‘Blues Fans Must Get Behind Pearce’ Published on theroar.com.au 11/4/13
The Queensland Maroons have dominated State of Origin for what seems an eternity. Most of the reason for that is having some of the greatest rugby league players we will ever see.
Talent does eventually win out. Queensland have had the unfair advantage of having the best players over the past decade.
That is just how it is and how history will remember this era.
The New South Wales Blues, however, have not done themselves any favours throughout this period.
Whether it be the continuous sacking of players or coaches, the Blues haven’t stood a chance.
But is it purely the selectors fault?
Are the players to blame for not taking their chances when given to them?
The answer as always lies in the fabric of what makes a Queenslander a Queenslander. We as New South Welshmen have never copped the tip when it comes to supporting our Origin side.
When Papua New Guinean-born Adrian Lam was appointed captain of their beloved state, did they not still bleed maroon?
Did they kick up a stink and call for heads to roll when Daniel Wagon was selected as five-eighth in the dark days of the early 2000s?
It’s blasphemy north of the border to ever question the Maroons. At the end of the day they get behind their team and breathe every moment of every game.
They never question the decisions of the hierarchy. Whoever wears that jersey has the respect and support of the entire state.
Do you really believe the Maroons don’t feel their fans when they run onto the field?
The Blues haven’t let the fans down over the past seven years. Sure, there have been poor performances and the media and supporters have every right to feel disappointed about what has happened recently.
But we as a state have still let down our players.
The uproar since Laurie Daley announced that Mitchell Pearce would be the Blues halfback again in 2013 has been laughable to Mal Meninga and his legion of followers.
You can hear them laughing from here.
Daley wrote a column for The Daily Telegraph before the season even started stating Pearce was his preference in the number seven jersey.
“As for Mitchell, I think he is ready to take the next step in his career and become a real leader,” Daley wrote.
“Which is also part of the job description if you want to be the playmaker of an Origin team. You don’t want to always try to be the star, but you do have to want to take control of any situation.”
Where is the problem in giving Pearce the confidence he needs to finally get the Blues over the line?
“Last year, for whatever reason, Mitchell just didn’t seem to be the same player I had seen over previous seasons and I think his form reflected that” Daley added.
Remember that against all odds Pearce helped get New South Wales to within one point of conquering the Maroons in 2012. Why aren’t we supporting whomever Daley picks?
Despite Adam Reynolds and his excellent form for the South Sydney Rabbitohs, Pearce is our best option. He has already played nine Origin games and he is still only 24. This isn’t a reason to drop him, it’s a reason to play him.
But you have to wonder in those nine matches how much love Pearce has felt from his own state.
Whomever they pick for game one at ANZ Stadium doesn’t really matter.
It is the support the players get that makes all the difference.
‘Campese Returns In The Most Important Game of his Life’ Published on theroar.com.au 12/4/13
Terry Campese has been named on an extended bench to face the New Zealand Warriors in Round 6, with the unluckiest man in rugby league looking to resurrect a career littered with injuries.
Campese has not worn the lime green of the Canberra Raiders for 12 long months and has only played eight matches over the past three seasons.
If the former State of Origin playmaker does return Saturday night against the Warriors it will end yet another torturous spell on the sidelines for the Canberra skipper.
Everyone wants Campese to succeed.
To see such a naturally gifted talent sidelined for so long is disappointing and no one wants to get stuck back into the rigours of the National Rugby League more than Campese himself.
“I can’t go out there thinking about them [his operations],” Campese told The Daily Telegraph.
“That is when you put yourself in a dangerous position. I have to get out there and not think about the knee. Just get out there and play football.
“I have been ticking all the boxes and finally got the tick of approval from our medical staff. Everyone is happy.
“It’s been 12 months since the operation, so it’s time to play. I knew what to expect this time around, so it was easier. But it doesn’t get easier watching from the sidelines.”
But someone needs to play devil’s advocate for a moment.
It is the understatement of the century but this is easily the most important month of Campese’s footballing career.
If everything goes to plan, the Raiders get their star five-eighth back and set their sights on September.
On the other hand, if Campese breaks down again, then he must seriously consider retirement. It’s sad to say but it’s the brutal truth.
After two knee reconstructions and surgery on his groin, Campese is surely touch and go when it comes to how good he could possibly be upon his return.
“It feels forever [since I played],” he continued.
“It’s like I am making my debut. All the hard work is finally paying off. I can’t wait to get back out there.
“I had a few emotions running through my body when I got approval from the medical staff that I was right to play.
“It’s exciting again. It [rehab] is always worth it knowing you are going to put the jumper back on. I want that opportunity again to run out alongside the boys.”
In a perfect world Campese returns and finds the form that made him a State of Origin five-eighth and one of the classiest players in the NRL.
This a professional era full of professional athletes and we expect them to return from injury and simply slip back into the players they once were. But don’t question how nervous Campese will be as he throws on his Canberra jersey on Saturday night.
After three years of hell Campese returns.
The entire competition will be behind Campese and the Raiders on Saturday.
Unless you’re a Warriors fan off course.
‘Dragons Are Back – For Now’ Published on theroar.com.au 15/4/13
Legendary Australian rock band The Divinyls put it perfectly: ”there’s a fine line between pleasure and pain”.
For St George Illawarra Dragons coach Steve Price, truer words could never be spoken.
This Dragons team has been branded everything from morbid to abysmal and everything in between.
Some of the criticism has been warranted and some not so much. But the bottom line is the Dragons were not winning games of rugby league.
Wins are everything in the National Rugby League and whether it’s right or wrong, the buck stops with the coach.
The rollercoaster ride Price has already been on in 2013 would even have the cast of Jackass shaking their heads.
So if we are going to kick Price when the chips are down you have to give him some of the credit for turning St George Illawarra around.
The Dragons themselves would be the first to tell you they were in a dark place. Three straight losses to start the season had supporters baying for blood.
From Kogarah to Figtree you could hear the fans.
‘Jamie Soward isn’t tough enough’, ‘Nathan Fein is too old’ and ‘just who is this Gerard Beale character?’
But all of a sudden, Price and his men have turned it all around. They and they alone have dragged themselves out of this hole they had dug for themselves. And have no doubt, it was one mighty hole.
You have to admire Price for sticking by his players. It doesn’t always finish the way a coach wants it to either. Sometimes the players realise the spot their coach is in and wilt knowing he’s going to take the fall.
So in that regard you have to admire the players themselves for repaying the faith too.
The Dragons made it three wins in a row on Sunday afternoon at the Sydney Cricket Ground with a thrilling 13-12 win over the Wests Tigers. Like so many times before Soward’s boot was the difference.
Tries to Daniel Vidot, Brett Morris and Matt Cooper gave the Dragons a 12-0 lead before a late surge from the Tigers.
The old Dragons would have found a way to lose but after two victories St George Illawarra held their ground and are now 3-3 after six round.
“I always felt we were controlling the game but it was an ugly win,” Price said after the game.
“We have an 11 day turn around now to get ready for ANZAC Day and that will be one hell of a game.”
Just like that we have yet another ANZAC blockbuster between two old rivals.
The Dragons will start underdogs against Sonny Bill Williams and the Sydney Roosters.
We will know after that eighty minutes of football if St George Illawarra really have put those dark old days behind them.
‘Melbourne Storm Will Not Make The Grand Final’ Published on theroar.com.au 16/4/13
Knowing the inevitable backlash that comes with writing a piece such as this one, the necessary precautions have been taken as Melbourne Storm fans prepare to wage war on this dreamer from poor old Sydney.
It might be wishful thinking and a little hard to understand after seeing the first six rounds of the Telstra premiership, but Craig Bellamy’s Storm will not make the 2013 grand final.
Bunkered down in an undisclosed location somewhere in Sydney equipped with hardhat, shoulder pads better suited to Mark McGaw and my trusty dachshund cross Chihuahua ‘Pogo’ keeping lookout, I’ll surge on.
You can already hear the Storm fans marching up the Hume Highway chanting and beating their chests.
How can anyone doubt Melbourne this early in the season?
Here comes the argument.
It is easy for Sydneysiders to count out the Storm, especially with the rise of foundation clubs South Sydney Rabbitohs and the Sydney Roosters. They are the toast of this town and both are on an irresistible upward spiral.
The Roosters have spent millions of dollars for instant results and we are definitely seeing the talent of young coach Trent Robinson who has instilled confidence in the tricolours in a very short amount of time.
It isn’t all Sonny Bill Williams either. Every single one of them is doing their job.
Whether it be Mitchell Pearce and James Maloney in the halves, the hard yakka of their engine room or the slick finishing of their backline.
But its their defensive efforts so far in 2013 that would have other sides looking over their shoulders. These guys are the real deal whether you like it or not.
The Roosters needed an emphatic victory over the Canterbury Bulldogs to prove to many they were a genuine force. Their next challenge is the St George Illawarra Dragons on ANZAC Day.
Then there is the Rabbitohs.
They might have lost the battle on Saturday night 17-10 to the Storm at ANZ Stadium, but you sense that this was only the dress rehearsal. These teams meet later in the year and will probably clash again in the playoffs.
It has been widely documented that the way to beat Melbourne is straight through the guts. Nobody plays better through the middle than South Sydney and despite the loss last weekend, the Rabbitohs would be licking their lips at playing the Storm again.
Then you have to take into account the toll that this season has on a successful side like Melbourne. Already they’ve played trials, a World Club Challenge on the other side of the planet and six testing games of NRL football.
No rest for the wicked either as Melbourne’s Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk, Billy Slater, Kevin Proctor and Jesse Bromwich turn out in the ANZAC Test on Friday in Canberra.
Mahe Fonua, Junior Sa’u and Ryan Hoffman will play representative football on the weekend too.
So its not like the Storm really get a holiday this weekend.
Don’t forget the dreaded State of Origin window either.
Up to seven players could be involved in this year’s series with the Storm playing Cronulla, Brisbane and Canterbury and trips to Leichhardt and the Gold Coast in this period.
Their run to the playoffs includes away matches at Canberra, Newcastle and Brookvale and a re-match with Rabbitohs.
Even before the finals, Melbourne’s key personnel could have played up to 22 games of rugby league. That is a whole lot of football without even considering the torture of the playoffs.
It might be months and months away but what a showdown we have in Round 26 between the Rabbitohs and the Roosters at ANZ Stadium.
Could that game be a scrap for the NRL minor premiership?
70,000 fans packing into the Olympic stadium to see the fiercest of rivals go to battle for the top spot in rugby league is a mouth-watering prospect.
No Melbourne on grand final day?
It was worth a try.
Let the bombardment begin.