting it out with Queensland hooker Cameron Smith for the number one rake in the business.

Bench: Robbie Farah (Wests Tigers), Ryan Hoffman (Melbourne), Greg Bird (Cronulla) and Peter Cusack (South Sydney)

Farah is a tremendous talent and his ability to play both hooker and half gives him the role on the bench for the utility. He just gets the nod over Craig Wing. Ryan Hoffman and Greg Bird get the back-row bench spots on recent form. Hoffman adds a different dimension as a big body running hard out wide and Bird is a tremendous ballplayer and creator. Those two beat out Steve Simpson, Reni Maitua and Ben Creagh who are all playing well. Peter Cusack is the back-up prop due to his work rate and his ability to go forward. He will thrive in the cauldron of Origin and is a tougher front rower than both Brent Kite and Brett White.

So there it is…an Origin side to reclaim the shield. Unfortunately, this sound mix of youth, form and experience will be diluted with experience and left wanting on the other two. That is the formula they run with most years. And that is why, in the history of Origin, it is New South Wales who have underachieved. Just keep in mind the old adage…defeat gets its rocks off with gutlessness. Or something like that.

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