It’s all about timing…
Just a like a good Melbourne Cup bound horse, the Queensland team have that impeccable sense of timing about them. Whether it’s by design or fate, Mal Meninga has a team worthy of inclusion in a Bart Cummings stable prior to a big group 1 event. His players look like they’ve been trained to the absolute minute compared to the Blues team who resemble a crumbling mess.
It’s no surprise that Melbourne’s “big three” sharpened their tools against the hapless Rabbitohs last Friday night. Slater, Cronk and Smith all had blinders. On the same night, Justin Hodges produced some miracle plays against the Titans, most notably the under-the-legs-no-look flick pass to Dale Copley who simply dived over the line to score. That was pure rugby league. Total improvisation, skill and guile. http://www.foxsports.com.au/video?v=justin-hodges-miracle-assist_1226920970458&vc=222. On Saturday night, The Chief Conductor himself, Jonathon Thurston, celebrated his 200th NRL game with a masterclass performance which comes off the back of a 10 out of 10 performance from Matt Scott the previous week. Add Greg Inglis’ consistent brilliance (and we all know what he can do at Suncorp Stadium) and the Lucky Nine is almost an unbackable favourite.
In contrast, nothing seems to be going right for the NSW team. Andrew Fifita has already been ruled out through injury and, now, Boyd Cordner may suffer the same fate. Robbie Farah and Luke Lewis have only just returned from injury and may be underdone. Greg Bird is currently serving a suspension and is out of origin 1. James Maloney and Josh Dugan are hopelessly out of form whilst Mitchell Pearce has off-field dramas which has jeopardised his selection in the team. Surely, nothing else can go wrong? Can it? Wrong! The public feud between 2GB radio powerbroker Ray Hadley and NSW assistant coach Matt Parish has threatened to derail whatever semblance of harmony may remain in the Blues unit. It got to the stage where Chief Selector, Bob Fulton, threatened to resign when Laurie Daley spoke out against good mate Ray Hadley.
Whereas it’s smooth sailing for the Queeenslanders, the NSW situation is more like a soap opera. It begs the question – what would Queensland do if the situation was reversed? If they were the ones self imploding? I can guarantee you they would use this adversity to fuel their motivation. Typically, they would go into lock down and start implementing a siege mentality to drive them to an “against-the-odds” victory. Can NSW do the same? This will test Laurie Daley’s ability to use adversity as a motivator.
Still on origin. What does coach Laurie Daley do about Mitchell Pearce? It’s a damned if you do-damned if you don’t scenario. If Daley selects Pearce then he would be seen as taking a weak stance against drunken and anti-social behaviour. If he doesn’t select Pearce, then there’s every chance NSW will lose game one and Daley will be blamed for not picking the best team available. During the Queensland eight year dominance, NSW have used no fewer than 15 halves combinations to Queensland’s 4. A telling factor and a statistic that won’t go unnoticed by Daley. Personally, I think this is an opportunity for Daley to have a “Joe Hockey” moment and make a decision that may yield short term pain for long term gain. If Daley doesn’t make a stance against drunken and irresponsible behaviour and, in the process, establish a positive culture for future generations, then we will continue to see players getting away with foolish behaviour. I would not select Pearce. There’s nothing to say the result would be any different had he played. Pearce needs to go back and earn his selection.
I love seeing emotional outbursts in coaches. The highlight of last year was Geoff Toovey’s “ridiculous” rant. I like seeing Craig Bellamy and Des Hasler lose it in the coaches box. To me this is pure theatre. It’s raw emotion. As a fan, you want your coach to be emotionally attached to the team’s performance. Ask Dragons fans and most tell you they don’t see enough of that in Steve Price, for instance. I know, every coach is different. And everyone deals with emotions differently. I couldn’t believe the calls to curb coaches animated outbursts after Craig Bellamy lost his cool in a recent game against the Sea Eagles. Haven’t we over sanitised the game enough? Ricky Stuart is a journo’s favourite when it comes to speaking off the cuff. I thought his post match interview where he unleashed on the referees after the Raiders went down to Penrith 20-26 was thoroughly entertaining. I can sympathise with his emotions however, I think he got it wrong when blaming the referee for the Shaun Fensom no try. Yes, James Segeyaro did press his elbow into David Shillington’s face but the prop did not have to react the way he did under those circumstances. He went too far and, as a consequence, cost his team a try and, ultimately, the game. It’s great that Ricky defended his player in public but, in private, he should have a word to his senior players’ ear about not over-reacting. Just about every tackle has either a palm or an elbow to the face nowadays. I did agree with Stuart about the two penalties conceded for contesting the bomb. One of those penalties cost the Raiders a try. I undertstand the need to protect the leaping defender BUT both cases clearly showed Jarrod Crocker contesting the ball. Poor and costly refereeing decisions.
Yep. Benji’s back. Complete with zero try assists (unless you count the try he assisted Corey Norman to score), zero line break assists, zero tries, 5 errors and the trademark “no look cut out pass” to the grandstand. A Bit harsh? Perhaps. It was his first game with a new club and, with very limited training, it was expected that his timing would be out. He will get better but, will that be enough to turn the Dragons fortunes around? Nahhh…
Is Todd Greenberg the NRL version of Sepp Blatter? Accused of plenty of wrongdoing during his short tenure as NRL Head Of Football, including knowing about the late Ryan Tandy’s betting problems and not doing anything about it, Greenberg has, so far, dodged every accusation thrown at him. Is he starting to earn the Mr Untouchable reputation? Who knows. Until an accusation is proven, he is a complete clean skin as far as I’m concerned and doing a brilliant job.
The Melbourne Bulldogs?
Enough already with the alternate jerseys! I don’t mind seeing some variations in team jerseys. It’s good for merchandise sales and it creates interest for the fans. I love the Women in League and any other charitable causes BUT…. what’s with the Bulldogs jersey vs the Warriors??? Honestly, I was looking out for Billy Slater such was the resemblance to the Melbourne Storm colours. Can we just keep to club colours or, at least, close to it?