New South Wales - where did it all go wrong?

In the wash up of Queensland's record 5th consecutive series victory, every possible excuse has been made as to why NSW were beaten so convincingly. In most people's opinions, the team selected was not near good enough. As always the predictable and pointless attack of players and coaches involved in the loss has been overwhelming.

These comments by journalists and fans alike are promoting many different reasons for the loss, and what should have been done to avoid it. Let's address the most common:

1. You can't possibly have a bench with no props.

Interesting. All I can say about this is that the last time NSW won a series, they went into the match with the following bench:
Craig Gower
Steve Simpson
Steve Menzies
Andrew Ryan

This was the 2005 decider when Andrew Johns played halfback. No specialist front rowers. Granted, the game plan with Johns was to tailor the attack around mobility, but this still suggests that you don't need 4 front rowers as a staple.

2. The halves.
Bloggers, scribes and forum writers have all voiced their opinion as to who should be (and of course who should HAVE been) the halves pairing for NSW in games 1 and 2. One thing that we have learnt from the past is that changing your halves during a series does not work. In game 1 this year, selectors went with a specialist centre to play five eighth and then replaced him with a regular number 6 who not only was completely overlooked for the opener, but named on-field captain for game 2. Fascinating.

Looking at the halves pairings from the last 5 year paints a horrible picture.

Game 1 - Brett Finch / Braith Anasta (NSW win)
Game 2 - Brett Finch / Braith Anasta (NSW loss)
Game 3 - Craig Gower / Mark Gasnier (NSW loss)
Game 1 - Jarrod Mullen / Braith Anasta (NSW loss)
Game 2 - Brett Kimmorley / Braith Anasta (NSW loss)
Game 3 - Brett Kimmorley / Greg Bird (NSW win)
Game 1 - Peter Wallace / Greg Bird (NSW win)
Game 2 - Peter Wallace / Greg Bird (NSW loss)
Game 3 - Mitchell Pearce / Braith Anasta (NSW loss)
Game 1 - Peter Wallace / Terry Campese (NSW loss)
Game 2 - Peter Wallace / Trent Barrett (NSW loss)
Game 3 - Brett Kimmorley / Trent Barrett (NSW win)
Game 1 - Brett Kimmorley / Trent Barrett (NSW loss)
Game 2 - Mitchell Pearce / Trent Barrett (NSW loss)

Every one of these changes (not including dead rubbers) has resulted in a loss. Anyone heard the saying about people who refuse to learn from history? For all those who pushed for changes and sackings - I hope you have now learnt your lesson. For some reason I doubt you have.

3. The Timana Tahu incident.
A team looking for excuses is destined to find one.

4. Kurt Gidley v Jarryd Hayne
A simple message to all those who complained for years that Gidley was not worthy of his position and Hayne should be fullback... Your silence is deafening. Hayne playing fullback did not change a thing as predicted on this blog some time ago. Changes are not the answer.

and finally...

5. Darren Lockyer.
We have only heard whispers in the Sydney press that QLD were the better side. Of all the above, this is the only theory with any weight as to why NSW are without a trophy once again. The Black Prince makes everyone around him better and has been a dominant yet subtle force for years. Lockyer is the best of our generation, has consistently been winning games at the highest level and has been an inspiration to state and country for a decade.

So - of all the complaints and debates it is only fair to say that this is the best QLD team ever and one of the greatest rugby league sides ever assembled. Even if the above issues were resolved, it would not have mattered and to rub salt into our wounds, a list of Maroon players and their respective ages reads like a prophecy of pain for years to come.

If NSW pick a young side focused on attack, an older side focused on defence, 4 props, different halves, Robbie Farah or Mick Ennis, change the coach, name a new captain or whatever new plan one might use... it would not have mattered.

As a New South Welshman, this conclusion makes me sick... So I guess it's my turn to come up with a plan to slay the giant. Perhaps we learn from history as opposed to ignoring it. Laurie Daley was 22 when given the NSW captaincy when he led the Blues to a series victory in 1992. Perhaps we follow this example and then stick with a team so that they might play without fear of being dumped. It just might get them to finally believe in each other.

Last word comes from my mate Rod. A die hard Sharks fan and combined with his passion for NSW, is a man who is living through darker rugby league times than anyone I know. With about 20 minutes remaining in game 2, he looks at me and says, "I can see myself complaining to my grandkids about this exact point in my life".
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