Savage Beatdown on Caxton Street

Filed in Other by on December 11, 2010

I am not really sure what Craig Bellamy and the New South Wales selectors thought was going to happen last Wednesda

y evening at Suncorp Stadium but for any decent judge of rugby league and personal character, State of Origin II played out exactly as expected.

Queensland jumped from the blocks and New South Wales showed the kind of resistance offered by a grasshopper in the way of a bulldozer or France in every major international conflict of the last 150 years. Queensland scored within three minutes when Joel Monaghan raced in-field like a greyhound on the lure only to see the ball inevitably float over his head to Greg Inglis who duly walked over. Timana Tahu can probably take a portion of the blame for that one but either way the rugby league equivalent of My Lai, a massacre by a superpower against a defenceless group of people, had begun. First blood was Queensland’s and there would be plenty more shed over the course of the next eighty minutes.

When the realisation hit that New South Wales would not be able to compete, the grubs took control. Paul Gallen knocked out Nate Myles with a swinging arm that Gallen told referee Archer was payback for some inconsequential, earlier incident. Then the dirtiest, cheapest, most loathsome filth-peddler in rugby league, Luke O’Donnell, decided to drive his already pitiable reputation lower when delivering a spear tackle that should have resulted in a send off before head-butting and then punching Dave Taylor, who was being held back by any number of Blues players. This was exactly the type of thing New South Wales were going to get when calling on O’Donnell, a player of such amazing hypocrisy and such startling thugishness that I am not sure I have ever seen such a combination in all my time in rugby league. At least Les Boyd didn’t cry poor when he was hurt and at least Bob Cooper stood up and went toe-to-toe rather than hitting someone who was being held back.

Any club who signs Luke O’Donnell next season will get what they deserve. They will get an unrepentant and petulant cheap-shot merchant who does little work, is anything but tough, shows no discernible skill and will spend more time sidelined through suspension than on the ground playing rugby league. He has now been suspended for a total of 29 weeks compared to only 144 appearances in first grade. He smashed the jaw of Michael Monaghan in a late and high tackle as Monaghan was unprotected and out of the play. In 2008 he was outed for seven weeks after two outlandish striking offences against Penrith players as well as abusing an official. Earlier this season he gave away four penalties and got sin-binned in the space of two minutes that went a long way to costing the Cowboys a win. He was suspended for three weeks after that fine display. At no point throughout his sorry and sordid career has he ever shown any kind of skill or workrate or toughness that balances up with the filth-peddling, cheap-shot nature that is central to his game and, seemingly, his personality.

All of this yet O’Donnell believes he is harshly treated. In the Origin aftermath O’Donnell had the gall to accuse Queensland players of “dog shots.” “Someone said I should have been sent off…that’s a bit rich considering they were coming in and hitting from behind with some cheap shots.” I wonder if Michael Monaghan has anything to say about dog shots. After he had his hamstring torn from the bone by Tigers duo Liam Fulton and Bryce Gibbs, an incident that surely reflects the egalitarianism of the Football Gods, he cried foul and poor and he bitched and moaned and threatened revenge. O’Donnell has a persecution complex to go with his hooligan nature. And the real kicker came a month back when he declared that he was not a liability. “I play hard but I don’t play dirty and anyone who says that I am a liability doesn’t know what they’re talking about.” He really made a mess of that sentence. Anybody who doesn’t think Luke O’Donnell is a liability doesn’t know what they are talking about. Luke O’Donnell is a grub who should be rubbed out of rugby league for good. If I never have to witness him play another game again I will be happy.

Luke O’Donnell was not alone as a liability for the Blues on Wednesday night. Matt Cooper and Beau Scott were both picked against better judgement for their defence yet both looked lost at sea as the Queensland attack ran at them. Matt Cooper turned in a historically horrible performance, missing 5 tackles and then surpassing his soft first game bruised-hip substitution by coming off the field with cramp. Joel Monaghan’s defensive reads were so insipid that he made David Williams’ Origin debut looked like a Wally Lewis special. Michael Weyman tried hard to go forward but struggled while Brett White and Tom Learoyd-Lars contributed nothing, the latter sure to be rendered nothing more than a trivia question answer in the mould of Graeme Lyons and Mike McLean by history. Trent Waterhouse and Ben Creagh may as well have been the invisible men such was their contribution, their failures only hidden by the fact there were so many more visceral fuck-ups. Michael Ennis does not have the skills required to be an Origin hooker with his form something like that of Seth Rogan minus the fame, money and humour trying to score at Spice Market.

At no stage were New South Wales in the contest. To the surprise of absolutely nobody outside of the Blues camp, New South Wales lacked the pace and creativity out wide to tangle with the Queensland backline and the punch up front to even get over the advantage line. Unimaginably, a backline full of defence-oriented players struggled to break the Queensland line. Incredibly, a team that contained only two legitimate prop forwards could get no go-forward going. Astonishingly, the halves couldn’t do much off such a limp platform with so many slow and unspectacular players outside them though Trent Barrett did manage to exceed such low expectations by directing all his kicks to the heartless chest of Israel Folau all evening.

The most telling scene all match was a shot of the New South Wales coaching box after Queensland extended their lead to 28-0. Craig Bellamy was not his typically angry and mean-spirited self. He sat there in hypnotic silence as Laurie Daley sat behind him, staring directly ahead. It was two generals looking on over the massacre, wondering how it went so wrong and knowing they could do nothing to stop it. They contemplated a bleak future and they knew they would not be part of it.

The only thing more abhorrent than the New South Wales team on Wednesday night was the name of the smiling future cocaine addict singing the national anthem: Straalen McCallum. His cruel and abusive parents should be shot on site for giving the kid the Southern Cross tattoo of Christian names.

There has never been a more dominating performance in the thirty-year history of Origin football. There have been bigger scores, larger wins, more memorable moments. But be sure and certain that there has never been a beatdown like there was on Wednesday night. It was like watching Hulk Hogan push around the Brooklyn Brawler for three minutes before nailing him to the turf and putting the big leg drop on.

Such a humiliating defeat should surely lead to immediate wide-ranging change. The public is demanding heads-on-sticks and there should be plenty offered up.

Selectors Bob McCarthy and Laurie Daley have both offered their resignations as has Coach Craig Bellamy. NSW Rugby League General Manager Geoff Carr declared there would be a wide-ranging review encompassing the entire team but he refused to accept any of the resignations. His refusal to allow the future to begin in game three by having Bellamy, McCarthy and Daley walk should see Carr go too. Carr’s has shown no leadership. He has once again protected the boys at the expense of the New South Wales Origin team. Carr and his partner in wine Colin Love are more interested in long lunches and corporate boxes than in putting together a successful New South Wales State of Origin team. Carr and Love are the men to blame for having out-of-touch dinosaurs like Bob McCarthy and Bob Fulton selecting the team. Carr and Love are responsible for Bellamy getting an unprecedented third crack at Queensland. Carr and Love are responsible for allowing New South Wales rugby league plummet to the depths it has.

It is also interesting to note that Bob Fulton has not offered his resignation yet. His arrogance most likely will not allow it though there is every chance that he is still in Hawaii sipping cocktails from coconuts with not a thought of rugby league in his head.

Geoff Gerard may not have offered his resignation because nobody is actually sure if he is alive. He has not been seen in public life for nearly two decades, the Howard Hughes of the rugby league world.

A wide ranging review is exactly what is needed but the likelihood it will achieve anything meaningful is low and refusing to move before that review is making a mockery of Origin III and the opportunity it provides.

While the review is great in theory, it will be hamstrung by rugby league bureaucracy and red tape. Mates won’t turn on mates. There will be a few scapegoats but fundamental change is unlikely to occur if the review is conducted internally. Geoff Carr and Colin Love are incapable of making the hard decisions and it is quite apparent they are out-of-touch and only maintain their positions because of their penchant for rugby league politics.

Some executive decisions need to be made and they need to be made now and they certainly need to take affect before game three.

The entire selection panel should be immediately relieved of their duties. Their collective and individual failures have been illuminated in these pages previously so I will not retread that path of bones but needless to say they need to be replaced with people who have some idea of how modern rugby league is played and with an ability to exhibit some vision for the future.

Craig Bellamy, of course, will not be in charge of the team in 2011. There is no point in keeping him on for the final game, particularly when the only reason to do so is to spare him the humiliation of being the first Blues coach axed mid-series. The preparation for the future should begin now. Candidates should have their credentials examined immediately with approaches made as soon as possible. There is a big push for Phil Gould but he is no chance. The man Blues officials should be chasing for Origin III and 2011 is Chris Anderson. Anderson is one of the top three coaches of the modern era, a man who has won premierships at two different clubs and has an outstanding record when charged with coaching Australia. Anderson has clearly had his fill with club football but he is a great motivator of men and an intelligent assessor of talent. Surrounded by competent assistant coaches (ie: not Ricky Stuart flunky Shane Flanagan) and with the security of tenure, he can get the Blues on the path to rolling Queensland in the next two seasons. Anderson certainly won’t chop and change and scapegoat and select teams on body type or name-power or potential. He will pick the best players and he will get the best out of them.

There must also be a fundamental shift in selection philosophy. The first move is to select the best players at their actual positions. Form and upside should be the preeminent factors in selection. The likes of Michael Jennings, Jamie Soward, Luke Douglas and Kade Snowden should feel like they are some hope of being selected. The second move is to shift completely away from this idea of trying to contain Queensland’s backline with defensive outside backs. The best defence is attack and the Blues need to be able to score points to compete with Queensland. The third move is to pick a young halves combination- it should be Soward and Mitchell Pearce- and stick with them for at least three series. Attack-minded players with kicking games and break-out ability should be coddled and nurtured until they become confident and comfortable at that level and with each other.

The Blues were given a brutal beatdown at the hands of Queensland. The most brutal in the history of Origin football. It is now time to start again and build something for the future. This must be done immediately

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