Origin winners and losers from City vs Country

MG Burbank Roar Guru

By MG Burbank, MG Burbank is a Roar Guru

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    Although I’ve long been an advocate for pulling the plug on the wheezing, tottering old mule that is the annual City-Country game, there were some edifying moments to come out of Sunday’s match.

    These were in relation to the makeup of the 2012 New South Wales squad.

    The NRL is the best rugby league competition in the world, therefore we certainly don’t need a contrived, lower-level representative fixture to ‘assist’ in the selection of the Blues team (there are more direct ways to grow the game in the bush).

    That said, certain players made me review my recent suggestions for the 17 to wear sky blue this year (Ben Barba no longer among them, for my regular readers), while other men ruled themselves out.

    One of the standouts for me was BJ Leilua, not having been on my radar at any stage to this point. He reminds me of Justin Hodges – big and skillful, a handful for the opposition.

    Reliability is a question mark but right now Josh Morris is the only man to have sewn up a centre position; he was strong again on Sunday. It’s Michael Jennings v Leilua at this stage for the other spot. Chris Lawrence still looks two yards slower in 2012.

    I had Brett Morris on the wing with Uate, but Blake Ferguson is making me think twice. Morris is a superb finisher but Ferguson has him beat for that touch of brilliance which can be the difference in a tight game. I’ve said before that New South Wales needs to prioritise attack over reliability, so Ferguson might get a look.

    Jarryd Hayne confirmed what I’ve been saying for some time now: the man is slow and hurt, providing none of his former spark. He’s been living on reputation, with the media and fans eager to affirm a talent that is currently absent.

    Todd Carney buried him for five-eighth, and he doesn’t have the speed to play fullback right now.

    One of the big stories from this game for me was Mitchell Pearce. Finally this man showed me why others have been lauding him for so long. He completely outplayed my pick for NSW, Jarrod Mullen, with superior kicking, crisp passing and even an occasional dart at the line.

    Overall, he displayed presence at halfback, an intangible quality which seems necessary at Origin level. He doesn’t appear to have a challenger for the No.7 jersey at this stage.

    Tariq Sims is a monster and now is pressing intensely for a spot. If he cracks it, it should be as a starter; New South Wales needs to assert itself early against the reigning champs.

    Tim Mannah, a man not in my 17 before Sunday, is one of the few props going around who returns kickoffs at full intensity, something strangely missing from the game this year. He was bruising in Mudgee and might change my mind, completely outplaying my pick Michael Weyman, who looked flat.

    Having said all that, it’s hard to assess players’ performance when they’re simultaneously trying to impress selectors, avoid injury, and play for a team to which they feel no allegiance, whatever they might say.

    The biggest development was what appeared to be the beginning of Bill Harrigan’s crackdown on the 10 metres and the wrestle, putting Leilua on report for an ugly arm twist. May the referees continue to blow the whistle and be the new sheriffs in town when hostilities resume in the NRL this week.

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    The Crowd Says (27)

    • April 23rd 2012 @ 11:06am
      Will Sinclair said | April 23rd 2012 @ 11:06am | ! Report

      No mention of Aaron Woods as a bolter for the bench?

      Most hit ups, most metres… He’s still only 20 which should count against him, but deadset this kid is going to be a star.

      And Farah did his chances no harm at all. 44 tackles and ran the game with aplomb. Can’t escape the feeling that he can do everything Buderus and Ennis can do, and also has that X-Factor the other two lack.

      Agree on Chris Lawrence – he’s still getting over those injuries from last season. Such a pity, at his best he is a stand out.

      • Roar Guru

        April 23rd 2012 @ 1:11pm
        The Barry said | April 23rd 2012 @ 1:11pm | ! Report

        There were more than just Tigers players out there Will.

        Pearce is the son of one at least…

        Lawrence has had dreadful luck with the timing of injuries.

      • April 23rd 2012 @ 1:42pm
        Renegade said | April 23rd 2012 @ 1:42pm | ! Report

        I’d rather Hinchcliffe than Farah….his not upto the level past City-Country.

    • April 23rd 2012 @ 11:43am
      Pot Stirrer said | April 23rd 2012 @ 11:43am | ! Report

      I agree with all your comments except Fergusson, Yes he his dangerous in attack but i think he is to risky to play Soo, I thought Ryan Hinchcliffe was good again and imo is the bloke who should be playing hooker. I think we know who the halves will be now.

      • April 23rd 2012 @ 11:50am
        Will Sinclair said | April 23rd 2012 @ 11:50am | ! Report

        Agree on Ferguson – he’s potentially brilliant, but also very brittle and makes too many errors.

        I’d be playing Hayne out there myself. Wing is maybe the one area QLD are a bit weak and he could create a few opportunities.

        • April 23rd 2012 @ 12:12pm
          Jeff McGinn said | April 23rd 2012 @ 12:12pm | ! Report

          If Hayne plays, it MUST be at Fullback. they have stuffed this guy around too long, He is the Blues best #1 by a proverbial mile, there are several wingers who should be amongst the choices for their respective positions, stop muckin’ around with positions and blues will improve..

          zappa scored two tries, but after the demolition against him in his last appearance in a blues jersey, I was amazed that he even got a trial.. AND I like him!.

          Country defence was abysmal in the first half.. I fail to see how attacking players performance can be judged against such an effort.

          • April 23rd 2012 @ 12:36pm
            Big_Marn2000 said | April 23rd 2012 @ 12:36pm | ! Report

            Hayne won’t play. I agree that he is our best fullback. I actually think that on his day he is more damaging than any player in the world (including Slater, Marshall, Thurston, Smith, Cronk etc.). But he’s playing on one leg. Picking him now won’t benefit him or NSW.

          • April 23rd 2012 @ 3:50pm
            Pot Stirrer said | April 23rd 2012 @ 3:50pm | ! Report

            Been giving it some more though and i think we could end up with Gidley at F/B with Morris and Hayne on the wings.
            I hope Hayne can get fit becuase i thought he looked the worst on field yesterday and he is so much better than that.
            Hes prob got to many ppl in his ear telling how to play and its confusing him.

        • April 23rd 2012 @ 3:02pm
          Ticker said | April 23rd 2012 @ 3:02pm | ! Report

          As an avid Raiders fan I can tell you that Ferguson has been sublime this year. He has managed to curb those errors in his game, particularly under the high ball. He is reaping huge benefit from playing outside Shaun Berrigan – they have forged a good partnership out wide, especially in defence.

          I was disappointed to see Daniel Vidot leave last year, mainly because of his carries coming out of his own 20. Never mind, because Ferguson has stepped up and killed it in that role this year.

          Blake Ferguson v2012 is a far more balanced winger, and has vastly improved his game in all aspects of wing play, without losing that outrageous element to his style that people pay to watch. If NSW want help to snap out of their funk they could do worse than pick him.

          • April 23rd 2012 @ 4:06pm
            Gareth said | April 23rd 2012 @ 4:06pm | ! Report

            I have to agree with that. Even in the couple of games where the Raiders have absolutely diabolical, Ferguson has always put in 100% and is playing with a lot more maturity than previous seasons. Most surprising for me has been how often he’s been involved in lead up play, given his role as a finisher. I think he’s worth a chance. Granted it’s a risk, but it’s not like the “safe” options have ever really worked.

      • April 23rd 2012 @ 11:56am
        Will Sinclair said | April 23rd 2012 @ 11:56am | ! Report

        I actually thought Hinchliffe wasn’t great, and the stats bear that out – 18 tackles and 3 misses… that’s poor.

        Farrar made 44 tackles and didn’t miss one.

        Looking at Woods performance again – 145 metres, 34 tackles, 2 offloads… deadset if City v Country is a proper Origin trial then he’s played his way in, hasn’t he?

        Weyman 86m, Mannah 92m, Merrin 94m…

        • April 23rd 2012 @ 1:50pm
          Renegade said | April 23rd 2012 @ 1:50pm | ! Report

          If that’s the basis for the selection – than Luke Douglas wins hands down as he was the best prop on the field yesterday.

          Only played 40 minutes…almost 20 minutes less than Aaron Woods yet Douglas made 12 hitups for 125m and 25 tackles and we know he can play close to 80 minutes if needed.

          Woods isn’t ready just yet, he gets out played by other props on a weekly basis in the NRL. I think he is a year or two away from Origin but will certainly be a blue and maybe even a kangaroo by the end of his career.

          The first prop picked will be a backrower and captain – Paul Gallen.
          I think Tamou, Douglas, Weyman, Mannah, Lars, Woods and Snowden will fight out for the rest.

          • April 23rd 2012 @ 2:07pm
            Will Sinclair said | April 23rd 2012 @ 2:07pm | ! Report

            Yeah – thought Douglas was very good too Renegade.

            And I ultimately agree that Woods is not ready… His time will come (and you can see why the Tigers let a couple of props go to Cronulla so they could keep him and Groat – who was dominant in the U23s SOO.)

            Interesting that you left Galloway off your list of potential props? Surely he’s in the top 8 props in NSW?

            • April 23rd 2012 @ 2:30pm
              Renegade said | April 23rd 2012 @ 2:30pm | ! Report

              At the moment Will, i personally think his behind the pack of possible selections i’ve listed and isn’t in contention. He didn’t have a great start to the year obviously due to the injury….i’ve also left Jason King and Merrin off my list who are getting thrown around as possibilities but i wouldn’t opt for either of them as i don’t think they can handle the pace of rep footy.

    • April 23rd 2012 @ 11:47am
      Charles said | April 23rd 2012 @ 11:47am | ! Report

      Watch the game again and you will find Pearce and Farrar were allowed to run, with very poor defence by Country in the first half
      They will not be allowed that lattitude with QLD

    • April 23rd 2012 @ 12:41pm
      Dan said | April 23rd 2012 @ 12:41pm | ! Report

      Who would you pick at the back big marn? Stewart, Dugan both injured

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    • Roar Guru

      April 23rd 2012 @ 1:21pm
      The Barry said | April 23rd 2012 @ 1:21pm | ! Report

      Pearce and Carney have locked up the halves positions. You can’t do more than play what’s in front of you and Pearce was outstanding. I’ve been saying for a few weeks that he’s been playing a lot better than he’s been getting credit for.

      Hayne cannot be picked at 6 for NSW. End of story.

      Woods was outstanding although I’d hesitate to throw a 20 year old prop into the Origin cauldron. He’ll be something else in a few years. At 20 he’s still got a lot of filling out to do. I’d have no complaints if he was picked though.

      Tariq Sims must come off the bench for NSW. Hinchcliffe must now be regarded as a back rower who can occassionally fill in at hooker rather than a starting number 9.

      I love the City v Country game.

      I think some of the performances above shows the value of this fixture in terms of NSW selection. While it’s not a genuine selection trial (ie selection is not solely determined by performance in this game but by a combination of factors such as playing style, NRL form, etc) it’s cleared the waters a lot in terms of fringe players.

      Plus it was a bloody exciting game. It certainly looked like it meant a lot to the players out there.

      • April 23rd 2012 @ 2:04pm
        Will Sinclair said | April 23rd 2012 @ 2:04pm | ! Report

        Nice post, Barry. And I agree with most of what you say.

        Despite his great performance, I agree that Woods is not yet ready for Origin. Maybe it would be a good idea to pick him as 18th man though, so he can get into camp and start to experience the Origin build up?

        Pearce and Carney pick themselves – agree. Hayne is not a No. 6 – agree. Sims must be there – agree.

    • April 23rd 2012 @ 2:26pm
      Jason Cave said | April 23rd 2012 @ 2:26pm | ! Report

      If NSW selected Hayne at 5/8 it would be a big boost to Queensland, who have Thurston and Cronk to deal with him.

      Hayne is not another version of Brett Kenny.

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