Dropping a bomb: Cutting NSW’s Mr Nice Guy
Have Ricky Stuart and the NSWRL selectors made the right decision to drop Uate for State of Origin Game 3? (AAP Image/Paul Miller)
Not too long ago if you were part of a winning NSW Origin team you were guaranteed to be selected for the rest of the series, probably the next two series after that as well.
You’d also get free beers for life at Michael Cronin’s Gerringong hotel and a personal dinner date with the rugby league Immortal of your choice.
Times have changed though, and with Ricky Stuart going to bed every night dreaming of finally getting his hands on the hard wood, he has decided to pre-emptively trim the fat on his successful game two side.
Hovering the axe over his occasionally existent Dragons bench pairing, Stuart has instead brought the chop down on Newcastle winger Akuila Uate, at the same time splitting rugby league fan opinions in two.
Uate’s cut is a hard one, for a number of reasons.
For starters, what a lovely fellow the young Akuila is! In a team that contains the super surly brothers, a five-eighth with as many speeding tickets as tattoos and a plethora of players with public nuisance written all over them, the smiling Fijian is a Blue even Chris Close would share his last packet of Winnie Reds with.
While some NRL players like to brag about ‘growing up on the mean streets of Woollahra’ before celebrating each victory like they just solved world hunger, Uate is the real rags to riches story, and the effort that he puts into each match is as clear as Laurie Daley’s beak.
Secondly with the ball in his hands Uate goes alright. Goes alright the same way that Black Caviar could probably get up enough speed to be avoided by Robbie Kearns.
If the NRL decided to adopt the now entrenched American Football system of separate offensive and defensive teams Akuila would be set for life, his wrecking ball torso continually bending back even the most psychotic Origin enhanced Queensland forward packs.
And finally, well, it’s just not done….especially to players from Newcastle. Just wait until Joey and Chief find Ricky’s fallout shelter!
Seriously though dropping an individual from an overall successful unit, especially one with as much obvious talent as Uate, would sting like deep heat on your jock strap. But in this case it was simple mathematics: Three tries conceded versus one try scored.
Granted, announcing the team a night before Uate plays for his club might not reek of Ron Burgundy-like class, but that’s a separate argument.
Stuart’s step is also not without precedent. Who could forget Justin Hodges debut game blooper reel, a game which Queensland won but saw the angry one replaced for game three by an out of position and quickly slowing Robbie O’Davis?
The fact that Hodges has since turned into a successful Origin player and aggressive on-field antagonist probably makes his match day faux-pas more hilarious than tragic, but there’s no reason to suggest Uate shouldn’t share his quick re-call.
Everyone knows what he is capable of, it’s just that with Queensland now faced with the possibility of losing something they’ve held on to for a long time in front of their frothing home fans, a Uate lacking confidence may as well paint a giant target on his bald dome like Martin Offiah all but did on the ‘94 Kangaroos tour (Lee Oudenryn can do that to people).
Unlike Offiah though, Uate has time on his side, and he’ll be back in the big game soon enough, so let’s not feel too sorry for him.
And hey, if he’s really keen for a game, I’m sure Fiji will give him a run.
Follow Chris on Twitter: Vic_Arious@twitter.com
Chris Chard is a sports humour writer commenting on the often absurd nature of professional sport. A rugby league fan boy with a good blend of youth and experience taking things one week at a time, Chris has written for The Roar since 2011. Tweet him @Vic_Arious
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