By Callan Lawrence
The last thing we need now is dissent in the ranks. But I’m willing to be a rogue critic, wrong I hope, and open to all manner of abuse from right-minded and loyal Blues fans.
Should I (hopefully) be proven wrong Wednesday night, I’ll speak no ills of the great Laurie Daley again.
But if The Blues lose the decider at ANZ, Loz, and selector Bob Fulton, will have some questions to answer about team selections. None more than Josh Reynolds place on the bench, ostensibly over John Sutton.
The fact Reynolds didn’t get a run in Origin one has been written about before but it speaks volumes for his place in the side. Loz’s choice not to play him showed Reynolds was just there as cover for the halves and Robbie Farah, all of whom would only come from the field if injured.
In that case, surely moving Greg Bird into hooker or five-eighth with a shuffle around would be better than wasting a reserve? Let’s remember, Bird started at five-eighth for The Blues in 2007 and for Australia in 2008.
If Sutton is the alternative to Reynolds, than how has the Bulldog won selection over the Bunny?
Sutton leads Reynolds in almost every statistic. Sutton has run for an average of more than 101 metres a game in 2013, compared to Reynolds’ 70m.
Sutton has busted more tackles, 46 to 31, and makes more tackles a game.
Speaking of tackles, Sutton has been known to get caught flatfooted in defence but still averages 2 less missed tackles a game then Reynolds’ 3-or so
And no Queensland forward would run over Sutton. The world’s biggest five-eighth stands at 190 centimetres and 105 kilograms, making him bigger than every Cane Toad on the park, bar Greg Inglis.
Despite the comparison to Sutton, Reynolds possesses all the attributes of a State of Origin player-in-the-making. He is fast, aggressive, competitive and always probing in attack. But his position on the bench and use so far has been questionable.
Sutton would surely be more valuable coming off the bench as an extra forward who could offer a ball-playing role to relieve James Maloney and Mitchell Pearce. As for Pearce, his selection over Adam Reynolds was always warranted this year but if both continue on their trajectories it won’t be next season.
Blues fans felt so optimistic going into Game Two at Suncorp, until James Tamou and Blake Ferguson found themselves in strife and Jarryd Hayne was forced out injured. With these three who had played so well in Game One out, The Blues made more questionable selections.
Nathan Merritt is a star NRL player and a personal favourite of mine to watch but if Loz’s game plan was, as he said, to rush in on Greg Inglis than Merritt was never the man for the job. Newcastle’s James McManus would have been a safer bet from the start, or Manly’s Jorge Taufua.
Aaron Woods was never going to fill Tamou’s shoes. The stocks were thin here but I would suggest Luke O’Donnell is a proven performer at Origin level, and one who wouldn’t be move backwards. He may have gone some way to stalling the forward roll Nate Myles up the middle of the park.
Josh Dugan is a talent but didn’t deserve a call-up for Hayne’s place so soon after letting his team mates down with ill-discipline. Anthony Minichiello could have filled that full-back spot as he has so many times before, and brought with him the experience of beating the Maroons.
I’m sure this is all just pre-game nerves. I’ll fall in line now and back The Blues . . .
But if, as I fear, Queensland win an eighth series, maybe Loz should look to recruit a credentialed-sidekick (ala Michael Hagan) to help with team selections next year.