Time to lay off the Tate bashing
One bloke played out the game with a fractured shoulder. His brother, a ruined knee.
Another had to tell his trainer, “I’m gone”, as his broken arm flapped in agony by his side. There was a torn biceps, a wrenched ankle, a shot hip. Post-match, even the victorious NSW players could barely raise a whisper to tell interviewers, “Mate – I’m buggered...”
State of Origin I took players – Australia’s fittest and finest, no less – to brave new frontiers of physical agony.
Interchanged players resembled an 'average Joe' after being forced to sprint to the other side of the stadium for a half-time pie. It was exhausting merely to watch a contest of supreme endurance that cemented Origin as a sporting event to rival anything on planet Earth.
With our game having reached such stratospheric heights of brutal athleticism, surely we’re past making apologies for play that is foul, not tough. Surely we don’t need to insinuate a bloke is soft because he objects to having his physical safety put at risk by a tackle that is illegal, not strong.
Brent Tate, the Queenslander who plays with a neck brace because he refused to let damage in that most sensitive area of the body end his career, was scared when he was spear-tackled amid the Origin tempest. Wearing that brace, and having watched the Alex McKinnon tragedy unfold this season, what sane person wouldn’t be rattled by being driven towards the ground head-first in a lousy tackle by two immensely strong defenders?
Tate’s legs were shaking for the next 10 minutes. He spoke out after the game, declaring those sorts of tackles needed to be eradicated. This is a bloke who has ridden more lows than highs in a game that dishes out indiscriminate physical punishment, which has bestowed upon him a broken jaw, a busted shoulder, ruptured ACLs – you name it.
Yet being Origin time, sidelined Blues forward Greg Bird was dismayed that Tate spoke out on the incident post-match. NSW veteran back-rower Anthony Watmough implied Tate was merely trying to get Reynolds suspended for Origin II, taking McKinnon’s name in vain during the process.
Fact: If Tate had hit the ground head-first in the tackle, he could have been in serious danger. Fact (of which we need no reminding): Alex McKinnon was left in a wheelchair by a tackle that drove him into the ground head-first. No-one wants to see that happen again.
Tate said as much post-match. Conspiracy theories aside, who can blame him for airing those sentiments, or disagree with him?
Though there was clearly no intent in the Reynolds tackle, surely we are past being apologists for foul play and scorning those players who object to it. Especially when our game is hitting such extreme levels of physical toughness within the rules.
As for why Reynolds escaped a ban for the tackle – ask the judiciary panel.
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Rule No.1 of the professional workplace: You expect to be paid.
It’s been excruciating watching Darius Boyd ply his trade with the Knights amid his grievance over a hefty lump of unpaid third-party agreements.
The temperamental star was his usual try-scoring-freak self in Origin I for Queensland, claiming both tries for the Maroons.
His next play of note saw him make virtually zero effort to prevent a Simon Mannering try when he refused to dive at a 50-50 ball against the Warriors on Sunday. Yet in the same match, he pulled of a top-drawer try-saving tackle on New Zealand winger David Fusitu’a, racing from way across field to deny what looked a certain four-pointer.
The first play resembled that of a rightly disgruntled employee. The second, that of a proud professional willing to give everything for his team.
The second play was the real Boyd. Hopefully Boyd No.2 gets the opportunity to play a bit more often this season.
Parra's dismal plight without Hayne
The Eels on Friday without Jarryd Hayne looked like Newcastle back in the day without Andrew Johns.
Parramatta still had a bit of strike power out on the field against Penrith but looked devoid of ideas without their superstar on the field.
The Eels have won just four of 27 games that Hayne has missed during his career. Their promising season balances on him coming out of Origin fit and healthy.
Warriors stars warming up
Is there a harder man to tackle in the NRL than Konrad Hurrell?
The Warriors hurricane busted 10 tackles and notched another try against the Knights on Sunday and is hitting simply awesome form.
So too, slowly but surely, is English superstar Sam Tomkins. The pressure was enormous after his big-money arrival from Super League but we’re starting to get a glimpse of what all the fuss is about, after he scored a try, had a try assist and ran a game-high 236 metres against Newcastle.
NSW: Had Josh Reynolds not played out of his skin in Origin I and then dodged suspension, Roosters five-eighth James Maloney would have made an irresistible case for a NSW recall with his superb performance against the Raiders on Friday, in which halfback Mitch Pearce was also very strong. Greg Bird will return from his ban to face the Panthers with the Titans on Saturday, and will be straight back in for Origin II. Will Hopoate seems the obvious choice to replace Josh Morris in the NSW centres, but how about Brett Morris on the wing? Penrith’s Josh Mansour was tremendous on Friday in scoring two tries and running a gigantic 270 metres against the Eels on Friday, easily shading rivals Jorge Taufua and James McManus over the weekend. Josh Dugan, perhaps?
Qld: The big question – who gets the nod for the Maroons' bench utility spot, with Daly Cherry-Evans now to be elevated to Cooper Cronk’s No.7 jersey? It looks a two-horse race between Broncos halfback Ben Hunt and Raiders fullback Anthony Milford. Both have been in utterly brilliant form this season, with Hunt engineering a huge win over Manly on Sunday and Milford a shining light in a side badly beaten by the Roosters on Friday. Hunt has the bonus of being able to cover hooker as well as the halves, while Milford’s upside is being able to cover fullback, wing or the halves. It’s an exciting prospect whichever way Queensland boss Mal Meninga goes. Perhaps Milford – just for that uncoachable ability to produce something freakish from nothing.
With his Panthers tied for second on the ladder, Ivan Cleary is living up to his Next Big Thing raps. Warriors boss Andrew McFadden has four wins from his first seven games in charge and his team is looking mighty dangerous. Craig Bellamy faces one of the great challenges of his career to revive the Storm from their grievous injury situation amid the Origin calendar. And can supercoach Wayne Bennett do anything with his struggling Knights? It seems unlikely, even for the game’s greatest mentor. Meanwhile, best of luck to Dragons caretaker Paul 'Mary' McGregor in his first match in charge of the Red V against South Sydney.Twitter: @hdelbs