Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
4 days ago
THE BLAIR RICH PROJECT
News that Canterbury is going all-out to lure Adam Blair from Melbourne with a rich deal would be music to the ears of all Bulldogs fans - of which I am one.
The Kiwi international is in my opinion is the premier forward in the game - and by a comfortable margin. How on earth he wasn't awarded the Clive Churchill Medal for being best on ground in last year's grand final is mystifying to say the least. For some inexplicable reason those charged with that responsibility went for Blair's teammate Billy Slater, someone who played well but not to a standard that warranted receiving such a prestigious award. Even Fui Fui Moi Moi from the losing team was far more deserving. But the "prize" went to the media darling in Slater.
The beauty about having someone like Blair in your team, is he can do it all, lay on a try, score a try, make a telling tackle. The only other forward that was capable of doing that at any given moment was Bulldog deserter and fellow Kiwi Sonny Bill Williams.
Blair's signing would come "hot on the heels" of securing the services of Storm teammate Aiden Tolman, rated the game's most promising prop forward and someone destined to represent. The injection of these two quality players would greatly bolster a Bulldog pack that has lack punch this year and will be further weakened with the departure of international Ben Hannant who has signed a four-year deal with Brisbane.
If Canterbury is fortunate enough to snare Blair than the club should then turn its attention to signing two quality backs and with that in mind I'd target Beau Henry from the Dragons and Josh Dugan from Canberra Raiders - albeit he is contracted with the Raiders till the end of 2011. But what a player. There is no doubt that Dugan will be a superstar of our game and is someone definitely worth waiting for.
In the immediate term, I see the recruitment of Henry as being beneficial for both player and club. The young halfback would develop enormously under the tutelage of someone like Brett Kimmorley. He could not hope for a better mentor and the Bulldogs just might have the next "Turvey" (Steve Mortimer) in the number seven.
NEW SOUTH WAILS AND WAILS AND WAILS
The first thing that the New South Wales Blues have to do if they are to stay in the hunt for this year's Origin series is stop moaning and groaning about what unfolded in Game I.
Build a bridge and build it in record time or else you may as well start planning for 2011. The team tried its guts out on Wednesday night and whilst they may not have deserved to win, with a bit of adventure and a slice of luck could have.
In analysing their match, the biggest problem I could see apart from the fact they failed to pick their best side, is Queensland had a game plan whereas New South Wales had a "lame" plan. The Blues forwards ran one-out, there were no changes in lines of attack and a sweeping backline movement, well that appeared totally out of the question.
All the so-called experts hail Craig Bellamy as some kind of messiah when it comes to coaching, I have seen no evidence of that at Origin level. Year in, year out the Blues have implemented tactics that wouldn't fool a bunch of pre-schoolers. And don't start me on his handling of the interchange, that is an area of the game where Bellamy has been atrocious. By far and away the worst example of that was leaving Brett Stewart - the game's most lethal attacking weapon at the time - languishing on the bench for 60-odd minutes in Game III of 2008 - the decider. Queensland duly took the match by six points. That's criminal. If memory serves me correct, Stewart was picked at fullback but benched for interchange player Kurt Gidley - OMG.
BLUE RINSE NEEDED HAIR AND NOW
It would be a radical step, but let's face it New South Wales is facing a crises and desperate times calls for desperate measures. So with that in mind, if I were in charge I would order the immediate removal of the coach and the selectors and appoint a non-NRL coach to replace Craig Bellamy.
For years and years I have wondered why on earth the Blues do not adopt the Queensland model when it comes to the coaching set-up. It works a treat for the Maroons and undoubtedly the Blues would derive the same benefits. Names that immediately spring to mind as the counterpart to Mal Meninga include Brad Fittler, Brett Kenny, Matthew Johns, Ray Price etc. I would plump for Kenny given that he is a true Origin great, is well-liked and has had coaching experience and good success in that role.
There are numerous candidates to fill the role as Kenny's assistant and provide the tactical strategies that Neil Henry did for the Maroons for so many years and that would be Michael Hagan's brief this year as his replacement. I see the Blues being best served with either Des Hasler or John Cartwright filling what is a vital position.
As for the panel of selectors - some of the names I threw up as potential coaches can take up that role. So let's run with Price, Fittler and Johns.
As for the team, there needs to be an emphasis on out-scoring Queensland. You are never going to beat such a brilliant side as the Mroons by trying to limit their scoring - won't happen. Look what happened on a rain-sodden ANZ Stadium, Queensland posted 28 points and it could so quite easily haven been 40-odd. A winning scoreline for the Blues will be something like 34-30.
The New South Wales team that would have the best chance of ending the "nightmare" would resemble the following:- 1) Hayne 2) Uate 3) Lyon 4) Jennings 5) Morris 6) Campese 7) Kimmorley (c) 8) Snowden 9) Farah 10) Weyman 11) Learoyd-Lahrs 12) Watmough 13) Gallen 14) Carney 15) Scott 16) Mannah 17) Grant.
The latter two players - Tim Mannah and Tim Grant - Queensland selectors would have had no hesitation whatsoever in giving these two tyros their chance. They both play alongside the two best props in the world at their respective clubs in Fui Fui Moi Moi and Petero Civoniceva and lose nothing in comparison.
But all this is merely taking up space on a website if there is no one within the Blues hierarchy with the necessary "kahoonas" to make what would be some of the toughest calls not only in rugby league but in sport in general.