THE LAST WORD
Fed up ... Ricky Stuart. Photo: Getty Images
RICKY STUART can take one more step after ordering his players to ban the media - quit as State of Origin coach. And there is growing speculation - win or lose - Stuart is considering ending his time as Blues coach. Origin cannot afford to lose Stuart, he's the first coach to be in charge of NSW since Phil Gould who really gets what Origin football is all about. It would be a better look for Stuart if he quit after winning the series - and that is still a strong possibility. At the core of Stuart's anger is the belief that Origin is Queensland's party and the Blues are just guests. Stuart has had enough of dealing with NSWRL chief Geoff Carr and other officials. Stuart was unimpressed that officials sold off a Blues home game and allowed it to be played in Melbourne - a city that was always going to be pro-Queensland. And the Blues filled every media commitment whilst Queensland failed to allow Cameron Smith to front the media on the Monday before the game because he supposedly had a cold. It was clear that got under his skin. The Blues were the better side in game one before they were dudded by a series of bad calls. Action should be taken by the ARL Commission - the fact that the Blues were able to compile a dossier of 10 mistakes, including some obvious clangers, made by the match officials should be setting alarm bells ringing. Stuart is fed up with the officials running the game and wants to make a statement. It is not in his contract to talk to the media and as of late this week he was maintaining that position. Stuart does not care whether his stance will lead to his being sanctioned or, in the extreme, sacked. He is fighting against the system and the officials. It may be a waste of energy, but he wants his players to know he is standing up for them.
Hayne happy to open up despite ban
SOME of the Blues players seemed happy to speak to the media after Wednesday night's 18-10 loss to Queensland in the State of Origin opener in Melbourne - centre Michael Jennings showed guts to front up after his hot-and-cold performance and so did Jarryd Hayne. No Blues player was better than Hayne before Origin I when it came to dealing with the media. Often portrayed as aloof or uninterested, he made time for every request. We told you last week his Eels teammates have noticed a significant attitude change and this is further evidence of it.
Issue, what issue?
PAUL GALLEN says there is no issue between him and former Blues coach Craig Bellamy. The NSW skipper made the admission after Bellamy presented jerseys to the Blues players. "I don't know why Craig didn't rate me or whatever," Gallen said. "But that's all in the past. I think coaches have their opinions of players and you have to live with that. There are players right now who think they should be in the Blues team and players like Anthony Watmough who have missed out. It comes down to the player the coach thinks can fill a role and you can't impress every coach. But when it comes to me and Craig, I certainly don't have a grudge of any sort."
Fill in the blanks
THERE was a lighter side to the Blues' "no speakies" about midnight on Wednesday. Paul Gallen walked out of the change room shocked to see the media there. "What are you all doing here still?" he said. "Go home. There is no one left here for you to speak to." He was told Brett Stewart was yet to emerge. "He wouldn't talk to you guys if you paid him." We asked Gallen to go in and approach Stewart. So he did. ''Brett, the media is out here and they want to know if you want to speak to them?" he asked. There was a laugh. "Tell them I have three words for them," he said. I'm guessing they weren't kind.
VICTORIA'S Sports Minister Hugh Delahunty's embarrassing display at the Origin launch started long before he put his foot in his mouth by calling the Blues skipper ''Paul Callen'' and saying Queensland were playing against New Zealand in ''State of the Origin''.
I was told the entire media schedule had to be changed - the traditional captain and coach media opportunity was moved from Tuesday to Monday to accommodate him. He also plonked himself next to the Queenslanders when he was waiting for the media conference to start. It was a bad look - before he goosed himself.
Same old ARU
LEAGUE officials observed it was interesting to see the ARU call a major press conference the day before Origin I - it's an old trick, but it doesn't work any more. Outside of the World Cup and the Bledisloe, rugby is struggling to make an impact outside of its hardcore fan base. League no longer gets rattled by the stunts that used to have impact when Mat Rogers, Wendell Sailor and Lote Tuqiri played the 15-man game. Apart from Quade Cooper, James O'Connor, Will Genia and maybe David Pocock, the Wallabies don't have players that transcend the sport any more. And Robbie Deans's coaching style is not winning any new fans.
Sam helps Tugga jnr
THIS column praised Sam Burgess for the time he spends with junior footballers in the South Sydney area - and now a former Rabbitohs great has backed that view. Craig Coleman's son Liam is a fantastic young player - and he made the junior Blues team which played the curtain-raiser on Wednesday night. The Coleman family were there to see him play, but they could not praise Burgess enough. "Sam called Liam out of the blue to say what a great achievement it was that he got selected," Coleman said. "This is not just any footy player - this is one of the greatest players in the world, one of the big stars of the NRL ringing a young kid. It's hard to put into words what that means to a kid. And as a dad I am just so grateful to Sam for doing that."
Eyes on Brent
AS revealed in the Herald last month, alleged murderer Malcolm Naden's second cousin Brent Naden is a promising rugby league player and Penrith are keen on his services. Six other clubs, headed by Newcastle, are chasing his signature and his family could not be more proud. Malcolm, in case you did not know, was the most wanted man in NSW. Brent is a 16-year-old centre who plays for Wellington. The family knows the Naden name is the point of interest. "We keep Brent away from all of that, but we don't hide from the fact,'' says Julie Naden, his mum. ''We make light of it - when Brent has a quiet period in a game we might shout out and call him Malcolm because he has gone missing in the game. You know you can't help who your family is. Brent has never met Malcolm once - probably for obvious reasons, he was on the run for a long time - and we know that people will be interested in Brent because of his name, but I hope that in time it will be because of what kind of person he is and maybe what he does on the footy field." Brent says he is not affected by the attention he receives because of his infamous relative. "I just put that out of my mind. Mum will have a crack at me - if I go out pigging and don't come back when she says I should, she will call me Malcolm." There has been so much interest in Brent that the family has enlisted Allan Gainey as his manager. "Allan has been amazing for us because we did not know what to do with seven clubs lining up," says Julie. "I can promise you he has been brought up very well and he will handle whatever comes his way. He won't be ashamed to be a Naden - he will do me and his dad proud. When Phil Gould came to see us I was just blown away. He was talking for about five minutes and I didn't hear a word because I just kept thinking this is the Origin legend talking to my boy." Naden's hero is Greg Inglis.