In my living memory as an NRL fan there’s never been a year where the game hasn’t been brought into controversy because of appalling behaviour by one (usually more than one) of it’s players.
James Tamou, George Burgess and Blake Ferguson have all found themselves in trouble with the law in a short space of time and these high profile, successful footballers won’t be the last to let themselves down because of bad choices.
When a player is in such a situation, the well trodden line from management is that they are young men part of the wider society and as such are just as susceptible as any one else to the many problems that exist in the wider community. They are not immune.
As much as these athletes are role models for children, it must be said they should be admired for their conduct on the field and little more. Off the field role models should be people closer to home, mums and dads etc. These players, these young men, are perhaps in need of a few good role models themselves.
While Blake Ferguson destroyed his shot of a start in Origin II, this round offers the opportunity for fringe players to break through because of Origin duty and fill in for their more esteemed colleagues.
Nothing epitomises this more than the effort of Daniel Mortimer, who showed that he is a first grade player. Mortimer steered the Roosters to victory over a Bulldogs side missing only Josh Reynolds to Origin duty while the Roosters were without regular halves combination Maloney and Pearce aswell as their strike centre Jennings.
It was a master class in momentum and execution. The Roosters gained the momentum early and Mortimer had the execution to put points on the board. He set Boyd Cordner up twice with almost identical short balls and began the movement wide which led to SKD’s opening try. Mortimer’s passing game was without fault and his kicks were pin-point.
The Roosters out enthused the Bulldogs, made more yards, completed more sets and took control. Their very first set with the ball they were awarded a dubious penalty when on the last tackle, Ennis put Mortimer on his backside. He dealt with heavy pressure from Ennis all night, who went on to flatten him twice more after kicks. With this early momentum they didn’t look back, they’re opening try came off the back of a repeat set, Mortimer starting a movement out wide for SKD to score.
The Bulldogs hit back with a try to Ben Barba. It’s a beautiful thing when Barba scores like that. Given the ball out wide on a sweeping backline play, room to move, a hint at a change of direction, a burst of speed and he slips through two defenders like they weren’t even there. Hodkinson’s conversion made it 6-4 and it appeared everything was back to script.
However, the Dogs were out of sorts. Tony Williams continued to look as lost as ever in a Bulldogs jersey. Behind by four and with two minutes remaining in the opening half, he received the ball at half back to an uneventful end. While they failed to fire all game, they showed their potential late. Things could have ended differently had a pass from Barba gone to hand.
He skillfully reeled in a pre-meditated chip kick and then lobbed the ball desperately to his winger but it traveled forward. In the 70th minute, Kasiano showed his skill with a nice pass for Halatau to strike back and in the 78th Inu crossed from dummy half. But they ran out of time, the scores ending at Roosters 20 Bulldogs 18.
SBW turned around an average first half where he produced a poor kick and gave away a silly penalty to go on and earn Channel Nine’s man of the match. He was scintillating at times, especially the line break he made. Ennis wasn’t having the best night with the referees and was ropable when the Dogs lost possession near the Roosters line after Pritchard spilled the ball trying to milk a penalty – it certainly wasn’t their night.
The Roosters performed well as a team. They did the little things right, like Jake Friend’s 40/20 which kept his sides momentum up in the first half.
Mortimer did himself proud with a solid performance. It shows that while some high profile players have blown their chances at representing their team and their state, there are those waiting in the background ready to step up and take their place when they fall. In this round, it will be interesting to see which players rise up and capitalise during this Origin period.
People to watch: Brett Finch and Brett Hampton, the halves pairing for Melbourne Monday night versus the Titans.