25 rounds, 192 games, #Origin on a Sunday, and a September Grand Final.
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New South Wales prevented a clean sweep of origin, and good luck to them, but a crucial decision or to put it more accurately, non-decision in Game II could have led to a horrible miscarriage of justice.
Till this day, there has been no replay of how the Blues regained possession in the dying seconds at Telstra Stadium. What followed was a speculator bomb which had it not been defused by Greg Inglis could have easily led to a match-winning try which would have tied the series. Watching the play unfold - at breakneck pace mind you - it appeared the Queensland player was stripped of the ball in a two-man possibly even three-man tackle. That's illegal isn't it? For some obscure reason I've been the only commentator who's not only raised this incident but has maintained the rage to have the footage shown so that doubt either way can be erased.
But this was just one of the many fifty-fifty decisions which went the way of the Blues. The ones that spring to mind were the Steve Price non-try and the Nathan Hindmarsh try in Game I, the Danny Buderus interference on Darren Lockyer along with the alleged strip in Game II, whilst in Game III you could argue Steve Bell was lifted back into the in-goal after being tackled and Paul Gallen's pass which led to the try to Hazem El Masri, came in contact with a tackler before Hazem planted the ball, which would have deemed it a knock-on.
Just on El Masri, what a superb debut performance by the Bulldogs winger. Not only did he slot over three glorious goals from wide out, he shut down several dangerous attacking raids with decisive defence. He showed up all those numb-skull selectors who inexplicably ignored his claims and plumped for a bigger, taller alternative. Memo: selectors...A B I L I T Y should be the key ingredient when choosing a player.
The game in which a Matty Bowen intercept won it for Queensland in golden point extra-time would never have eventuated had Hazem been in the Blues team. That's just one example! New South Wales deserved every loss they got for overlooking a player who has matched it with the best for over a decade.
And he only made it this time by default. His inclusion made the Blues as much stronger line-up. Out went an ineffective player in Jamie Lyon, and in came the greatest goalkicker of all time and a winger with plenty of smarts as shown on Wednesday night.
I would go as far to say that had Lyon played Queensland, despite the horrendous injury toll, would have won the game and duly swept the series. And because that would have been the most likely outcome, the selectors should be frog-marched out the door and replaced en masse. They cannot be allowed to get away with the fact that they overlooked not only El Masri, but Michael Monaghan, Anthony Laffranchi, Todd Payten, Ryan Hoffman and Greg Bird for Game I and Paul Gallen for Games I and II. And it took Game III and probably the reading of my articles for the selectors to finally realise that Willie Mason should only ever wear the number eight or number ten. That doesn't mean that because he's picked at prop that you use him as a crash-test dummy! Big Willie is best hitting it up one or two passes from the ruck with support trailing. He has been "killing it" for the Bulldogs in that exact role.
I couldn't believe the demeanour of some of the Blues supporters towards Game III. Two panelists on 2SM's Talkin' Sport program prior the match exemplified the apathy that exists within large sections of New South Wales. Gavin Robertson, who was deliriously excited about the game is exempt of such criticism but not so his colleagues Dale "Tex" Walker and Brett "Pappy" Papworth, who questioned the validity of playing a dead rubber. Such a dismissive attitude is totally foreign to Maroons supporters who would see being two-nil down going into the third game as an opportunity to end the series on a high.
That said, I must congratulate the program. Talkin' Sport, headed up by Graeme Hughes, is easily rugby league's best media vehicle providing a wonderful forum for listeners to express their views. Any wonder their listener-ship has increased several-fold this year.
Back to my origin post-mortem. In preparation for the 2008 series, New South Wales could do a lot worse than invite ABC commentator David Morrow and Manly official Peter Peters for their points of view on the make-up of the Blues line-up.
If it were me and I cared for the Blues, which I don't, I'd sit these two down, record in detail their thoughts on selection and then proceed to do the exact opposite! I'll explain why this can be nothing but beneficial for New South Wales.
I nearly ran off the road when I heard....wait for it, Mr Morrow declare that Mark O'Meley was the number two prop in the game behind Steve Price! Look I don't know whether the veteran commentator had pulled a double shift and fatigue had clouded his judgement, but such a statement is just plain ridiculous.
At last count I came up with seven or eight props who would rank ahead of Shrek. O'Meley, whose form this year has been mediocre at best, would struggle to be number two prop at his club. I mean come on David, how could you with your hand on your heart rate O'Meley ahead of Asotasi, Civoniceva, Mason, Kite, Bailey, Payten, Cayless or White. You could even mount a strong case for Cross, Logan, Ryles, Woolnough, Cusack and King. How many is that? We're into the double figures.
Mark O'Meley, at the peak of his powers, is a powerful player who would be a worthy addition to any roster, but only at the right price. Roosters fans must be spewing that the club elected not to go hard for Asotasi, then low-and-behold forks out the similar dosh for a much inferior player twelve months later. Work that out!
Sorry Rooster fans but comparing O'Meley to Asotasi, is like comparing Anasta to Thurston. The difference is that stark! Former Bulldog star Peter Tunks got it right when he said O'Meley would be lucky to make City Seconds based on his form in 2007.
The only connection I can come up with in regards to such an outrageous claim by Mr Morrow is it would be best described as a "number two" statement.
As for Peter Peters, affectionately known to us all as "Zorba", he earns his place at the discussion table following his staunch support of Matt Orford and Jamie Lyon in preference over Michael Monaghan and Travis Burns.
Despite the fact Monaghan is the best number seven eligible for New South Wales and Burns, who if he avoids injury will play many games for Queensland, Zorbie strongly endorses his club's flicking of the pair. That's ludicrous and Manly fans are filthy over it. And why wouldn't you be?
Manly were going "gangbusters" with Monaghan at half, whilst Burns showed his undeniable talent against the Dragons, when in his first game back after a month out with pneumonia, he goes within an ace of scoring three tries. Imagine how much he is going to blossom outside Thurston at the Cowboys? Move aside Lockyer and let the Texas tyro take your place. They talk about players made for origin, that's Burns to a tee.
Burns and Monaghan are that much superior to Orford and Lyon that it's not funny. It remains to be seen if Manly stubbornly stick with the latter pair or take my advice of a month ago and play Monaghan and Burns in the halves and have Orford coming off the bench. As for Lyon, he needs a stint in Premier League to re-discover his form.
Whilst it's a stuff up of monumental proportions to to lose Monaghan and Burns, that shouldn't mean the Sea Eagles should toss away their chances in 2007. It doesn't bother me in the slightest if they do, but Manly fans might become a little bit peeved over it.
Finally, given Jamie Lyon is probably not going to be needed in first grade for a while, the NRL could utilise his services to slow the player drain to England.
I can picture it now, an advertising blitz using footage of the Manly recruit together with the slogan "from a Lyon to a pussycat, watch your career sink in the UK Stupor League."
Gallop to it Dave, It'd be a winner for sure!