Off the Wall

It is not an easy task for the newspapers to fill up to half a dozen pages daily in the run up to State of Origin matches.

That is why the stories often descend to the sublime and the ridiculous...but it is all in good fun, and does the game no harm - especially when the AFL continues to be haunted by the scandal involving its most influential player manager and a young lady about whom the less said the better!

The latest pre-origin stunt does take the cake for those of us who follow horse racing.

The media yesterday gave us a "penetrometer reading" for ANZ Stadium surface. And it came up as a "good 3". And the reading was taken by Sydney's leading race track manager, Lindsay Murphy.

The reading was taken on Monday - which when it relates to tonight's game would ordinarily make it about as useful as an ash tray on a motorbike!

The penetrometer is a "must" for seasoned punters, trainers and jockeys. It measures the "state" of the track...but its accuracy is subject to regular dispute in racing circles.

Given the amount of rain Sydney has had, all the penetrometer reading proves is that the ANZ stadium is a genuine all weather "track" that would rival the best race track in the world.

A "good 3" rating should mean (in racing parlance) that it won't affect the chances of any "runners" (players) tonight. The ratings go from 1 (good verging on fast) to 10 (as heavy as it can get without cancelling the meeting).

There is racing at Canterbury today - and Canterbury is in the same rainfall area as ANZ Stadium. And the Canterbury track has been rated a "heavy 10".

In summary, the penetrometer story basically leaves us little the wiser!

It simply confirms that the ANZ surface is an all weather one, and up there with Suncorp in Brisbane and AAMI Stadium in Melbourne.

There is debate about who is advantaged by a seriously rain affected track tonight. A SMH online poll believes the Maroons are. Ricky Stuart is confident the Blues will be.

The other aspect of tonight's game that interests me is the referee appointments. And some spice had been added by Ricky Stuart's claim that key Maroons players 'intimidate" the referees!

For Origin One, the game's pre-eminent referee Tony Archer was in control with Jarred Maxwell. Well for Origin Two, both have been dumped and replaced by Shane Hayne and Ben Cummins.

I would have thought the policy ought to be that the best referees control Origin matches. Is Ben Cummins a "best" referee? Not in my book!

But it all adds to the intrigue that makes Origin the continuing success story that it is!

If it takes a useless diversion or two to add to the lead-up to another Origin encounter we can hardly complain!