Mitchell Moses: Origin player. It’s just crazy enough to work

AJ Mithen Columnist

By AJ Mithen, AJ Mithen is a Roar Expert

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    Mitchell Moses of Lebanon at the 2017 Rugby League World Cup (NRLPhotos/Robb Cox)

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    At this time of the NRL season almost every on-field action is viewed through a State of Origin prism.

    The rugby league world is awash with speculation about Origin hopefuls playing themselves in or out of contention for a blue or maroon jersey.

    While it’s all good for content, I would expect that with a fortnight until squads are announced, New South Wales and Queensland’s respective coaches Brad Fittler and Kevin Walters have decided on 90 per cent of their squad and are now just thinking about combinations and utility value from a player on the fringes of selection.

    Among all the speculation, it was pretty much accepted that Penrith’s halves duo of James Maloney and Nathan Cleary would line up at the six and seven for the Blues.

    Until this week, that is. New South Wales ‘adviser’ Greg Alexander casually detonated a hydrogen-strength selection bomb, bringing to light Fittler’s concerns with Maloney’s defence.

    It was a completely unexpected entry into the news cycle and Maloney should rightly feel a little bemused about it all, to put it lightly.

    James Maloney of the Panthers

    (AAP Image/Michael Chambers)

    Alexander’s and then Fittler’s subsequent comments during the week are clearly being done to prepare Blues fans for the reality that Fittler’s squad will include Parramatta halfback Mitchell Moses.

    The reaction from New South Wales supporters has been visceral. They don’t want Moses, who they see as a turnstile in defence and a poor decision-maker in attack.

    Is the hate justified, though? Is Moses such a liability? Is selecting him a ‘classic New South Wales move’ as it has been described?

    I’ll admit that until Fittler and Alexander started talking Moses up I hadn’t thought he was a chance. But when you think about it, it starts to make some sense.

    Let’s take a look at the numbers (according to the NRL).

    Maloney has missed 75 tackles in 11 games this season. In last year’s Origin series he missed 18 tackles across the three games.

    Queensland (and everyone else, for that matter) know to send their traffic his way because you’ve got a better than average chance of getting through.

    Maloney’s defence tightened up against the Tigers on Thursday night, but for Fittler that could be too little, too late.

    Now I can hear you all screaming at me, and I know – Moses misses tackles too. He’s fourth in the NRL with 47 airgrabs.

    It might shock a few to discover that statistically, there’s not much difference between Moses and Maloney in attack (Maloney has seven try assists and five line break assists, Moses has six and four). The numbers are also pretty similar for errors and penalties (Maloney seven and 13, Moses eight and ten).

    But Fittler has a more important reason to favour Moses over Maloney. And it goes well beyond statistics.

    Maloney is 31 years old, a veteran attached to New South Wales’ darkest period in Origin history. Fair or unfair, that’s the way it is.

    Moses is 23. Try to set aside the Twitter hate, the Facebook memes and all that noise. Don’t be sidetracked by the dramatics from his move from the Tigers to the Eels or be distracted by the sideline microphone potty mouth – he’s a seriously good player.

    After Moses got across to Parramatta in 2017 he was a key figure in the Eels’ charge to the top four.

    He backed that up with an electrifying world cup campaign, dragging Lebanon to a quarter-final and a heartbreaking loss to Tonga, a team a lot of people thought could challenge for the title.

    Mitchell Moses Parramatta Eels NRL Rugby League 2017 tall

    Mitchell Moses of the Eels (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

    As coach of the Cedars, Fittler saw how Moses operates up close in a leadership role, and he most definitely liked what he saw.

    Parramatta’s woeful 2018 is being used as a reason not to pick Moses, and I couldn’t disagree more with this argument.

    When you surround a player of Moses’ talent with other young guns overseen by a coach who’s willing to give them their head, anything can happen.

    This week gave the distinct impression Fittler is shaping the Blues to suit Moses in the halves, letting him display a game Fittler says is ‘designed for Origin’.

    Handing Moses a blue jersey will drive New South Wales fans wild and will make Queenslanders lean back smugly. The rugby league world will paint massive targets on both Moses and Fittler and leave them zero room for error.

    Like we tend to do in league, the smallest error will be turned into the end of civilisation as we know it.

    But remember this: New South Wales’ elder statesmen, administrators, coaches and mystical ‘advisers’ have been telling anyone who’ll listen that the team is starting from scratch to rebuild their foundations for sustained Origin success.

    So New South Wales supporters may not feel it right now, but you should be excited by what Moses would bring. It’s a new start for the Blues and it can set your state up for a long time.

    I’ve said it before that this is the best collection of young talent for New South Wales in a generation.

    With Fittler and Moses’ understanding and the halfback’s undoubted talent, there’s a real chance that Moses alongside Cleary could be the start of something good.

    AJ Mithen
    AJ Mithen

    AJ watches far too much sport. When he's not watching it, he's reading about it. When he's not reading about it, he's writing about it and when he's not writing about it, he's talking about it on the podcast ‘A Sporting Discussion’. Rugby league has AJ's heart, but he loves to give space to the sports that the mainstream forgets - he’ll never rest until Australian baseball gets the coverage it deserves! He’s always game for a debate in a comments section or on twitter @AJMithen - but you’d best come prepared!

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    The Crowd Says (79)

    • May 19th 2018 @ 6:41am
      bazza200 said | May 19th 2018 @ 6:41am | ! Report

      Still gotta win games n a bad error costing his team a try.

    • May 19th 2018 @ 6:52am
      i miss the force said | May 19th 2018 @ 6:52am | ! Report

      Watch him closely during a game and see how he carries on like a petulant flag
      he would be like a cancer in an origin camp
      he is only getting coverage because his agent uncle feeds gossip to the sydney RL journos

      • Columnist

        May 19th 2018 @ 10:09am
        AJ Mithen said | May 19th 2018 @ 10:09am | ! Report

        Force, he’s getting coverage because the coach of New South Wales has all but said he would be in the squad…

      • May 19th 2018 @ 4:02pm
        Two shades said | May 19th 2018 @ 4:02pm | ! Report

        What a bitter comment! And what’s a petulant flag?

    • May 19th 2018 @ 7:07am
      jamesb said | May 19th 2018 @ 7:07am | ! Report

      And here is another important stat:

      Penrith are second on the ladder with Maloney.
      Parramatta are last on the ladder with Moses.

      Through out his career, Maloney has had defensive frailties. But somehow, he has managed to play in 3 grand finals for two premierships. It can’t be a fluke. And Penrith are the real deal this year.

      Yes, Maloney hasn’t won an origin series. However if Hayne had passed the ball to Morris, than more than likely, NSW would’ve won last year.

      • Roar Rookie

        May 19th 2018 @ 7:09am
        Hard Yards said | May 19th 2018 @ 7:09am | ! Report

        Can’t argue with that.

      • May 19th 2018 @ 8:09am
        farkurnell said | May 19th 2018 @ 8:09am | ! Report

        A lot of maloney’s bad stats come from his last season with the Sharks -his motivation was askew ,giving away heaps of penalty’s. A lot of Sharks fans were happy to see him go,they considered his cons outweighed his pros.
        Now at Panthers Maloney is a far better motivated player and I’m happy he makes it into the Blues .In addition he is a proven pressure Goal kicker,an advantage the Blues will probably have over QLD who are likely to select a part-time Goalkicker.

    • Roar Guru

      May 19th 2018 @ 7:07am
      eagleJack said | May 19th 2018 @ 7:07am | ! Report

      Gotta think this is merely a bit of “fake news” distributed by the Blues to keep the Origin debate alive. And the clicks coming.

      Moses is an average player who has had 3 good games in his career. He is not the future. Cleary is light years ahead of him. And I don’t want stats thrown at me to show otherwise.

      When I look at a half I look at their poise, their control, their energy, how they organise the team, when they are calling for the ball, their kicking game, last play options etc etc. Not many stats sites can quantify this.

      Cleary is a must. And with Maloney partnering him at club level, it seems a no brainer to me. We can’t throw 2 rookies into the halves. Maloney brings experience. He is much needed, despite the defence and penalties. And if Cleary isn’t deemed match fit after a long layoff, then throw Keary in at 6.

      No Moses.

      • May 19th 2018 @ 8:19am
        Chris.P.Bacon said | May 19th 2018 @ 8:19am | ! Report

        +1. Absolutely EJ.

      • May 19th 2018 @ 9:16am
        jimmmy said | May 19th 2018 @ 9:16am | ! Report

        EJ your’e stark raving mad. Surely Brooks and Moses have made it impossible to leave them out. Forget poise , control and organisation. What a half needs is hype.
        I am also told ( by TV commentators mostly) that Fergo has had a sensational season for the Roosters so he gets picked as well.
        Add Wade Graham and Robbie Farah (who is carving up NSW Cup) and you have a series win at your feet.

        • May 19th 2018 @ 10:27am
          Ron Norton said | May 19th 2018 @ 10:27am | ! Report

          Ferguson has a habit of coughing up the ball at crucial times in games. He did it twice against the Broncos and handed Brisbane a try. Not something needed in SOS.

        • Roar Guru

          May 19th 2018 @ 11:56am
          eagleJack said | May 19th 2018 @ 11:56am | ! Report

          Beat it Jimmmy, I can see what you’re playing at 🙂 . My fear is that Fittler may read/hear all of this from the blokes up north and think it is confirming his brilliance. And he blows this golden opportunity to really make a statement in this series.

      • Columnist

        May 19th 2018 @ 10:14am
        AJ Mithen said | May 19th 2018 @ 10:14am | ! Report

        I did think about the fake news aspect EJ. Gould, Alexander and Fittler have all been saying things that could well be BS to string us along. But if they say all this stuff and nothing changes, they’re shot. The chance to start on the good foot is gone and they’ll well and truly lose the fans, a lot of whom are wavering already..

        Agree on Cleary. The kid is something very special.

        • Roar Guru

          May 19th 2018 @ 10:58am
          The Barry said | May 19th 2018 @ 10:58am | ! Report

          This is what worries me about Fittler.

          You can make changes without sacking the whole team. It’s not all or nothing.

          There will be changes anyway.

          From last year: Dugan is injured, Hayne injured and out of contention, Morris retired, Pearce injured, Peats out of form, Fifita unavailable, Woods unlikely.

          There will be changes regardless including at least two in the spine.

          Fittler doesn’t have to force change for change sake…

          • Columnist

            May 19th 2018 @ 12:20pm
            AJ Mithen said | May 19th 2018 @ 12:20pm | ! Report

            I actually agree on that Baz. Fittler doesn’t need to blow the entire show up, just most of it. But you’ve gotta admit a nuclear option is still very enticing…

        • Roar Guru

          May 19th 2018 @ 11:59am
          eagleJack said | May 19th 2018 @ 11:59am | ! Report

          AJ, I’m with TB and believe there will be enough changes already without reinventing the wheel. We have so many players in exceptional form in the forward pack, and outside backs, that we really don’t need to risk running completely inexperienced players in the halves.

          Keep it simple. Let Maloney run the team, he is in good form and has plenty of big game experience. Partner him with Cleary or Keary. But please don’t have 2 rookies at 6 and 7. There is no point.

          I’m really hoping Fittler is just trying to create/manage the news cycle.

          • May 19th 2018 @ 12:10pm
            Busty McCracken said | May 19th 2018 @ 12:10pm | ! Report

            Am I the only one that thinks that maybe the blues trust are doing something we have all wanted for years and that’s keeping the canetoads guessing? How many of us complained when Daley would come out in Feb and assure half of his team publicly.

            I’m thinking this is an intentional tactic of mind games toying with Kev Walters & co from the outset giving nothing away so they don’t know how to properly prepare against us until announcement day. Just a thought.

            • Roar Guru

              May 19th 2018 @ 12:18pm
              eagleJack said | May 19th 2018 @ 12:18pm | ! Report

              I’m with you Busty. Fittler, for all of his on-air stupidity (for want of a better word), is actually a wily old character who knows the game well, and the media even better.

              My guess is Maloney is a lock, but Fittler has come out talking up Moses for 2 reasons
              1. It keeps the QLDers guessing and;
              2. It keeps Maloney on his toes. Don’t rest on your laurels mate, I need you to lift your game even more and come into Origin flying. Competition, and a fear of missing out, breeds success.

              • May 19th 2018 @ 12:23pm
                Busty McCracken said | May 19th 2018 @ 12:23pm | ! Report

                Exactly , I see alot more benefit in keeping someone on their toes than telling them their a lock. A Guaranteed spot can lead to complacency in the player and tip off Qld staff who to primarily focus on. Plus if an injury comes up at least other players like Moses etc are already trying to play under pressure trying to impress which will only help their game.

                I love Daley as a player and seems like a genuine nice fella but it never sat well with me when he was announced as coach. Freddy on the other hand I have nothing but faith. His comeback game i n 04 series he caught the ball off the kick off and took the hit up himself. The mans a legend with a great understanding of the game and especially origin.

            • Columnist

              May 19th 2018 @ 12:23pm
              AJ Mithen said | May 19th 2018 @ 12:23pm | ! Report

              Good point Busty

      • May 19th 2018 @ 11:15am
        Bplol said | May 19th 2018 @ 11:15am | ! Report

        Change it all and build a dynasty. Cleary 20, Brooks 23 (is there any younger nsw halves playing first grade at the moment?), jayden Brailey 22, tommy turbo 21, curtis scott 20, latrell mitchell 20, ado carr 23, cotric 19. NSW backline for the next 10 years???

        • Roar Guru

          May 19th 2018 @ 12:04pm
          eagleJack said | May 19th 2018 @ 12:04pm | ! Report

          Agree that there are a huge number of impressive youngsters on the scene. Throw in guys like Aitken 22, Walker 23 and Tedesco 25 and we have guys who could be together for a decade.

          But there is no need to throw them all in together immediately. Bring in a few but ease the others in over time. I mean if we have a backline full of rookies and they fail, we (the public) will eat them alive. It is what we do. I see no point in mass changes.

          • Columnist

            May 19th 2018 @ 12:25pm
            AJ Mithen said | May 19th 2018 @ 12:25pm | ! Report

            Why not, EJ? What’s the point in spinning their wheels?

            • Roar Guru

              May 19th 2018 @ 12:49pm
              eagleJack said | May 19th 2018 @ 12:49pm | ! Report

              Because you pick players based on their form right now. What they can bring to the team right now. Not that they “might” be top shelf in 2-3 years time. Origin is unforgiving. Too many halves have been thrown to the wolves – Mullen, Campese, Hodkinson et al.

              Moses isn’t ready. He’s only just finding his feet at NRL level. And failing in my opinion.

              Pick Maloney because he is the best option. At 31 he can add valuable experience whilst the others continue to improve in first grade.

              • Columnist

                May 19th 2018 @ 12:58pm
                AJ Mithen said | May 19th 2018 @ 12:58pm | ! Report

                Fair enough!

              • Roar Guru

                May 19th 2018 @ 1:46pm
                The Barry said | May 19th 2018 @ 1:46pm | ! Report

                Agreed eJ.

                Picking Origin sides for the future just doesn’t work.

                The best way to pick a side for the future is to pick a side that will win this year.

                Picking players because they’ll be good in three years is pointless because after three losing series they won’t be there.

                Moses is as far from an Origin player as you can get at the moment. He’s got talent and perhaps he’ll get consistency in the next couple of years and be ready. But the surest way to butcher his rep career would be to pick him now, especially in a team full of rookies.

              • May 19th 2018 @ 6:31pm
                Birdy said | May 19th 2018 @ 6:31pm | ! Report

                Eagle Jack and The Barry.
                Do you think Mitchell Pearce was thrown in too soon and had a negative effect on his rep career?
                Reading your comments , it must be close to the truth.
                Also watching my tigers, their lack of points came through again, very depressing to watch. Has to change if they are to threaten the 8.
                The big bright light for me was Cleary. First match back and had a blinder.
                Must be Cleary and Maloney in blue.

          • May 19th 2018 @ 3:45pm
            Bplol said | May 19th 2018 @ 3:45pm | ! Report

            I agree. That the fans and media will shred them and freddie if it went that. And because of that i agree with bringing them in a few at the time.

            I also think alot id the players mentioned above could do the job now. Aitken and walker i rate but teddy i don’t. I just cant put my finger on why. Dufty also looks good but needs to perform for the whole season

            But I’d love to see it and imagine if they won.

    • May 19th 2018 @ 7:27am
      soapit said | May 19th 2018 @ 7:27am | ! Report

      there have been some seasons where ive thought moses could be an answer in the halves but it hasnt happened so far and this season hasnt even been one of his best. really dont think its the way to go.

      whatever happens tho i do hope we pick a 3rd playmaker on the bench for utility. we cant be putting all our eggs in one basket for the future and need to get a few guys in and experienced to the system so when theyre needed thayve at least had a taste off the bench. not sure which halves are out there that could cover hooker mind you.

      • May 19th 2018 @ 7:45am
        soapit said | May 19th 2018 @ 7:45am | ! Report

        hasnt happened as in hasnt quite pushed through to that next level of consistent good play

    • May 19th 2018 @ 7:57am
      Paul said | May 19th 2018 @ 7:57am | ! Report

      when things get tough for NSW, what they won’t need is some 23 year old screaming at them, which appears to be the Mitchell Moses method of motivating his side. If Moses was the real deal last year, why wasn’t he chosen for SOO – because Daley knew he’s not up to it.

      If Freddy has any brains at all, he’ll pick a proven winner and Maloney, right now, has those credentials.

      PS what has his age got to do with Maloney playing or not? Talk about nonsense, especially when you look at some of this guys in the likely Qld side, eg Inglis, Slater, etc.

      • Columnist

        May 19th 2018 @ 10:16am
        AJ Mithen said | May 19th 2018 @ 10:16am | ! Report

        Daley didn’t choose anyone new last series Paul, it’s one of the reasons he’s not there any more…

        • May 19th 2018 @ 12:35pm
          Busty McCracken said | May 19th 2018 @ 12:35pm | ! Report

          Trobjovic & Peats spring to mind.
          Tedesco was only introduced for game 3 the year prior off memory.we do have some new blood worth retaining for sure , I hope he doesn’t go for a total exodus.

          Is a shame game 1 last year was Jurbos debut game as i would have liked to have seen him be named skipper. I’m fairly confident this will happen at some point in the next couple of years.

          • Columnist

            May 19th 2018 @ 12:44pm
            AJ Mithen said | May 19th 2018 @ 12:44pm | ! Report

            I mean he kept the same team for the entire series Busty. Agree with you on Jurbo to a point- there seems to be a dozen captaincy options being thrown around for the blues!

            • May 19th 2018 @ 12:51pm
              Busty McCracken said | May 19th 2018 @ 12:51pm | ! Report

              Ahh righto, my bad. In fairness , after Game 1 everyone had us down for the next 10 years for series wins so didnt seem that necessary to make changes I suppose.

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