STATE OF ORIGIN GAME 2
It’s possibly my favourite time in rugby league right now. Not only is it the longest time between Roosters games that you can possibly get, but State of Origin Game 2 is on in just two more days. WOO. Can you feel the excitement? No, me either.
If there was any less hype about this game, we could be fooled into thinking that Game I was being played again.
Basically because there’s nothing to be hyped about. It’s the same Queensland team that we’ve seen for the last thirty years, which is all fine and dandy, because they keep winning and it would be stupid (albeit more fair to the NSW team) to change it up, unless it’s to get rid of Nate Myles, or let Aiden Guerra still think that he’s “just as good” as Josh McGuire? Time will come when Thurston, Cronk, Smith and Inglis hang up their gold-encrusted angel-winged boots in two or three years, and that might be a good time for NSW to try and assert some ascendancy in the Origin ranks... except that QLD are already blooding new players and have got back up players to burn with Morgan, Munster, Oates and Coote ready to go.
Meanwhile, New South Wales are just holding players like James Tedesco and Bryce Cartwright back... just for another season. This is the same New South Wales who have won one series in 10 years, yet keep the same bunch of losers that didn’t win the other nine. There’s a difference in showing loyalty to outstanding players or those you think will grow into their role… and then there’s flogging horses by sticking with underperforming players and letting people go well past their “Use By” date. The only thing they've done right is bring in Matt Moylan and Josh Mansour for this series, although I have the feeling that if Josh Dugan and Will Hopoate were available, they'd both be spending another year on the sidelines. Fuck it, if Rod Wishart and Tim Brasher were still fit (kids, ask your parents), I have no doubt they'd be selected.
As the priest said to the bishop, "But fuck the players!" There’s also the New South Wales game plan, which is “play not to lose” rather than “play to win.” They place so much emphasis on stopping Greg Inglis that they continue to pick a half-fit centre in Josh Morris to contain him, despite the dramatic loss of form of GI this year. The current focus of the selection process is not to choose a Blues player who can actually score a try, but to stop a one-legged dick-fingered opposition player from crossing the line.
Remember Jarrod Mullen? That kid was picked to play Origin well before he should have been, and was routinely flogged, scraped off the bottom of Phil Gould's shoe and thrown back to Newcastle a sunken, withered player. The NSW selectors are so desperate not to ruin another halfback’s club career that they’ve persisted with picking Mitchell Fucking Pearce for far longer than they should have, and are only now putting together a decent half-line, about two years too late in terms of form and injury. They are also persisting with the (1) “bench utility” player; (2) the “big winger” option; and (3) the “defensive protector” for the half-back who can’t tackle.
1. You don’t need a bench utility if you pick fit players who are effective in their position.
2. Big wingers should only be selected if they are actually… good. Otherwise they’re just Blake Ferguson.
3. Pick a fucking halfback who can defend.
STATE OF ORIGIN GAME 2 PREDICTION
I gave the ol’ crystal ball a bit of a rub (eh eh eh) and reckon that the late injury to Josh Morris that has promoted Dylan Walker into the starting line-up (get your head around that if you can) is a complete ruse. You read it here first: Jarryd Hayne has spent the last month or so training with the Fijian rugby team to get fit and learn how to tackle again. Our prodigal son will return from his adventures in San Francisco and pull on the sky blue #3 jersey once again.
And NSW will lose by at least 20.