A week out from the #NRL season kickoff, we look at the fantastic potential possessed across the Tas...
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Referee Shane Hayne applied the "limbo theory" (how low can you go?) to his officiating of Game II, and whilst he created a record that will never be beaten, he also ensured he would be stuck on one origin game for sometime time to come, maybe forever. By ignoring bleedin' obvious fouls until minute fifty, he blew his chances when blowing his whistle was the wiser option if he wanted to secure his appointment for Game III. But no, Shaney boy thought he'd do a 'Billy Harrigan' and blow a low number of penalties. Memo Mr Hayne, a low penalty count doesn't guarantee you an exciting match, as was evident on Wednesday night. Aiming for as close to zero as possible with the penalty count also delivered a match which was close to zero on the entertainment scale for both spectators and viewers.
When Nathan Hindmarsh "snotted" Darren Lockyer earlier in the piece and no action was taken, that sounded the death knell as far as respect the players would have for the referee. And in not stamping his authority, Hayne allowed the players to flout the rules and consequently it produced a mediocre contest, which held your interest only because of the closeness of the scores. As one commentator so beautifully put it, "we started on the edge of our seat, but before long were slumped back in our lounges awaiting the outcome". Man when it comes to origin, you're supposed to fall off the edge of your seat, and spend the entire eighty minutes, longer if it goes to golden point, bouncing around the room yelling and screaming at the TV monitor! That's normal behaviour for origin, at least in my household.
It is rather ironic that NSW selector, Bob Fulton, moaned about the performance of Game I referee, Paul Simpkins, who was duly dumped, and his 2GB Continuous Call colleague Steve Roach gave a similar appraisal of Hayne. Interesting to see if "Blockie" can emulate the CC vice-captain and we get a different ref for the final game of the series. I reckon that's a given.
Just on the game, I'm still can't split Jamie Lyon or Braith Anasta. I mean, who was the more dreadful of the two? Perhaps Jamie in a whisker, considering Braith fractured his finger. Don't know how he got the injury, but he sure as hell didn't get it extracting it from his "you know what" such was his inept performance. People argue over whether Anasta is a five-eighth or a lock. And you know what? He's equally proficient in both positions, but not at representative level. ABC commentator and former great coach, Warren Ryan, summed Anasta up best when he said; "what the hell good is he doing out there?" Or words to that effect. And as for Lyon, he appears overweight and sluggish. Doesn't say much about the English Super League, in which he starred. HELLLLLLLLLLO selectors are you listening? It's time to Wok and roll a few heads. No not a few, a whole bunch!
And the first set of heads they should lop are those of their own. They were charged with the responsibility of picking the best side, yet failed miserably. Where was Farah? Where was Monaghan? Where was Laffranchi, Watmough, Maitua, Payten? The scores in the first two games, flattered New South Wales. In Game I, Steve Price was denied a fair try and Nathan Hindmarsh was incorrectly awarded a try. In Game II, virtually all the 50-50 decisions went the way of the Blues. Even the last frantic seconds, should never have been so frantic given it appeared New South Wales got possession by way of an illegal stripping of the ball. There was at least two, perhaps even three in the tackle. A replay of the incident - which the entire series could have rested on - was conveniently overlooked. I still want to see the footage and will happily apologise if I'm wrong. Queensland will be chasing a clean sweep, but New South Wales should beat them to the punch and sweep clean their team line-up. Pointless punting the coach, which I called for after Game I, but the selectors have no option but to make wholesale changes with a view to next year's series. Okay, so we know despite the fact nobody who's eligible for the Blues, has played better at halfback than Michael Monaghan, he hasn't a snowflake's chance in hell of getting a run, so we'll bade farewell to Monnors.
Now even though I am a passionate Queensland supporter, through the kindness of my heart and with a no hidden agendas, I want to help the New South Wales selectors get it right. They've haven't heeded my advice thus far and it's hurt their team. But hindsight is a wonderful thing and they do have this one last chance to implement my suggestions and redeem themselves.
At fullback, it has to be Brett Stewart. He was great in his debut and Minichiello is unavailable through injury. On the wings, you have to stick with Jarryd Hayne and bring in either Eric Grothe jnr, or one of the Manly pair, Chris Hicks or Michael Robertson. I'd go for Hicks but the fact he's all but signed to play in England in 2008, will work against him, and probably rightly so.
In the centres, I'd retain Matt Cooper and pair him up with Dean Collis from the Tigers. He's in great form and can kick goals. The only other option maybe to shunt Matt King in from the wing. In the halves you need to go with combinations. So that means either Brett Kimmorley and Greg Bird or Peter Wallace and Craig Gower. I'd go with the latter. Paul Gallen has to be the lock, and in the second row they should pick the Angry Ants, Laffranchi and Watmough. One has a great offload, the other has great leg speed. Rookie Feleti Mateo, if he makes himself available for selection, would be an inspired choice.
Willie Mason has to be one prop. It is his best position despite what others say. And I'd run with Todd Payten as his partner. Now I know it's a forward pack which is top-heavy with ball players, but hey maybe second phase might be a good thing! It would be a shock tactic that just might work.
And because the Blues should place a strong emphasis on using the ball amongst the forwards, the competition's best player and one of the most skilful hookers we've seen in many a long year, Robbie Farah, has to wear the number nine. I know Danny Buderus is the captain and is a super player, but Farah's rich vein of form cannot be denied.
He is a deadset clone of Cameron Smith, who destroyed the Blues with his judicious kicking and running game. And isn't the Melbourne hooker a great defender even though he looks like an apprentice accountant.
On the bench, I'd pick from either Reni Maitua or Craig Wing as the utility. The remainder of the interchange should come from Mateo, Andrew Ryan, Brent Kite, Ryan Hoffman, Glenn Stewart and Jason Ryles. I can't cop Ben Creagh, who tenacious as he is, seems loathed to pass the ball, so would be easy meat for the Maroons defence. Another player who has been mentioned in despatches but doesn't deserve selection is Mark O'Meley. Shrek is just not playing anywhere near good enough, which must be worrying for Bulldogs fans, and downright harrowing for his future followers at the their Roosters. There'd be more than a dozen props in front of Shrek, so badly has his form slipped.
Next year, New South Wales should adopt the same model as Queensland and pick someone not coaching in the NRL, as the Blues coach. Someone like Brett Kenny, Peter Sterling, Warren Ryan, doesn