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Before I get started with today?s rant, I?d just like to make it clear that Sunday?s feature article - which included my Test teams - was based on the teams which I thought would be named, as opposed to the teams I thought should be named. Hence, the reason I picked Matt Cooper ahead of Justin Hodges.
Usually when a representative coach makes a nepotism-based selection, they generally put it down to discretion alone. But in one of the more blatant cases with the selection of Australia?s team for Friday night?s Test, coach Ricky Stuart has made no secret of his intentions.
Usually we?d be saying; ?we all know the real reason why Justin Hodges wasn?t selected.? However, this time, no assumptions were required. Stuart already made his reasoning quite clear.
The reasons are as follows:
1. It appears as though he dislikes Justin Hodges personally.
2. He doesn?t want to convey that former Test coach, Wayne Bennett, has any selection authority over him whatsoever ? although I guess this point has taken a slight twist with the naming of Karmichael Hunt at fullback for Australia, but we?ll keep that powder dry for now.
The first reason could possibly be justified, given that Hodges was more of a paid spectator than a player during his time at the Roosters. But is it right that Hodges? past indiscretions should cost him an Australian jumper simply because of his history with the current Test coach? That in itself is blight on Stuart?s coaching ability ? Bennett?s expertise enabled him to get the best football out of Hodges, whereas Stuart was unable to realise Hodges? potential.
They say you know when you?re being effective by the strength of your enemy?s tricks. I think Bennett may be one up on Stuart here ? but that?s only round one completed, the games will continue. You could argue that Hodges may have matured as a footballer and his sudden form surge has nothing to do with his mentors, but this issue seems to stem further than that.
The second reason just illustrates the ongoing agendas and egos which exist in our game. For now though, I?d rather not dwell on that. Let?s try to focus on what potentially could be one of the best Test matches of all-time.
For starters, yes, I won?t hide from the fact that Karmichael Hunt?s selection at fullback in place of the injured Anthony Minichiello, and ahead of other more capable fullbacks, was one of the most political of all-time. But I?ve had enough whining about selections, and enough has been said about Hunt?s selection already, so let?s get straight to the game itself.
Looking at the two sides on paper, I?m going with the Kiwis. They were clinical in the Tri-Nations final and with the addition of Benji Marshall and Sonny Bill Williams, the Kiwis look all the more formidable. Australia on the other hand hasn?t changed all that much since November last year. They have strangely decided to stick with loyalty, despite the fact that those policies brought them unstuck last year. Willie Mason?s selection at prop is a litigious one; he would have been more pertinent as an impact player off the bench for mine.
The Kiwis look as though they?ll be able to dominate up front, and with the added spark of Marshall and Williams, I think they will get over the line here.
I know Andrew Johns and Darren Lockyer will have different ideas, but with the pressure of the New Zealand forwards, I can?t see those players having it all their own way on Friday night.
I?ll stick my neck out and say the Kiwis to win by six.
Now to a few more significant issues this week:
- I honestly thought the Warriors were certainties in Sunday's game against the Bulldogs. But what happened? Yep, you guessed it ? they displayed an absolute shocker ? failing to string back to back performances together. They know the difference between right and wrong, they just decide to choose the latter for some reason.
- The surface at Telstra Stadium is an absolute joke. After seeing both NRL and AFL fixtures there in the last couple of weeks, that turf will be lucky to hold out for another month. Time for a complete removal of the current turf and a complete replacement to occur.
- Surprise surprise. A Bulldogs player caught drink driving once again. It?s time for that club to make a stand and sack Maitua, which may be the only way to save face after another embarrassing week for the Canterbury club.
- Congratulations Brett Finch! He played a great game on Saturday night and full credit to him. But do you think the following response was warranted? ?All those critics, especially some of the Roosters fans, so-called fans, they can kiss our arse.?
Come on Finchy, surely your footy can do the talking. That one lacked class.
That?s all for this week. I?ll catch you at the same time next week with a full round-up of the test match and round nine which promises to be a cracker. I?m particularly looking forward to the Roosters/Bulldogs clash at Aussie Stadium on Sunday. Those two clubs generally dislike each other and have built up a bitter rivalry over the last few years. Given that both of those sides notched up wins last round, I have a feeling that match could be something special.
Until next week, enjoy your footy!