Wow! I’m still recovering from last Wednesday night’s epic Origin battle. I’ve been fortunate enough to watch every Origin game since it’s inception in 1980 and I can’t ever recall a more brutal, more captivating, more intense contest between two teams completely oblivious to self preservation. Whilst I am loathe to compare any sporting event to war, this was truly a battle for the ages. You only had to look at the vision of both dressing rooms after the game to realise the extent of sacrifice made by both teams. I’ll never forget seeing Daley Cherry-Evans being virtually carried by his trainer and grimacing in complete agony. He showed no signs of injury whilst on the field. Such was the display of courage. DCE wasn’t alone. Cam Smith played most of the game with a sprained ankle THEN backed up on Saturday night vs the Cowboys. Beau Scott was physically ill on the field yet continued. Jarryd Hayne had constant back complaints. Paul Gallen and Billy Slater copped “coward tackles” yet dusted themselves off to finish the game. Anthony Watmough played on with a torn bicep. And so the list goes on. However, nothing surpasses the courage of the Morris twins. Known more for their flair and blistering speed, both Josh and Brett etched their names into origin folklore by displaying courage that extends above and beyond mere mortals. It’s uncanny how many parallels these twins have had throughout their careers. Brett made a try saving (and ultimately, game saving) tackle on Darius Boyd, despite a dislocated shoulder. Not to be outdone, Josh bounced up from being treated for what was later diagnosed as a torn PCL, to make a crucial tackle on Greg Inglis. Neither Morris brother may play another part in this series, however, their contribution in game 1 may yet prove to be pivotal as far as the series is concerned. How some of these players backed up over the weekend is beyond comprehension. I tip my hat to all 34 players for providing the most amazing and courageous spectacle in Origin history. That was backed up by record tv and social media participation, which reinforces the notion that fans will come where ever there is quality, brutality and pure hatred. Bring on Game 2!
Good Hayne Bad Hayne
Cometh the hour, cometh the Hayne Plane. Prior to the game, Jarryd Hayne was identified as the key player for NSW if they were to have any chance of victory in enemy territory. This was his time to stand up and be a leader in the team and, in the process, announce himself as a true Origin great against one of the greatest Origin teams ever assembled. This weight of expectation may have been too much to bare in the past, however, the 2014 version of Jarryd Hayne is a much more complete and mature player compared to previous versions, including 2009. He not only stood up. He controlled it. He owned it. He has surely stamped himself as one of the absolute greats of the Origin arena.
As good as Jarryd Hayne was, his namesake, referee Shane Hayne, was diabolical. I won’t go into every wrong call he made (that would take all day) but I could have sworn the spirit of Barry Gomersall had consumed him in the last five minutes of the game!
Can we PLEASE stop referring every single tackle that goes wrong to Alex McKinnon! I am sick to death of people using poor Alex McKinnon’s name to reinforce their argument on dubious tackles. In discussing the Josh Reynolds tackle on Brent Tate, let’s make a couple of points very clear. The McKinnon tackle was a once in a 40 year unfortunate accident. You cannot compare the Josh Reynolds tackle to the McKinnon tackle, or any other tackle for that matter. Just like our legal system in Australia, every situation is different and every case needs to be considered on its merits. Just like our legal system, the NRL judiciary system has it flaws and its perceived inconsistencies. It is impossible to make an imperfect system, perfect. It’s not black and white and will never be. Having said that, I think the judiciary got it right by downgrading the Reynolds charge. Rugby League is a collision sport and sometimes forces apply in a tackle that can make it go horribly wrong as was the case on Wednesday night. Wayne Bennett, in a radio interview, got it 100% right when he said there are two types of tackles. There’s the lifting tackle and there’s the driving tackle. In Bennett’s opinion, the Reynolds tackle was more of a driving tackle whereby the defender drives through the middle of the body. He agreed with the judiciary decision…and he, more than anyone else, wants to avoid another tragedy. I am completely against the lifting tackle like the one we saw from Tariq Sims last week. That was blatant. Reynolds neither had his hands between the legs nor did he lift Tate. The tackle was exaggerated by the contribution of Beau Scott.
What Brent Tate said after the game was nothing short of petty, melodramatic and insulting from a habitual whinger and cry baby. Some would say it was a pathetic attempt to influence the outcome of the judiciary hearing. If this was a legal matter, Tate would’ve been charged for contempt of court for the way he carried on after the game. Would you expect anything less from the Two Heads?
Origin team changes?
As always, there will be changes for game 2. Some forced through injury, others form related. At this stage, it looks like both Morris brothers will miss the game. I would replace them with Jack Whighton in the centres and Will Hopoate on the wing. Whighton is a brilliant defensive centre who can handle Greg Inglis on our right side defence. I don’t believe Will Hopoate can mark Inglis. His performance v Panthers on Friday night was very below par. Greg Bird will come into the side, most likely for Tony Williams. I believe Andrew Fifita should come in should any other forward get injured. For QLD, I would bring Anthony Milford straight in for the injured Cronk and Dave Taylor for the out of form Chris McQueen.