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Blues cannot afford to start all over again, yet again

Date

Jason Taylor

Core contingent … NSW Origin hopefuls Jarryd Hayne and Mitchell Pearce.

Core contingent … NSW Origin hopefuls Jarryd Hayne and Mitchell Pearce. Photo: Getty Images

At the start of last year, Ricky Stuart had a meeting with the players he had identified as the core long-term members of the NSW team - Paul Gallen, Kurt Gidley, Todd Carney, Mitchell Pearce, Luke Lewis and Jarryd Hayne.

This was a great move. For too long NSW had chopped and changed its team from year to year, even game to game, so we desperately needed stability. On the back of this NSW took it to Queensland last year and were in with a chance of finally winning the series. All of the core players played in last year's team except for Todd Carney who was carrying an injury at the start of 2011 and wasn't fit enough for Origin footy.

With this as the starting point for NSW's vastly improved performances last year, I can't believe so many positions are again up for grabs in 2012. Are the Blues really going to go into this year's series with yet another new-look team? If the players listed above are fit, they should be chosen. After doing a good job last year, why do they have to earn their stripes all over again?

I'm comfortable with Carney coming in ahead of Jamie Soward because Carney was in Stuart's original plans. But if Carney isn't a certain selection, why isn't Soward in the running to retain his spot? He was good enough for all three games last year and was man of the match a couple of times at the start of this season. Yet now he's supposedly not good enough for City-Country.

Pearce, the incumbent NSW halfback, is playing for City in Mudgee today but he must be feeling enormous pressure. In fact, of those who played in the four key positions for NSW last year- hooker, halfback, five-eighth and fullback - Pearce is the only one playing today. Fullbacks Josh Dugan (injured) and Anthony Minichiello weren't selected. Soward and hooker Michael Ennis have also been overlooked.

Ennis is an interesting one. He has played seven Origins and started in all three last year. However he was overlooked for Danny Buderus as first-picked hooker for Country. Reading between the lines, Buderus will be picked for Origin. Now I can understand this, as his experience is a massive asset. The guy may be 34 but he has captained NSW to a series win and it's hard to overlook that. I still feel Ennis needs to be kept in the fold. He was starting hooker last year, and presumably will be again next year if we only get one year out of Buderus. Then again, a journalist told me during the week Stuart had gone off Ennis. He said if Buderus isn't picked then Robbie Farah will be. Like Pearce and Soward, I don't understand why Ennis was good enough last year, but now he isn't.

Ennis, Buderus and Farah are all great players. But when are we going to start building something that lasts more than one series? When are we going to give our team the time to build combinations? Combinations are everything. Queensland's combinations are their greatest strength. The Maroons have the best players in the game in the key positions. We can't select better players than Queensland because better players don't exist. However, it is the way these players combine that makes them so potent. We can't match their talent right now but over time, we can match their understanding and their teamwork. Pearce and Carney took the Roosters to a grand final in 2010. They know how each other plays. This is a start.

Darren Lockyer is gone and the Maroons have a new halves combination. But it won't take Cooper Cronk long to assimilate. Queensland could quite easily have talked up the battle between Scott Prince and Cronk for the spot that was inevitably going to be created when Lockyer retired. But they put that to bed three years ago. They picked Cronk on the bench and said he's the bloke they want in the halves when Locky retires. Now he'll put on the Maroons No.7 jersey and immediately feel comfortable at Origin level.

Even without Lockyer it is still too hard to match the Maroons' playing talents. Nevertheless, we can match their combinations. I'm just wondering when we're going to start. I thought we started last year. I hope I wasn't wrong.

8 comments so far

  • Paul Gallen is a fantastic player and a great leader. His origin performance in Sydney last year was the finest single sustained performance ever seen in thirty years of origin. But thirty is the operative word here - as good as Gallen is, he is thirty years old, so how can he form part of the core of the blue's long term? He would have to have the longevity of Civonoceva to achieve that, which I think is highly unlikely. He should be given a clear leadership and development role, but he can hardly be seen as long term.

    Commenter
    Reggie
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    April 22, 2012, 1:02PM
    • Bringing Buderus back would be a huge mistake. If the guy needs to rest now, how is he going to cope through the three game series? Unless Wayne Bennett is willing to rest him from playing for the Knights - yeah right!
      Stuart should go with either Farah or Hinchcliffe at hooker, Ennis is a liability as was seen in game 3 last year and whilst Pearce should keep his spot for game one based on his partnership with Carney, it would be advisable to keep Wallace in the mix.
      team for game one
      1.Hayne 2.Morris 3.Jennings 4. Lawrence 5.Uate 6.Carney 7.Pearce 8.Galloway 9.Farah. 10. Weyman 11.Watmough 12.R.Hoffmann .13. Gallen - 14. Lewis 15. Mannah. 16. Merrin 17. Tamou

      Commenter
      brendo
      Location
      bondi
      Date and time
      April 22, 2012, 1:16PM
      • Buderus seems like a step backwards to me but his experience will shine through. I'd have to agree with the comments about Ennis being a liability though. I think we need to pick the spine: 9,7,6 and 1 for Game one and not change it for all three.

        Commenter
        SirSam
        Location
        Bathurst
        Date and time
        April 22, 2012, 4:18PM
        • Notice how big Mall is loyal to his players. If they have a bad game they're automatically retained in the team.
          There is none of this pitting one player against that another nonsense that Ricky Stuart seems to enjoy.
          Loyalty plays a massive part in player confidence.
          Queenslanders can play the game with confidence with the knowledge that even with mistakes or losing they are still part of the team.
          That is the only difference between QLD and NSW.

          Commenter
          Oh come on
          Location
          Marooned deep in Blues Territory
          Date and time
          April 22, 2012, 6:59PM
          • Absolutely correct. And that's the point Jason's making; Qld is a real team, but the Blues are a rotating bunch of good layers. Champion team/team of champions...

            Commenter
            Noel
            Date and time
            April 24, 2012, 6:12PM
        • here we go again. nsw are still in about 3 minds about there team. qld have got there team maybe 1 or 2 players in question. nsw will not win as they always say they will stick with there same team and year after year they dont. qld can loose a game but still stick with the same 17 unlike nsw they will change half there team . nsw have the wrong coach for starters and nsw still dont know who there 6 and 7 will be. nsw might have 2 or 3 times the amount of players qld do but qld just have the better players. if carney plays at 6 nsw might have a chance at winning in sydney if they are lucky. then you have to look at the ages of the 2 sides. guess who will have the younger team with more experience.

          Commenter
          queensland 7
          Location
          usa
          Date and time
          April 23, 2012, 5:51AM
          • And Ricky made a big thing about loyalty when he took up the blues coaching job last year

            Commenter
            Ian
            Date and time
            April 23, 2012, 6:36AM
            • Yes JT, NSW can afford to and need to start again because quite frankly we have not got it right from the time Craig Bellamy was given the reigns. The whole argument that QLD are consistent with their selections and NSW are not is ridiculous. QLD have arguably the best players in their positions - Slater, Inglis, Thurston, Cronk, Smith, Scott. Lets not forget about Lockyer also. They can afford to be consistent. We have made selection blunders all these years - Naming Gidley as captain after 4 games off the bench, Ennis over Farah are 2 that come to mind. Its only now we finally have a chance to get it right. We have strong stocks all over the park and we need to ensure we pick the right mix. I am all for consistency but lets face it. some of the players in the team have been there the last 3 years and still have not delivered. Where is the line drawn? Yes we will be consistent (as we were when fittler, johns etc were playing)but not until we get our team right and so we can afford to start rebuilding again. QLD are right favourites for 7th straight series defeat but this year could be our best chance of beating them. Lets's not blow it.

              Commenter
              Chuck
              Location
              Campsie
              Date and time
              April 23, 2012, 10:27PM

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