Winning time: separating players from superstars

"There is a time to play and a time to win. What you do in that winning time differentiates a player from a superstar.”
- Reggie Miller, Indiana Pacers.

This quote was taken from ESPN’s award-winning 30 for 30 documentary series – in a story detailing the battle between Reggie Miller and the New York Knicks. According to Cameron Smith, it aptly describes what made the man he is replacing as Australian captain, Darren Lockyer, so great. It is also the motivation driving Smith to take his game to another level.

Smith told NRL.com earlier in the week that he wanted to be ‘that’ player who steps up and leads his team to victory when the game is on the line. It is, as Miller eloquently stated, what separates the regular players from the superstars.

Miller was the NBA player who famously scored eight points in just 8.9 seconds to give his Indiana Pacers an astonishing victory against the Knicks in a conference final in 1995. Nobody had seen anything like it. Miller singlehandedly snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, in enemy territory, at one of the world’s most iconic venues – Madison Square Garden. It was the stuff of legend.

There is a time to play and a time to win.

Which brings us to the man Smith is hoping to replicate.

Who could forget Lockyer’s last act in a Broncos jersey? His swansong at his beloved Suncorp Stadium will be forever etched into rugby league folklore. In an emotion charged semi-final, positioned on a knife-edge in extra-time, Lockyer positioned himself and calmly slotted the match-winning field-goal from over 30 metres.

Pandemonium set in.

No-one at the ground was aware that Lockyer had finished the game with a fractured cheekbone, an injury that would rule him out from playing the preliminary final the following week. What turned out to be his last 12 minutes in the NRL put an emphatic exclamation point on his decorated career.

There is a time to play and a time to win. Lockyer was invariably the man that led his side to victory when the game was on the line, over and over again. At club, state and Test level, Lockyer provided the goods when it mattered most. It is a point not lost on Smith, who watched first-hand Lockyer win countless games for his team with the result riding on his actions.

“I think the biggest attribute he had was the role he played in big matches,” Smith told NRL.com.

“Whenever the Kangaroos needed the lift he was the man that would come up with the big play or the inspirational play for the other players, and that lifted everyone around him.

“For me, that is what stood him out from the rest.”

While there is no doubt Lockyer is a big loss for any side, with the likes of Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk, Billy Slater and Smith in their ranks, the Kangaroos should not only play well but should win against New Zealand in Friday night's Test against New Zealand.

Watch Cameron Smith’s 1-on-1 interview with NRL.com

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Get on with the game

Leila McKinnon’s tongue-in-cheek article certainly caused a stir this week, with plenty of fans taking to social media sites to discuss her column ‘Get on with the game.’

McKinnon called on fans, players and coaches to harden up; forget perceived injustices, stop whinging and get on with the footy.

“Conditions are not always perfect. But a champion is someone who grits his or her teeth, reaches deep inside, and wins anyway.”

You can read her full column here

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International appeal

Talking about causing a stir, Daniel Anderson’s column on International eligibility certainly garnered a lot of support on twitter on Thursday night. Anderson’s article proposing new eligibility laws has been re-tweeted over 200 times!

Power to the people. You can read the article here.

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Half-witted

Greg Alexander certainly didn’t pull any punches with his column demanding NSW selectors scrap plans to pick Jarryd Hayne at five-eighth in the State of Origin opener.

“Please tell me NSW won't gamble by playing Jarryd Hayne at five-eighth this year. Please tell me we'll opt for a recognised five-eighth. And please tell me we won't continue picking players out of position…”

It seems every year NSW find themselves rejigging and re-picking their side in the hope they’ll stumble onto a good thing. Every year the Blues seem to be struck by either poor form or injury right on the eve of Origin time. Queensland, on the other hand, cruises into every series with their team virtually set in stone.

On Friday night they have the luxury of watching New Zealand v Australia, secure in the knowledge that 10 of the starting 13 Kangaroos are Queenslanders. How do you beat that?

Read Alexander’s column here

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Game on?

The representative bye week couldn’t have come at a better time for a lot of clubs in the NRL. Apparently the competition hasn’t started for most teams; that’s what Warriors coach Brian McClennan told NRL.com columnist Steve Mascord earlier this week.

Someone should tell that to the Storm – they’ve raced out of the gates to win their opening seven games straight. If it hasn’t started yet, imagine what the Storm will do when it does!

Read Mascord’s column here

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Ticket offer

Finally, the first ever Toyota under-20s State of Origin contest is being held at Centrebet Stadium in Penrith on Saturday night from 7:30pm.

Ticketed NRL club members will be able to gain access to this match for free and junior pass card holders will also be able to gain free entry!

Adult tickets are just $10, juniors $5 and a family can get in for $25.

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Remember you can access all the team lists, live scores and stats from Australia vs New Zealand and City vs Country on your mobile this weekend.  Visit m.nrl.com on your mobile device, or download the free 2012 Official NRL iPhone App ( live streaming radio available too ). Match highlights from both rep games are available 20 minutes after each game has ended, so you can relive all the big hits and tries from Auckland and Mudgee.
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