Off the Wall

For the first time in a long time the State of Origin encounter in Brisbane next week faces a serious contest for media coverage.

Not from the Blues, not from the Queensland Reds and certainly not from the Brisbane Lions!

No, the challenge to media coverage next week will come from an equine lady - Black Caviar.

On Wednesday week the Maroons and the Blues meet at Suncorp Stadium. It is already a sell out so the PR in the next ten days will be about television ratings and portraying the game in a positive light.

On Saturday week, Black Caviar will try and extend her winning streak to 14, in the Doomben Ten Thousand. Last Saturday she made it 13 before the biggest crowd to attend a race meeting at Doomben in something like 60 years.

We all love a champion - and as a keen follower of not just horse racing, but also the history of horse racing, I believe one or two more wins by Black Caviar will give her the right to lay claim to being up there with Phar Lap, the greatest of them all.

Black Caviar is not a long term threat to the coverage of rugby league in South East Queensland. But the extraordinary media coverage she has received should be pointing the way for the NRL and the ARL, and the QRL and NSWRL.

Rugby league gets more than its share of negative coverage. We are not very good at countering it.
I would counter it by actively promoting in the run up to the first State of Origin two players, one from each team.

This is not the game to promote Darren Lockyer's final Origin series. Injury alone could stop Lockyer playing his final Origin game at Suncorp Stadium in the third game.

I would be promoting the best player in the game today - to counter the best race horse in the world today.

Johnathan Thurston can surely lay claim to being the best player in the game. Just look over his performance in the Cowboys v Eels game on Saturday night.

Take him out of the Cowboys, the Eels would almost certainly have run in an easy win. And it has been pretty much the same since the Cowboys started their winning streak.

You also get the impression he has got his act together completely. Less confrontation with referees, and looking after the little things, such as thanking the tee boys and the ball boys.

And when it comes to the Blues I would be promoting the captain Paul Gallen - partly for his on field guts and courage, but also for his outstanding charity and community service work.

Much of what he does for good causes flies below the radar, but my sources tell me it is truly exceptional...doing good work on an almost daily basis.

He is an exceptional player, as he proved once against in the Sharks stirring win against the hapless Roosters.

But, off the field, he can genuinely lay claim to be a role model.

The NRL/ARL should be looking at ways to highlight the achievements of both Thurston and Gallen
When you are up against the best racehorse in our time, and perhaps all time, you need to focus on our champions.

Johnathan Thurston and Paul Gallen, for different reasons, will hold the standing of the greatest game of all high indeed.