WIZ: State of Origin decision will be driven by the dollar
Melbourne have a bad case of the mid-season blues, with five losess in a row, and I think it can be directly attributed to the rigours of this season’s State of Origin battles.
Every State of Origin series is tough, but this most recent one was particularly taxing – both mentally and physically.
If you want proof, look at how few of the Origin stars have been in top form since the series ended. I count Greg Inglis and the Morris brothers, and that’s about it.
Storm coach Bellamy has gone on record saying how frustrated he is with how his team has played over the past month or so.
The question is now: how does he get his side to lift and go back to winning games when they don’t even look like they can score points?
Obviously, they’ve been missing Billy Slater in a big way.
I was at their match last weekend against the Dragons, and while he was clearly short of a gallop, you could just see what a difference Billy makes to the Storm attack. He brings an unbelievable spark to everything they do.
With him back on deck, fully fit, the Storm should rebound very quickly.
But still, it’s clear that the timing of State of Origin needs to addressed.
So here’s an idea: why don’t they take two weekends off from regular NRL action and play the first two Origin matches instead over consecutive Saturday nights.
If there’s then a need for a third and deciding match, they can play that the following Friday night, and let the players back up, if they’re able to, for their clubs that same weekend.
This way, players don’t miss NRL club games, and the Origin is afforded the time and attention that it deserves.
It would also give regular NRL players players a better chance to recover from their niggles and injuries.
To keep the TV network happy, I suggest they play and broadcast three tiers of Origin each Saturday over that period: U16s, U20s and the big boys. It would be a great night of entertaining rugby league.
But while that all may sound good on paper, the reality is that the next decision around State of Origin timing will inevitably be driven by the dollar, especially with rugby league TV rights still up for grabs.
There are a number of commercial implications to be considered by the Rugby League Commission before they’ll agree to changing anything. But this sort of discussion is healthy, if only to bring these concerns to the table.
Outside of Origin, the NRL is shaping up for a cracking finale.
My old mob, the Tigers, simply need to start winning games of football. If they do, they can scrape into the eight. But only barely. They have the talent to do it, but they are also missing five key players right now. It’ll be tough for them.
And speaking of the race for the 8, where were the Knights in the first half of the season? It looks like the players didn’t really believe in what Bennett was doing.
Now he has them all onboard, the team is looking more and more like the Dragons of 2011. Case in point: when Newcastle were up 20-0 against Raiders, they had a penalty in front of the posts. Instead of going for the try, they took the two points.
This is precisely what the Dragons under Bennett used to do. So you know now that Wayne is totally influencing this Knights side now.
They’ll be very tough to beat over the next 5 weeks.
Gary 'Wiz' Freeman is one of the great halfbacks in New Zealand rugby league history. Now an outspoken and popular media personality, he joined The Roar in 2012 as an expert rugby league columnist, and continues in 2013.