‘Origin is about more than just talent’ Published on theroar.com.au 5/6/13
26th June 2002 was a famous night for many reasons. On that fateful evening at the Olympic stadium, Queensland and New South Wales went to battle in yet another third match decider.
The Blues had smashed Queensland in Game 1 32-4 after a masterful performance from legendary halfback Andrew Johns. But the Maroons, being the Maroons, fought back and squared the series with a gallant 26-18 win in Brisbane in Game 2.
Then came Game 3, and my first live State of Origin experience.
Sure, I had been to games at Stadium Australia before. But this was something else.
Like one big breathing organism the stadium roared: “Bluueeess, Bluueeess, Bluueeess!”
Every break, every try, the sea of sky blue rose as one.
This was the infamous 18-all draw that saw Queensland keep the Origin shield despite never really winning the series.
The Blues held the lead and were headed to victory late in the piece when Queensland second rower Dane Carlaw got the ball on the halfway line. Sure enough I had to be sitting right in line with the oncoming Carlaw.
Why Jason Moodie was defending at centre we will never know.
Carlaw picked out Moodie and flicked him away with contempt before charging off for the series-sealing try. For whatever reason, Lote Tuqiri was given the shot at goal and right on cue he missed to the right of the posts.
Either way the Maroons had victory.
The Tuqiri miss infuriated my already seething father.
And yes this was the night Gorden Tallis rag-dolled the diminutive Brett Hodgson halfway across Sydney in one of the great Origin moments.
Fortunately enough for me instead of hanging around for the ceremony, my brother and I spent the next ten minutes watching aforementioned seething father drop the shoulder into any number of Queenslanders on our way to the train station.
To their credit, Queensland came back from 1-0 down in the series and had done enough to hold onto the shield. They’d dragged themselves off the canvas and stunned the star-studded Blues.
The Blues had the Immortal Johns and a forward pack containing Danny Buderus, Steve Menzies, Luke Ricketson and Nathan Hindmarsh.
Queensland on the other hand featured journeymen like PJ Marsh, Chris McKenna, Shaun Berrigan and Chris Walker.
Yet the Maroons were still good enough to keep the tag of Origin champions.
The point is Queensland can be beaten tonight at ANZ Stadium.
Sure they have Greg Inglis, Cameron Smith, Johnathan Thurston and Billy Slater.
But when was an Origin game ever won on pure talent alone?
Queensland has proven it time and time again. Remember the 1995 series?
Last year the Blues came within a point of Origin glory. It wasn’t Queensland’s brilliance that got them over the line, it was guts.
New South Wales must be ready for war tonight, mentally and physically.
They have to be prepared to bleed, run the suicidal lines and chase down every kick and make sure they are there in support for every break.
The result will take care of itself.
‘Who would want to be an NRL coach? Published on theroar.com.au
During the week Parramatta Eels coach Ricky Stuart told a number of his players they won’t be required for season 2014. One of them was veteran backrower Reni Maitua.
In this professional age, Maitua should have copped it on the chin and played Friday night against the Sydney Roosters.
This is, after all, the club that gave him another chance after a long-term suspension from his time at the Cronulla Sharks.
It is no secret Parramatta are struggling and need all the help they can get. Yet Maitua ruled himself out after Stuart gave him the news that he wouldn’t be in the club’s plans moving forward.
His NRL career might well be over so of course he is allowed to be dirty with Stuart and other officials. But all his actions have done is hurt his teammates.
The Eels tried hard but were eventually put to the sword by the star-studded Roosters.
You can look at it two ways.
Maitua wasn’t in the right frame of mind to do his job and should be commended for standing aside.
Or you can argue that Parramatta still pay his bills and he should have been out there trying to impress other NRL clubs in a bid to secure a contract.
What message is Maitua’s stance sending to other clubs considering making him an offer?
Another team with serious problems are the North Queensland Cowboys.
Despite a wealth of representative players including James Tamou and Matt Scott, the Cowboys fell to the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs on Saturday night in yet another loss for embattled coach Neil Henry.
In a recent story on The Roar, this writer said this Cowboys squad had missed their premiership window. The players around Thurston had become stale and were headed toward the back end of their careers.
While many of them still have good football left in them, it has become apparent that this Cowboys team as a group have never been so far away from that elusive first premiership.
Some tough decisions need to be made on veterans Matt Bowen, Dallas Johnson, Scott Bolton and Glenn Hall.
Bowen’s is the toughest.
The little fullback has been a great servant of the Cowboys and deserves to be treated the right way. But that doesn’t mean he should get a new contract.
Coach Henry has had plenty of time to develop the younger players too but players like Tariq Sims and Jason Taumalolo’s careers seem to be stagnating.
Henry is a nice guy and it remains to be seen if he can make the tough calls on veterans like Bowen or get the best out of young backrowers Sims and Taumalolo.
Henry is not the only coach searching for answers.
Wayne Bennett’s ageing Newcastle Knights went down to the St George Illawarra Dragons in Round 13 and are struggling big time for any kind of consistency.
Bennett has added 35 year-old Craig Gower to his squad for the remainder of 2013 to bolster his playmaking ranks.
Bennett’s love affair with grizzled veterans could end up being a masterstroke come September. But if it doesn’t work out and the Knights flounder, Bennett needs to be asked some serious questions.
‘Gallen v Myles reaction overkill’ Published on theroar.com.au 12/6/13
Over three decades ago Arthur Beetson gave birth to State of Origin football with the most famous fisticuffs in rugby league history.
On that innuagral night in Brisbane, Beetson grabbed Parramatta team-mate Mick Cronin and let loose. No more would the Maroons be the whipping boys.
Beetson had shown the way.
Last Wednesday night at ANZ Stadium, New South Wales skipper Paul Gallen put a left and a right on the chin of perennial niggler Nate Myles.
For Gallen and the Blues this was their turning point. A moment in time just as important as Beetson’s uppercuts to the face of Cronin. Sure, this all followed a swinging arm that had Myles rightfully bemused. But as soon as Myles stepped up and pushed the Blues captain, all bets were off.
The frenzy since Gallen’s one-two has been downright overkill.
If you have not worked it out yet, the National Rugby League and State of Origin football are two completely separate beasts. There have been and always will be two different sets of rules.
That’s why Origin has worked for so long.
This writer isn’t such a caveman that he can’t see that this is a different era.
But to say that Gallen and Myles’ spotfire last week has besmirched rugby league’s good name is lunacy. It’s why over two million people tuned in, and why even more will watch Origin II.
There is nothing healthy about being punched in the head. But rugby league is a brutally intense sport. When so much is on the line and men’s livelihoods are at stake you will always see friction.
A punch can kill.
But so can a 120 kilogram man running back into a defensive line at a million miles an hour and hurling himself into a swinging arm.
Or perhaps even a defender leading with their head?
What are we really talking about here?
State of Origin is not politically correct, and it isn’t for everyone. But neither is MMA, midget tossing or ice hockey.
It wasn’t just neutrals baying for Gallen’s blood. As you’d expect, Queenslanders were in uproar. How could one of their own be set upon by an animal like Paul Gallen?
But where were those same critics when Parramatta and the Sydney Roosters came to blows two days later at Parramatta Stadium?
Then there were others worried about helpless children around the country being “brainwashed” by the actions of these gladiators. So worried about their kids watching Origin that they fully expected them to go to school the next day and smash their mate in the nose.
What a cop out.
When the infamous Melbourne Cricket Ground brawl of 1995 took place, this writer didn’t hit anyone at school or at footy the following Saturday morning.
The funny thing is last Wednesday’s scrap is far from the last fight we will see in Origin football, so why the whingeing now?
This is State of Origin and this is our game.
You don’t have to like it and you don’t even have to watch it.
But more chance than not you’ll be watching Game II come June 26th.
‘How about an NRL summer league?’ Published on theroar.com.au 13/6/13
Our thirst for rugby league in the summer months gets stronger and stronger every year. Long gone are the days where cricket took centre stage and our footy addiction had a sabbatical.
This year won’t be so bad. With the National Rugby League decider in early October and the World Cup running right through November, footy will be back before you know it.
But that does not mean we can’t think outside the box.
In the past, yours truly has sprouted some left-field ideas on my fellow Roarers out there in internet land.
South Sydney playing a one-off at North Sydney Oval in the old Bears strip, NSW Cup champions versus Queensland Cup champions, Parramatta shifting Jarryd Hayne to lock and a clash between Australia and a World XIII on New Year’s Eve to name a few.
So here we go.
In a non-World Cup year we generally have a four month window between the NRL grand final and the annual All Stars match. Why not fill it?
Before you choke on your toast or spit coffee all over that computer of yours, have a deep breath. Nobody wants to see these athletes playing 52 weeks a season. Then we really might see someone drop dead on an NRL field.
What about an NRL summer league?
A competition comprised of teams in areas such as Perth, Adelaide, Wellington, Rockhampton, Central and Sunshine Coasts. You can add a Tasmanian side and even a few more sides from New Zealand if you like.
If expansion isn’t on the Commission’s mind, at least give fans from these areas a team to cheer on. All the while the NRL logo is smack bang right there on the jerseys.
Where are the players coming from?
NRL and Super League clubs can be affiliated with the competition and its teams, which will allow players a chance to shine.
Some might be coming back from injury, some might be looking for a contract or they might just be a lower grader looking for a step-up in class.
Allow private ownership and give all these millionaires around the world their own footy side for a few weeks. Hell, they can even call their team whatever they like. And you never know what free agent from league or union might be willing to play.
Play the games over a shorter amount of time with unlimited interchange.
The inspiration behind this insane idea comes from the NBA in America, who play an annual tournament in their off-season which allows clubs to look at different combinations and possible new talent.
If all this means more rugby league, then how can you be against it?
‘RIP rugby league 1908-2013’ Published on theroar.com.au 17/6/13
It is official, the game we once knew as rugby league is dead. The fabric of the game has not just been tarnished; it has been burnt to a crisp and buried six feet underground.
Media reports on Sunday confirmed that NRL Chief Executive Dave Smith had contacted referees boss Daniel Anderson and directed him to implement far stricter penalties for players involved in any kind of fight.
If a punch is thrown, that player will be sin binned.
Perhaps in this day and age rugby league needs to think about its image. But the way this has been handled and the reactive decision of NRL administrators is atrocious.
“We need to make sure our game can recruit young kids,” Anderson told The Sunday Telegraph.
“We’ve got a duty to the community and to people involved in our sport.
“There are a lot of swinging voters on our game who could be turned away by certain incidents.
“The product has to be palatable and accommodate all people who want to be involved in the game. It’s the mums and dads who decide if their kids get to play rugby league.”
Two grown men playing the toughest sport in the world in the cauldron that is State of Origin had a disagreement. Two grown men paid hundreds of thousands of dollars a year and with the pressure of two feuding states behind them had a scrap.
Since Paul Gallen and Nate Myles came face to face at ANZ Stadium, a small minority went into meltdown. That small minority bitched and moaned so loud and for so long that the NRL panicked and hit that red button again.
The same one that exterminated the shoulder charge has now ripped another cog from the machine.
People have compared Gallen’s fists of fury to street violence and death. Sorry but that’s a shocking comparison. They have nothing to do with each other. Have these people ever seen the Ultimate Fighting Championship?
Worry about cage fighting before you attack rugby league.
Then there were the parents worried about their children emulating Gallen. These are the same parents that blame Gallen and then go out to JB Hi-Fi and buy their kids movies or games chock full of battles, violence, or worse.
Stop blaming rugby league. Communicate to your child to help them understand why two professional athletes use physical force in a physical game.
How can the NRL possibly enforce this rule anyway?
If tempers do flare in game two at Suncorp Stadium and all hell breaks loose, will the referees send all 26 players from the field?
This game is played with passion and pride and a desperation that sometimes sees emotions spill over. How can a banker sitting behind a big shiny desk make this decision?
Smith is worried about the game’s image. Physicality is our game’s image. This is overkill and reactive political correctness at its ghastly best.
We are what we are and that’s what separates us from the rest.
What the hell are we doing to our game?
‘Racist football fans need life bans’ Published on theroar.com.au 18/6/13
The meteoric rise and fall of Blake Ferguson has the league world in a spin and one club is mighty happy for Ferguson to hog the headlines.
National Rugby League officials have suspended Ferguson’s registration for repeated offences involving alcohol, after an incident at a Cronulla bar after just being named in the New South Wales Blues side for Origin II at Suncorp Stadium.
Ferguson won’t be on the plane to Brisbane so who could possibly be happy about this whole ordeal?
The Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles are more than pleased for the Ferguson saga to drag on forever.
Reports from Brookvale Oval confirmed Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs superstar Ben Barba and utility forward Dene Halatau were spat on as they left the field on Friday night.
That’s right. Grown men or women, or even worse children, had the gall to attack these players with their own saliva. Is there anything lower in this modern age than to be spat on in public?
Barba was rightfully ropable and the pair of them were well within their rights to jump the fence and see how tough these Sea Eagles fans really were.
This incident isn’t the first in the NRL and alarmingly it probably won’t be the last. But anyone caught spitting on a player or attacking them in any other way should be banned for life. We don’t need these parasites anywhere near our game.
Eagles general manager David Perry released a statement after the incident.
“The NRL is reviewing video and ground manager reports from last night’s match, and we totally support them in identifying and potentially banning any patrons where appropriate,” Perry said.
“Our supporters don’t want to be associated with poor behaviour, and as a matter of process, we will also review our own security procedures.”
Could it get any worst for Manly?
Yesterday media outlets reported that Canterbury forward Frank Pritchard’s wife was racially abused by spectators as well.
While sitting with other partners in the western grandstand, Raima Pritchard was allegedly called a “monkey” and told to “go back to where she came from”.
Mrs Pritchard confirmed the ongoing abuse on social media during the game.
Is this not where Manly’s paid-up members sit?
Over the years Canterbury supporters have been called everything under the sun for a minority’s actions. It is safe to say now that Eagles fans at Brookvale have been tarred with the same brush.
Rugby league fans are quick to kick a player when he’s down but now the shoe is on the other foot and these perpetrators need the book thrown at them.
NRL operations director Nathan McGuirk told The Sydney Morning Herald they were aware of the racial taunts.
“Our integrity department is aware of that one as well,” he said.
“That is part of their (integrity unit) investigation into that issue as well. Obviously speaking to the Bulldogs will be part of the process.”
Lets not beat around the bush here.
Mrs Pritchard was racially abused and it’s safe to assume Barba and Halatau were not picked out because they were wearing blue and white jumpers but because of their respective backgrounds.
This matter goes far beyond a few rabid locals supporting their favourite team.
Hopefully the NRL can put names to these faceless scumbags and ban them for all eternity.