Origin’s Most Overlooked Players

As game two will be on our screens tomorrow, I decided to take a look at some of the players eligible for the big state clash but aren’t chosen to represent their respective state.

I’m sure that in a rugby league player’s career, he wants to accomplish a few things:
1) Be in the first 13 of his club on the first-grade team;
2) Win a premiership with his club;
3) Represent his chosen country in national tests, and
4) Represent his state in the Origin series.

As big as the first three are, I’m sure four is a mainstay in their minds; State of Origin has become one of the biggest sporting events in Australia (if not, the biggest!) People who don’t even like rugby league sit down to watch it, for crying out loud. Some players are lucky enough to be Origin mainstays and successfully make the team; others aren’t so lucky, despite having a lot of talent.

Choose your destiny... I mean side. Sorry. Playing Mortal Kombat too much.

Choose your destiny… I mean side. Sorry. Playing Mortal Kombat too much.

Writing from both sides (despite being a Queensland supporter myself… #GoMaroons), I’ve decided to highlight just a few of the names that should’ve been selected this year, but unfortunately haven’t been. The Queensland Maroons will go first, of course.

Queensland Maroons
Ben Hannant from the North Queensland Cowboys
The Polar Bear himself has had previous Origin experience, having played a total of 12 games for Queensland from 2008 to 2012. After that, he just hadn’t been selected despite being one of the most reliable forwards in the game today. If you were to compare his form to the likes of current Queensland props Matt Scott and Nate Myles, he wouldn’t make the first 13, but Hannant is definitely a contender for the bench; he always runs hard with the ball and packs a mighty punch when he makes a straight run with it. It’s disappointing to see Hannant’s name not even thrown around when Mal is deciding his forward pack; he definitely deserves it.

Ben Hunt from the Brisbane Broncos
While Daly Cherry-Evans is undoubtedly a great player, his 2015 season so far is nothing compared to that of the Broncos’ deadly halfback. With Cronk out due to injury, I was sure that Hunt would be a shoe in (I mean, who could forget dat try doe that he helped orchestrate for Lachlan Maranta?!) but alas, I was disappointed when DCE was named ahead of him, and Hunt wasn’t even put on the bench. Hunt is definitely a contender for Dally M finalist this year, and it’s easy to see why; he keeps on getting better and better and it’s about time he is rewarded by being allowed to represent his state.

James Segeyaro from the Penrith Panthers
It pained me to choose another hooker over my Andrew McCullough, but even a Broncos fan like myself cannot deny the incredible skill of the Panther nicknamed Chicko. The Papua New Guinea native migrated to Cairns when he was young and played junior footy with the Cairns rugby league club, therefore qualifying him to represent Queensland proudly. It’s hard to overlook the year that Chicko has had, and let’s not forget to mention that he was 2014’s Dally M Hooker of the Year. Like Hunt, Segeyaro hasn’t had a shot at a Maroon jersey yet, and I think it’s his time.

Brenton Lawrence from the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
Despite Manly being very low on my favourite teams, one of the few reasons why I can’t help but respect them is the big, beefy forward named Brenton Lawrence. One thing I look for in a forward – especially a prop – is their “intimidation factor”; if they were to run at me, would I be scared and simply relinquish the ball and surrender, or would I charge at them fearlessly? (#FearlessNikki) If the former feeling is created, then I think that forward will do great things in their career. That is what I think Lawrence is capable of, plus more; he’s a machine when given the ball on the right play, and is criminally underrated in my sweet and humble opinion. With such a wide selection of forwards for the Maroon squad, it’s sad to see Lawrence overlooked time and time again.

New South Wales Blues
Adam Reynolds
from the South Sydney Rabbitohs
I’m just gonna say it; Reynolds is a better halfback than Hodkinson and Pearce. I would go so far to say that Reynolds is a bigger key to the Bunnies success than Inglis is. His fancy footwork and superb kicking skills make him a great player, but his field awareness and improvisational playmaking skills is what makes him a great halfback. He’s had a string of misfortune when it comes to injuries this year (dat tackle, anyone?) so it’s fair enough why he wasn’t selected for the first two games, but come game three, I think Laurie take the plunge and put Reynolds on his first team.

Jarrod Croker from the Canberra Raiders
I’m not even just including him because he’s from Goulburn; this guy has some serious talent! Like I believe Reynolds is for South Sydney, I strongly think that Croker is the reason why the Raiders have been so successful this season. It’s great that the country capital club has locked him in for so long because they’d be foolish to let him saunter off to another club (or backflip on the deal… COUGH COUGH Cherry). Not only is he their goalkicker – and a bloody good one at that – but he is the Raiders captain and has led the green team to several convincing victories after having a shit lacklustre season last year. Croker has had no previous Origin experience but I’m sure, when used correctly, he’ll become a great asset for the Blues. And he’s better than some of the backs on the Blues team at the moment, let’s be honest.

Aidan Sezer from the Gold Coast Titans
I have such high expectations for this man, and he’s fulfilled all of them; he’s an excellent playmaker for his team and can remain calm even in very tense situations, which I think is a must for a half. Plus, you don’t see him doing any crazy shit off field to detract from his skill either. When I heard that the Broncos were in need of a five-eighth, I was spewin’ that we didn’t make a big play for Aidan Sezer; combine his skills with that of Ben Hunt, and our halves would’ve been unstoppable! (No shade to Milford). His kicking game is on point and he could give Adam Reynolds a run for his money on that aspect, but as for now, I think his time to be called up to Origin is coming soon.

Tariq Sims from the Newcastle Knights
As much as it’ll pain me to see one of my favourite players on the Blues side of Origin, I think it’s about damn time that Tariq Sims is called up to play for New South Wales, and that’s not even just because he’s funny either. To me, he is one of the most underrated forwards in the league; a reliable stronghold of a man, he is as good at running the ball as he is defending his try line. Combine that with his impressive ball handling skills and his, well, “intimidation factor” and you have yourself a very good forward. Like, no offence, but I don’t think Beau Scott or Ryan Hoffman are better than him, so he could slot in well on the second-row. Plus, it’s clear that rugby league runs in his blood.

Here’s hoping to a Maroons win tomorrow, because I don’t think I can sit through a series deciding game three. My anxiety game too strong for that.

– by The Black Widow

What We Learned in Origin 2014

The biggest sporting series in Australia is now over.

State of Origin 2014 saw angry words thrown around, dodgy calls made by the refs, butterfingers dropping balls at the most crucial times, and people not seeing a pass being thrown at them. Oh, and Oscar winning “injury” performances from players.

But if there are a few specific things that we have learned over the Origin series, these would be it:

(DISCLAIMER: As a loyal Queensland supporter, I will try my darndest to be as liberal as possible regarding the situation)

Because if anyone was going to be the thumbnail of this piece, it was Cozza. (SOURCE: Queensland Maroons Facebook page)

Because if anyone was going to be the thumbnail of this piece, it was Cozza. (SOURCE: Queensland Maroons Facebook page)


1. Corey Parker can offload from a boat in Switzerland completely blindfolded and still do it properly

Now I’m not just saying this because he is so obviously my most favourite player in the game – and possibly one of my biggest idols in the world – but Corey Parker is the King of offloads. While he missed game two due to an unfortunate facial fracture, Parker’s performances in game one and three were so outstanding that even I was surprised of all the tricks he was pulling out of his tight sleeves. It’s just like… how? His performance last night in game three was definitely worthy of the Man of the Match award he was so rightfully given. Well done, Cozza!

2. Trent Hodkinson is as great as everyone makes him out to be
I was personally not sold on Hodkinson being the halfback for NSW because I didn’t think he was that great in the Doggies. I just thought he was okay… above average at best. However, Hodkinson and his dark, dark soulless eyes proved me wrong, especially in game two where he brokeded my heart and won the series for NSW. Sadface. He’s actually a stellar playmaker for both the Blues and the Doggies and I will go on the record and apologise for selling him short.

3. Not everyone is cut out for Origin
So I went into the series believing that Dave Taylor was the most in-form forward in the league and it was a travesty that he wasn’t selected to be part of the team for game one. Alas, in game two, my prayers were answered, and Taylor proved me… wrong. I would literally cringe watching him get the ball because I knew it would be a matter of time before he dropped it. The same could be said for Matt Gillett and Chris McQueen. Both of these Queensland players are outstanding in their respective clubs – Gillett being in best career form for the Broncos – but in the Maroons side, they kind of failed. The same could be said about last year’s Blues halves, Mitchell Pearce and James Maloney.

4. Origin is more emotional than people think
During the last moments of game two, my anxiety kicked in and I literally had a panic attack over the game. After we lost the series in the most disappointing game two I’ve ever seen, you know what I did? I cried. I shed actual tears over a rugby league game. I retired to my bedroom to cry some more, and then my sister joined me, and then we ate Maltesers in the dark in complete silence. If that alone doesn’t highlight just how emotional this game can get, you’re kidding yourself.

5. Queensland isn’t unstoppable
Some footy fans were lulled into a false sense of security because our side has outstanding players, “The Big Four” included. Couple that with our eight in a row series wins and I went into the series thinking that we had this in the bag. I felt generally safe, thinking that until Slater, Cronk, Smith and Inglis would retire, we’d always win. Well, clearly we didn’t. When it comes down to it, the Blues played better overall and as much as I don’t like it, they deserved to win this year.

6. The no punching rule is stupid
I miss Origin biffs. Bring them back please. All these “let’s get into each other’s faces and breathe deeply and not do anything and mutter angry words to each other” situations are really pathetic. I was expecting to see some fists flying last night because, hey, NSW had already won, but no. It’s just part of the rugby league culture to get into a physical disagreement now and then. Deal with it.

7. Hayne is not better than Slater
The rivalry between these two players has been well documented over the years, so much that some Blues enthusiasts have said that Hayne is better than Slater. Well, Queensland fan or not, that is simply not true. If not demonstrated by Slater’s performance versus Hayne’s performance, Slater is clearly the more talented fullback. Even if he does get away with a couple of misdemeanours that others can’t.

8. The referees need some serious counselling
Now, I’m not going to single out one individual ref, but I think the NRL referees in general need some guidance when it comes to calling the most important rugby league series of the year. Too many times have we seen stupid calls made this year and that alone has ruined the spirit and buzz of Origin. Please, referees, I have four words for you: sort your shit out.

Needless to say, congrats to the Blues and their very aggressive fans. You finally broke our streak. But we’ll be taking our trophy back next year, thanks.

CALL TO ME, CALL TO MEEEEEE.

– by The Black Widow

The future looks bright for NSW

For the past eight years NSW have suffered consecutive defeats at the hands of Queensland. This year NSW will try to stop the Maroons from winning their ninth State of Origin series win.

While Queensland have penciled in about 90 per cent of their team, NSW are in all sorts of trouble.

Greg Bird is set to miss the opening Origin match and Mitchell Pierce had some off-field problems over the weekend.

The Blues won't be ruled out just yet! (SOURCE: Michael Sheil's Flickr photostream)

The Blues won’t be ruled out just yet! (SOURCE: Michael Sheil’s Flickr photostream)

While NSW are still yet to determine a number of key positions, they have a lot of options for young players ready to prove themselves in the Origin arena.

Fullback
David Mead was a surprise call up for country and if injuries occur to Josh Dugan and Jarryd Hayne, Mead could find himself in the number one jersey for NSW. He is surely going to be on selectors’ minds in the near future.

James Tedesco has been unfortunate to not play as much as he has wanted in the past couple of years due to season-ending injuries. Before his injury this year Tedesco was proving a hand full for many teams and was forming a great partnership with Luke Brooks. There’s a certain NSW jumper in the future for young Tedesco.

Matt Moylan has been sensational for the Panthers this year. Molyan’s form has earned himself a City jersey and from the rep round we have seen Moylan really putting a stamp on the game. He is truly an Origin worthy player.

Wings
Even though his form has been down on lately, Kevin Gordon earned himself a Country jersey. He has a very friendly rivalry happening between ex-winger, and now fullback, David Mead. Gordon’s a very speedy player and is a great finisher when scoring tries. A bit of work in defence and somewhere down the track he could be putting on the sky blue jersey.

Jorge Taufua and Daniel Tupo have been great this year for their respective clubs. Both have earned representative call ups and have been on the Origin radar for a while now. They have great power, have a lot of speed to burn and are excellent finishers when it comes to try scoring. These two wingers will make memories that are unforgettable in the future during Origin time.

Centres
Jack Wighton has been one of the game’s best defensive centres this year. He showed what he can do when being called up into a representative jumper and he took the chance with both hands in the City versus Country game. Playing five-eighth at the Raiders is only going to improve his passing and kicking game. When called up into Origin, he will be remembered as one of the most classiest centres.

Jamal Idris has played only one game for NSW but you can tell that he is hungry for another call up. This year he as shown similar form from his younger days at the Bulldogs. Bench, centre or second row, Idris will take the opportunity with both hands and show why he belongs there. His power and strength, mixed with hiss attacking and defensive plays, for the Panthers and Country have shown why he is on the Origin radar.

Five-eighth
Josh Reynolds has had a superb start to the season. Since being moved from bench to hooker to five-eighth he has made the spot his own. His grubby get-in-your-face style of playing is what NSW needs for this position. The last five-eighth that played like this was Greg Bird and NSW won the series. If chosen this year for five-eighth, Reynolds will show why he should stay in the position for years to come.

Aiden Sezar is a player that plays beyond his years. Similar to Johnathan Thurston, Sezar has a cool head and plays with class. Sezar is also excellent with the boot, kicking many 40/20s and an 83 per cent conversion rate. If Sezar is called up to the NSW side, he will bring class to the five-eighth role, something that has been missing since Andrew Johns and Brad Fittler.

Jarrod Mullen has an excellent boot on him too. He had a crack early in his career at Origin and wants another one this year. His form is always on and off but has been very switched on as of late. Maybe no Origin this year for Mullen but the future looks bright for him.

Halfback
Albert kelly is a cousin to Queensland great Greg Inglis. No wonder Kelly is a freak in the field then. Since being thrown a lifeline by the Titans, Kelly has shown why Inglis had rated him so highly. Kelly has plucked intercepts all over the field, chip-and-chased over fullbacks and poses a great tactical kicking game. He is not ready for Origin yet but some more defensive practice and a few more years at the Titans, and the Blues could be calling Kelly up for some attacking power in their team.

Luke Brooks is way ahead of Kelly, however. Some people are even calling for Brooks to make his State of Origin debut this year. Brooks still needs to work on his game, but he has shown glimpses of brilliance for the Tigers this year. When he is ready Brooks will be holding onto the NSW number seven jersey for many years.

Prop
Andrew Fifita in undeniably one of the game’s greatest props. He is the quickest prop that has played NRL and is so valuable to NSW making metres up the front and getting up in the faces of the Queensland defensive line. Fafita has been in NSW for a while now and no player will force him out of the side, there is just no questioning his abilities on the field.

James Tamou and Aaron Woods have both been outstanding for their clubs. Both players have made over 1000 metres in nine games so far. At 23 and 25 years of age, respectively, they are two players who will be there for many years to come. With that much power and strength they are able to gain so many valuable metres for NSW. They could be the reason NSW wins a series in the future.

Hooker
Paul Carter has shown the type of aggression that has people referring to him as a young Greg Bird. Coming off the bench, he poses a great threat to oppositions with a great running game out of dummy half. He is small but willing to get up in the face of his opponent and that is something NSW will need in the future.

However, Nathan Peats would be in front of him in the running to take over when Robbie Farah retires. Peats has been a great buy for the Eels this year. His performances in the first couple of rounds immediately grabbed the attention of the NSW selectors. With a great passing and kicking game, while being a very smart hooker, Peats is the perfect candidate to take over Robbie Farah.

Second Row
Josh Jackson may be playing for the Blues this year. In the short amount of time he has been at the Bulldogs he has really grabbed the NSW selectors’ attention. With barnstorming runs up the middle and edges of the field, it allows his halves to play. Jackson is a type of player who will put his hand up in the dying seconds of a game to slide in defence and work hard until the end.

Boyd Cordner has played for a premiership-winning side, won the World Cup for the Aussies, won an Anzac Test match and also starred in the NSW side last year. Cordner is one player who has already proven his worth and will remain in the team for years to come.

Tony Williams is one man that needs to regain his form. He has been quiet ever since moving to the Bulldogs, but if he finds form again he will be a menace. He has a big one-armed fend and is very quick and dangerous. Williams runs holes excellently. In his days at Manly he was very dangerous, and maybe a possible move back to the wing would be best. He has similar attributes as Luke Lewis in that he can play in numerous positions and has a wide set of skills. If Williams finds form he will definitely bring impact to the NSW side

Lock
Wade Graham is also on the verge of a NSW jersey, with the majority of his games for the Sharks playing off the bench or filling in at five-eighth or lock for Paul Gallen. Graham is a work horse and he is a mobile second rower/lock that NSW love to see on their team. Graham seems like the perfect candidate to take over Greg Bird’s position.

These players are just some of the players who have been on my radar for the future NSW side. I have missed a lot of valuable players but I have picked those that are in better form.

– by Mitch Moore

Maroons Squad Remains Unchanged

Chairman, Coach and Captain at the team announcement. (SOURCE: Queensland Maroons Facebook)

Chairman, Coach and Captain at the team announcement. (SOURCE: Queensland Maroons Facebook)

The final game is coming up, the cliffhanger of rugby league. The decider of State of Origin. As always, I look forward to the naming of the Maroons squad and was quite surprised to see that there were no changes to the team and wondered, “Is that a good idea or a bad idea?” Here is your Queensland team for the Origin Decider:

1. Billy Slater
2. Darius Boyd
3. Greg Inglis
4. Justin Hodges
5. Brent Tate
6. Johnathan Thurston
7. Cooper Cronk
8. Matt Scott
9. Cameron Smith (c)
10. Nate Myles
11. Chris McQueen
12. Sam Thaiday
13. Corey Parker
14. Daly Cherry-Evans
15. Ben Te’o
16. Matt Gillett
17. Josh Papali’i
18. Jacob Lillyman
19. Will Chambers

Coming off a clear victory over the Blues in game two, it would make sense that the team that performed so well together would remain intact. However, with omissions from the game one squad like Shillington and Harrison, the former of which I have a personal soft spot for, is it exactly the wisest move?

There are those within the squad that would remain “untouched” – Slater, Smith, Inglis and Cronk just to name a few, essentially meaning that they can get comfortable because unless an injury occurs, their spot in the team is pretty much guaranteed. The others on the team, as talented as they are, have to work hard to earn their spot on the squad and that is where the changes happen.

One of the most consistent players on the Queensland side, keeping up an impressive form throughout the 2013 Origin series has been my fave Corey Parker. Playing as an interchange in game one, Parker put on a great performance with some good runs and tackles, possibly being one of the main Queenslanders for game one, earning himself the no. 13 jersey in game two over Ashley Harrison. Continuing his terrific form in game two, it was no shock to me that Parker retained his Lock status for the decider, which isn’t a knock on Harrison in the slightest as Parker’s performances this year have been some of his best in his career.

Another interchange Cinderella story happens in the form of young Rabbitoh Chris McQueen. Also coming off the bench to put on a great performance in game one, McQueen seized a starting position in game two in the second row. His fantastic form in game two also contributed to the fact that the squad has remained the same.

Even with the loss of Origin players like Shillington and Harrison, the successful game two squad are looking to continue the momentum in the decider and make it 8 in a row. Bias aside, I believe that we’ve got this one. The Maroons put on a rugby clinic in game two and with the added pressure of the deciding victory in game three, it will only motivate the squad to keep on truckin’ up hill and defeat the Blues on their own turf.

Of course, if I don’t achieve victory next week, I hope for an excellent game of league that’ll keep me on my toes for the full 80 minutes – literally on my toes as I tend to skip around when excited.

Here’s to a great game of league and an 8-in-a-row Maroons victory.

– by The Black Widow