How NSW will be better without Gallen
By Ben Everill
Everyone is already in a tizzy about New South Wales losing skipper Paul Gallen to injury for the State of Origin decider but I am prepared to go out on a limb and say the Blues are potentially a better team for it.
I can already hear the howls of derision… I’m crazy… have you seen his work rate… what about his passion…
And I can also hear the scoffs… dismissing my thought before even hearing me out.
The bookies have blown out the Blues odds… twitter and facebook etc has gone mental with the ‘now we’re screwed’ talk… but everyone just hold on a minute.
For all the good Paul Gallen brings the Blues, he also holds them back. I am not trying to bash Gal here… I doubt anyone wants the Blues to win the series more than him… and he’s proven to be a pretty darn good player in recent years, but the fact remains, I believe his style of play has hampered the team somewhat.
With Gallen out we will see the likes of James Tamou, Andrew Fifita and Trent Merrin get more minutes, giving them a real chance to show their true potential. Each of these guys is harder to tackle than Gallen and, as a consequence, take more energy from the opposition players. Gallen is a metres and tackles man. He racks them up more than most… but his play-the-balls aren’t fast and when he takes so many runs ahead of other players he effectively slows the Blues attack down. He has been guilty of doing too much at the Sharks for years… and the same goes on occasion for the Blues. He has world-class players around him and doesn’t need to be claiming so much of the ball.
The other three props also have brilliant footwork for big men while Gallen does not. Merrin has been gapping them all year at the struggling Dragons and just take a look at last weekend’s Sharks game to get an eye on what Fifita can do. Gallen has even shelved his old offload game to an extent, making him rather one-dimensional.
Defensively he churns up the numbers but he’s not really pressuring ball players like other players do and pressure forces quicker decisions and hopefully errors.
Added to all this is his relationship with the referees. Gallen has never been a referee favourite and while officials do absolutely everything they can to be impartial they are human. When a guy is at you often and trying to pull one over on you constantly as Gallen can with whistleblowers, you can be almost sure some 50-50 calls won’t turn your way.
I will admit I do have some concerns with Aaron Woods, similar to Smithy I am worried he can be caught out laterally and Cameron Smith might work him over… but I stand by the fact the other big guys can make a real difference. They should be full of excitement with the opportunity and pumped to be given a bigger say in the result.
So before we go writing off the Blues as they attempt to stop the Queensland juggernaut let’s just take a few deep breaths and see this as glass half full… not empty.