Let’s face it, my mum could coach NSW
Rugby League coach Ricky Stuart. AAP Image/Paul Miller
Since his signing with the Parramatta Eels, there has been much ballyhoo surrounding Ricky Stuart and the NSW coaching job.
Should he coach NSW while coaching in the NRL? Should the job be stand-alone? Was that Jamal Idris ordering three happy meals at the Tweed Heads Maccas the other night?
All of these questions are redundant, except the last one (of course that was Jamal).
A cursory glance at some of the dominant Origin teams of the past 25 years reveals a truth that seems to have been missed by most of the league community.
Forget ‘culture’. Abandon all thoughts of needing a non-NRL coach with singular focus on Origin. Discontinue use of words like ‘desire’ and ‘unity’.
It’s simple: the team with the superior players wins the vast majority of the time.
The exception to the rule, of course, is the first chapter in Origin history, 1980-84. In those early days the two teams, despite apparent on-field parity, were vast distances apart when it came to motivation.
Queensland had a few champions: Lewis, Close, Boustead, Beetson, Reddy and Meninga. But it also had plenty of average talent surrounding them. New South Wales had Eadie, Raudonikis, Rogers, Edge, Young and Cronin and a solid support crew.
The difference, famously, was Queensland’s motivational and aggressive edge. In these first few years, one could say with a straight face that okay, maybe they did ‘want it more’.
The problem is that since then most administrators and journalists seem to have stopped paying attention.
In 1985, Steve Mortimer made history by allegedly rallying the NSW players and finally bringing ‘desire’ to a Blues jersey.
A closer look at the teams might show that something else showed up for NSW : dominant talent.
Queensland were ageing. Chris Close, Greg Dowling, Dave Brown, Paul McCabe and Colin Scott were in their last years. Mark Murray and Greg Conescu in the influential half/hooker positions were little more than average club players.
New South Wales, on the other hand, was bursting with talent. Michael O’Connor was an all-time great at his position, as were Garry Jack, Brett Kenny, Eric Grothe, Steve Roach, Ben Elias and Wayne Pearce. This team was fantastic, a step above Queensland and it duly proved that on the field.
NSW would sweep the 1986 series as Queensland waited for the next generation, which arrived in 1988. The Maroons would in turn sweep two series in a row with players like Lewis, Meninga, Shearer, Currie, Hancock, Vautin, Backo, Lindner and Bella dominating.
Now the 90s were upon us, and a bounty harvest for NSW: Daley, Fittler, McGregor, Stuart, Clyde, Sironen, Roberts, Mackay, Ettingshausen. Bingo. Three series in a row.
The late 90s swung back and forth until the early 2000s which were dominated by NSW. Queensland at that time had Lockyer at the less influential position of fullback and were getting by with players like Scott Prince at half. Compare that with two all-time great halves in Brad Fittler and Andrew Johns and you start to realise that NSW probably didn’t need an edge in desire to win.
However, since ’05 and the retirement of Fittler and Johns, NSW has suffered a history-making talent drought. Never before have the Blues had to survive for so long with so little scrumbase talent, not to mention being outclassed in the outside backs as well.
Thousands of words have since been written about ‘consistency’ in team selection. Why would ostensibly sane selectors continue to pick mediocre players who are being outplayed?
2012 saw NSW edge closer, for two reasons: they made up some ground in talent, thanks to a more dominant pack, an outstanding dummy half and Josh Morris’ defensive effort on Greg Inglis. And Queensland, without Lockyer, dropped down half a notch in attacking precision.
So now we look ahead to 2013. Enough procrastinating: give Ricky Stuart the job. Give my mum the job. For heaven’s sake, if you’re desperate, give Steve Kearney the gig (cheap shot).
Then do what Queensland has done: produce teams stacked with all-time great players, and let nature take its course.