Stargazing

Star light, star bright, the first star I see tonight, I wish I may, I wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight.

I don?t know about you, but my wish would be to see more stars.

We all know that the last few years have produced the closest competitions on record ? ?anyone can win it? and all that jazz. Seven different Premiers in the past eight years!! Well please forgive me as I stifle a yawn.

Don?t get me wrong, having a close competition is a brilliant concept ? but is it really worth it if the standard of the competition has to drop??

Here?s a little experiment we can all try to determine whether the ?Star Quality? in Rugby League has diminished. It?s all hypothetical of course ? these teams could never play against each other ? but let?s just see how it turns out ?

State of Origin is the undisputed ?best of the best? in each season ? so for starters, let?s take the teams for State of Origin 1 last year:

NSW: Minichiello, King, Gasnier, Cooper, Rooney, Barrett, Kimmorley, Ryles, Buderus, Bailey, Hindmarsh, Fitzgibbon, Kennedy; Wing, Simpson, Watmough, Ryan. QLD: Slater, Williams, Berrigan, Bowman, Sing, Lockyer, Thurston, Civoniceva, Smith, Price, Crocker, Thorn, Flannery; Ross, Webb, McGuire, Bowen.

Plenty of stars in those line-ups, right? Now let?s flash back and take a look at the teams for Game 1 1994 (pre-Super League):

NSW: Brasher, Mackay, Fittler, McGregor, Wishart, Daley, Stuart, Lazarus, Elias, Roberts, Sironen, Harragon, Mackay; Ettingshausen, Johns, Gillespie, Barnhill. QLD: O?Neill, Hancock, Meninga, Renouf, Carne, K Walters, Langer, Gee, S Walters, Bella, Gillmeister, Larson, Moore; Coyne, Smith, Hohn, Fritz.

Now as you go through those teams, ask yourself this question: Who from the class of 2005 could have forced their way into the 1994 teams?

Would you pick Kimmorley over Stuart? Roberts over Bailey? Watmough over Gillespie? Realistically, the only ?maybe? for the Blues would be Minichiello for Brasher ? but even that?s a close call.

And what about the Queenslanders? Could Berrigan beat Meninga for a spot? Civoniceva over Gee? Flannery over Moore? The only one I would change would be to slot Bowen or Slater into the #1 jersey.

Let?s be honest here - if the 1994 teams played their 2005 counterparts, you?d have to put one of the teams on horseback to make it an even challenge.

So where have we gone wrong? It seems as though the 1994 batch could have conquered all-comers, so how have we managed to go backwards in the development of the next generation of superstars?

At the advent of full-time professionalism, there were many warnings bandied around about the future of Rugby League. It would end up as a game full of ?robots? ? players who were all identically programmed to do the same things. Do you reckon we?ve got there yet?? I?m certainly not trying to say that our game is now completely devoid of stars ? there?s still an occasional display of brilliance that brightens up the horizon ? but there?s certainly a lot fewer than there were in days gone by.

Or it is a cyclical thing? Will someone pull out the 2015 Origin teams sometime in the future and rightly proclaim that they would have walloped the 1994 teams by a substantial margin? I?m no psychic, so I can?t answer that one ? but I really can?t see it happening.

And why not? Because no-one seems to realise that a problem even exists.

All we hear is how we?ve got an incredibly close competition ? it?s the best it?s ever been ? our athletes are far superior to any other sports ? any team can turn up on any day and win against any opposition.

Well whoop-de-sh*t. Take a look at those Origin teams again, and try to tell me that the quality of Rugby League hasn?t dropped sharply in the last ten years. The NRL can bleat about the closeness of the competition all it wants ? but at the end of the day, it?s the quality of the competition that will ensure ongoing development and success.

Heck, if I really wanted to watch a bunch of programmed robots running around, I?d be lining up for some sort of NRL computer game.

No more robots please. I?d rather do some star-gazing.

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