Maroons must select Barba on the bench

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    If the Maroons’ selectors do not include the Bulldogs’ Ben Barba on the bench for Origin I in Melbourne next month, they have not been watching the footy this year. The man they call “X Factor” has put his hand up so high that he cannot be denied.

    I say that as the unofficial president of the “Daly Cherry-Evans Fan Club” and also a great admirer of Matt Bowen.

    Of all the other contenders, DCE is an easy one to dismiss. While he may be the best halfback, he does not have the proven combination in the spine like Cooper Cronk. And the national combination will not be split.

    I was confused by the Australian selectors including him on the bench to play New Zealand in the ANZAC Test. Surely an impact utility like Matt Gillett would have been much more useful to coach Tim Sheens, who snubbed the farce by leaving him on the bench for the entire 80 minutes.

    Matt Bowen is in career best form but has not played for the Maroons since 2007. His 10 Origin appearances off the bench have resulted in four tries, but it appears his time has come and gone.

    The Maroons got away with playing Cronk off the bench last year as he was able to slot in everywhere including lock, but DCE is an out and out halfback. He is not necessary with Cronk and Thurston already on the field. Barba, however, is something different.

    Every time he gets the ball we have an expectation that he will make a break. He is so strong and so fast. There is no denying that he would be a nightmare for Ricky Stuart and the Blues when he came on.

    He can play 1, 6, 7 or 9 and if the Maroons happened to be behind on the scoreboard, there is no other player in the NRL who has the god-given talent to make an impact like the Darwin born Barba.

    The opportunity for a “little man” to be on the bench will likely come down to whether the Maroons choose to go big or small.

    “Depending on what Mal (Meninga) wants to do with the bench, there are a number of options,” selector Allan Smith said.

    The likely Maroon team will be: 1 Slater, 2 Boyd, 3 Hodges, 4 Inglis, 5 Tate, 6 Thurston, 7 Cronk, 8 Scott, 9 Smith, 10 Civoniceva, Hannant or Shillington, 11 Myles, 12 Thaiday, 13 Harrison.

    As for the bench, two must come from Barba, Parker, Gillett and two from Civoniceva, Hannant or Shillington, Taylor, Cherry-Evans, McGuire or Kennedy.

    Gillett and Hannant are certainties, leaving seven others to fight out for two spots. Ben Barba must grab one of them. Ricky Stuart will drop his head when Barba runs out to face the tired New South Wales forwards.

    Like Barba, big Dave Taylor has put his giant hand up for inclusion and despite Shillington being an international incumbent his form all season has been poor, but he will be in a shoot-out with Civoniceva.

    My bench would be Barba, Hannant, Taylor and Gillett, but I could only do this if Parker replaces Harrison as starting lock. I would drop Harrison and Shillington and i cannot find a place for Cherry-Evans, McGuire or Kennedy.

    We rated Barba the best “bench “player in the world when he was a regular first grader in 2010 and since owning the Bulldogs number 1 jersey in 2011, his attacking stats are amazing.

    The Manly defence had no answer to his incisive runs on Friday night. He made 8 tackle breaks and a stunning 200 metres from 15 runs.

    Brett Stewart was named man-of-the-match and made 7 tackle breaks and 188 metres, also from 15 runs. It was a treat to witness two world class athletes on display.

    Barba played his firt full season last year and with 23 tries was the leading try scorer with Nathan Merritt. He also topped the line breaks with 30 (Slater 17). Scarily, there is no doubt he is a much better player now.

    The final make-up of the Maroon bench may be decided by injuries. While I would select Parker over Harrison, the selectors are expected to go with the Titan in the squad.

    The concern for Queensland is Matt Scott who is expected back next week, but as good as he is, he is very replaceable. The Broncos pairing of Petero Civoniceva and Ben Hannant should start, which would open up a spot for young Bronco Josh McGuire.

    Any talk that Civoniceva is “passed it” is off the mark as he was the best big forward in last year’s third Origin and his recent form at club level has been outstanding. His selection should be a no brainer.

    The media are suggesting Shillington will be favoured, even though he only made 52 metres from seven runs against the Sharks in 41 minutes on the weekend.

    What do you think, Roarers? Are my selections on the mark?

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    The Crowd Says (79)

    • May 1st 2012 @ 6:48am
      Gaz said | May 1st 2012 @ 6:48am | ! Report

      “McGuire or Kennedy” pray tell, who is Kennedy?

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      • May 1st 2012 @ 8:17am
        eagleJack said | May 1st 2012 @ 8:17am | ! Report

        Kennedy is a NSW born prop who plays for the Roosters. Don’t worry I’m not starting an eligibilty debate as he moved north as a 10 year old.

        Scott, assuming they do start with Petero, which I think they should, then I agree with the make-up of your bench. Parker needs to get a gig ahead of Harrison for mine.

        The rest of the team picks itself. I’m definitely not wishing injuries on them but it would be interesting to see the make-up of the team if they lost a few key players.

        • Roar Guru

          May 1st 2012 @ 9:53am
          ScottWoodward.me said | May 1st 2012 @ 9:53am | ! Report

          eagle Jack
          Here is the amazing thing with the Maroons. They have 3 future immortals in Slater, Thurston and Smith are the heart of the team, but in my opinion Thurston is the only guy that would be difficult to replace.
          They have won with Smith out when replaced by Ballin and Boyd or Inglis could come in for Slater, but Thurston is freakish in big games and the real differnce between NSW and Qld.

        • May 1st 2012 @ 10:39am
          rl said | May 1st 2012 @ 10:39am | ! Report

          eagleJack – your question re injuries got me thinking about a “shadow” Qld team:

          Run-on: Bowen, Graham, Neilsen, Tonga, Vidot, Prince, DCE, McGuire, Ballin, Shillington, Lillyman, Costigan, Harrison

          Bench: Friend/McCullough, Kennedy, Crocker, Tyrell (who could be another T-Rex if he put his mind to it)

          No future immortals there, but some of them are going pretty well this year. I still couldn’t find room for Zillman, Ben Hunt, Esi Tonga, or even Chris Macqueen.

          But yes, lose Thurston and things become interesting.

          • May 1st 2012 @ 11:15am
            eagleJack said | May 1st 2012 @ 11:15am | ! Report

            rl – there is no doubt that there is some talent in Qld. That shadow side looks ok.

            But I still think that if they lost 2 of either Slater, Cronk, Thurston or Smith then they would struggle. They can cover one of them going down. Not 2.

            The fact of the matter is that NSW could name 5 or 6 strong teams. But not one of them could match the current QLD 1sts. Dugan, Stewart, Hayne, Minichiello can all do a job at the back. But they can’t compete against Slater. Last year we truly had to scrape the barrel in the centres when bringing in young Hopoate. He had only recently debuted in 1st grade and rarely played away from wing or fullback. If it wasn’t for early season injuries and suspensions then Hopoate would have still been in the Toyota Cup in 2011. Could QLD pick 5th string choices and still compete? I don’t think they could.

          • May 1st 2012 @ 11:56am
            Gareth said | May 1st 2012 @ 11:56am | ! Report

            Aside from the irreparable damage it would do to the State of Origin concept, they should do a Tri-Series with Queensland, Queensland A and NSW. I think even a third string Queensland side could just about beat NSW. That “shadow” team you’ve named definitely could.

            • May 1st 2012 @ 12:46pm
              eagleJack said | May 1st 2012 @ 12:46pm | ! Report

              Gareth, 3rd string QLD side would beat NSW? QLD arrogance at it’s best! That shadow side is ok. But most of the players are average at best.

              Graham, Tonga, Vidot, Prince, Costigan, Friend and Tyrrell wouldn’t even make the Manly, Brisbane or Melbourne NRL squads.

              Go to a 3rd string side and you’d be pulling up Toyota Cup players.

              QLD’s top side is great. Best of all time. The depth below that is stretched.

            • May 1st 2012 @ 1:15pm
              Renegade said | May 1st 2012 @ 1:15pm | ! Report

              If that shadow QLD side got within 40 points of NSW i would give up.

              NSW has more depth but not as much class. Only Paul Gallen from our first side would walk into any team in the world….QLD have about 10 players in their first 17 that could do that.

              You look at that shadow side that Eagle Jack has named and seriously, they’d have trouble beating most NRL teams.

            • Roar Guru

              May 1st 2012 @ 6:47pm
              ScottWoodward.me said | May 1st 2012 @ 6:47pm | ! Report

              Gareth
              I dont think you understand how close NSW went last year.
              Glaring selection stuff ups cost the Blues.
              Ricky should have zero say in selections.

      • Roar Guru

        May 1st 2012 @ 9:37am
        ScottWoodward.me said | May 1st 2012 @ 9:37am | ! Report

        Gaz
        I have a huge regard for Kennedy. He was injured last year and will be a future Maroon prop. He is big and mobile and offers genuine go forward.

    • May 1st 2012 @ 8:21am
      sledgeross said | May 1st 2012 @ 8:21am | ! Report

      Sounds good mate.

      As another option, how do you rate Travis Burns as a bench utility for Queensland? STarted off strongly as 5/8 for teh Pathers, now shifted to hooker, tough defender but gives penalties away.

      Gaz, I think Scott means Marty Kennedy, the Chooks prop who is/was eligible for both States.

      • Roar Guru

        May 1st 2012 @ 9:55am
        ScottWoodward.me said | May 1st 2012 @ 9:55am | ! Report

        Sledge
        I dont rate Travis at all. I love the fact that he is tough and trys his heart out but he just does not have the skill for a spine position. His service at 9 for the Panthers was poor. Shame he is not bigger as he shud be a lock.
        and Yes the Roosters Kennedy

    • May 1st 2012 @ 9:00am
      Pot Stirrer said | May 1st 2012 @ 9:00am | ! Report

      I cant see them picking Barba, They have boyd on one wing and Ingliss in the centres, i think the only position barba can play is fullback.
      As a NSW id love them to pick Barba, i believe his defense would be shown up in SOO. Really i cant see them changing last years squad, why would they? Petro may be replaced, I think Kennedy would be good for them of the bench.

      • May 1st 2012 @ 9:11am
        Patrick Angel said | May 1st 2012 @ 9:11am | ! Report

        He played all his junior, Under 20s and for the Bulls in the halves, and when he was bench utility he was often Centre or Hooker.

        About 10 months ago people were saying fullback was the only spot he couldn’t play in the backline.

        His defence wasn’t bad, he just aint big. Queenslands pack could hide him pretty easily imo.

      • May 1st 2012 @ 9:52am
        B.A Sports said | May 1st 2012 @ 9:52am | ! Report

        Agree Pot Stirrer

        I enjoy watching Barba play as much as anyone, he is fantastic. But the second he jogs on the field, Ricky Stuart will send out Williams and Sims. Barba won’t be able to stop them, let alone the other players. And even if he does, the extra energy exerted retreating 10m and making tackles, will only diminish his attacking flair.

        Harrison shouldn’t be picked for QLD, Parker should be the lock with Shilligton starting and the bench Hannant, McGuire, Gillett and given the inexperience of the last two, they will want some experience and thus probably put Petro on the bench also.

        • Roar Guru

          May 1st 2012 @ 10:11am
          ScottWoodward.me said | May 1st 2012 @ 10:11am | ! Report

          BA
          Mate the purpose of having him is if they are behind. You would not bring him on if they were leading. The idea of a bench is IMPACT and that would he provides – better than anyone.

      • Roar Guru

        May 1st 2012 @ 9:58am
        ScottWoodward.me said | May 1st 2012 @ 9:58am | ! Report

        Pot
        You are probably correct but he doest tackle any worse than Thurston and the idea is for him to come on and make an impact if they are behind and no one else does that better.
        It is a strategic call but one I would make. If you are behind it does not matter where he plays he just has to be there. He can play 7 and Cronk can go to 13. It doesnt matter.

        • May 1st 2012 @ 10:20am
          Pot Stirrer said | May 1st 2012 @ 10:20am | ! Report

          Scott, i could be wrong but the bulldogs are only 4 and 4. Average really, But against the clubs played so far has Barba done any of that brilliant play hes capable of against the same quality players he would come up against in Origin?

          • Roar Guru

            May 1st 2012 @ 10:24am
            ScottWoodward.me said | May 1st 2012 @ 10:24am | ! Report

            Pot
            Have you been watching him?
            He made some of the Manly players look sick on Friday. He does it every week. He is a freak.

            • May 1st 2012 @ 10:41am
              Pot Stirrer said | May 1st 2012 @ 10:41am | ! Report

              Yea i dont recall him having a blinder against Manly, but even so they are hardly state of origin Wingers who will be bearing down on him. Scott i do think he is an exiting player,

          • May 2nd 2012 @ 2:27pm
            Patrick Angel said | May 2nd 2012 @ 2:27pm | ! Report

            Not only were two of the losses against last years premiers and minor premiers (by a combined total of 8 points) but last year they were worse.

            He was the ONLY thing for huge patches that was putting points on the board for Canterbury, and this season has started swinging out wide a lot more and added his passing game in.

            By your logic Thurston, Greg Inglis, Dave Taylor, etc, should have had big red marks next to their names for various stages saying “Not fit for rep football”.

    • May 1st 2012 @ 9:19am
      Dan said | May 1st 2012 @ 9:19am | ! Report

      Pretty spot on Scott

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    • May 1st 2012 @ 9:21am
      Dan said | May 1st 2012 @ 9:21am | ! Report

      If they were to loose thurston it would be interesting, who would play 6? The out of form scott prince?

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      • May 1st 2012 @ 9:47am
        KSI said | May 1st 2012 @ 9:47am | ! Report

        Cronk would with DCE at 7.

      • Roar Guru

        May 1st 2012 @ 9:59am
        ScottWoodward.me said | May 1st 2012 @ 9:59am | ! Report

        KSI is correct
        Correct used to be a 6. But DCE could also play. Also Smith plays a lot of 6 for the Storm.

    • May 1st 2012 @ 9:37am
      Gaz said | May 1st 2012 @ 9:37am | ! Report

      Think you’ll find, for game one at least, Meninga will be going in with the same side that was successful last year less Lockyer and Yow Yeh of course. Cronk will come into the halves from the bench and either DCE or more likley now Gillett will take Cronks place on the bench. I expect him to keep Petero and Scott for the front rowers so the bench would be Hannant, Taylor, Gillett and Parker.
      Not so sure Tate is up to origin now days – he seems to get up slowly from every tackle in club footy but his Cowboy team mate Ash Graham is going really well and is a RH winger and wouldn’t be out of place in this side. Another choice would be Dane Neilsen who played last year in place Hodges. He might look at Barba later in the series or perhaps use him instead of Parker on the bench. Barba could come on late in the game and cause havoc similar to Bowen. Anyone remember Kimmorley’s pass in the last minutes at Lang Park?

      • Roar Guru

        May 1st 2012 @ 10:03am
        ScottWoodward.me said | May 1st 2012 @ 10:03am | ! Report

        Gaz
        No time to be be faithful to out of form players.
        The Melb game is the Series IMO. Whoever wins will win the series and they MUST have the best team.
        Barba abd Petero are in the best 17.
        Tate has played heaps of right wing at rep level and he is going well at club level. He is a class act and defends well which is a must as he will face Brett Morris.

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