Is stand-alone Origin the right fit?
1) To stand alone, or not to stand alone?
Stand alone… for some of the series.
The search for the "perfect" representative schedule goes on, with heavyhitters Phil Gould and Craig Bellamy buying in this week to endorse stand-alone weekends for State of Origin.
I cannot see this happening.
Compromise and co-operation is the key here to accommodate all parties: the television broadcasters, the clubs, the players and the fans.
Here's my suggestion. I propose the series opener each year be on a stand-alone weekend (Sunday). City/Country would be staged on the Friday night of this round, with Under-20s Origin on the Saturday night. The players have a week-long camp to prepare, having represented their club sides the previous round.
Games Two and Three of the Origin series would be played on a Tuesday night. For the round on the weekend before Origin II, eight teams would play, and eight would have a bye. It would be the same scenario before Game Three with the eight who had the bye in action, and the other eight getting the rest. The Origin series would be played over a five-week period.
A true representative weekend could be held weeks after the Origin series. Australia v New Zealand. Junior Roos v Junior Kiwis. Samoa v Fiji. PNG v Tonga. England v France.
Can we make this happen?
2) Should Dylan Walker be picked for State of Origin?
Damn straight he should!
With Josh Morris sidelined, I find it hard to understand the logic behind many stating Parramatta's Will Hopoate is clearly ahead of Walker, and that the young Rabbitoh has to bide his time.
Actually, Hopoate's inclusion for his lone Origin appearance in 2011 is one of the main reasons I would be going with Walker now.
Have we forgotten that Hopoate was just 19 years old when he was called up for his state debut, and with less than a full season of NRL under his belt? Hopoate only made his debut in Round 13, 2010 for Manly and the next season was thrown into the Origin cauldron.
Walker made his NRL debut in round 10 last year. He has the benefit of last year's finals experience under his belt. But more importantly, I believe he is in better form than his Eels rival.
If you are trying to make some distinction between first grade experience for the pair, there is very little. Hopoate has played 33 games, and Walker 27.
His coach Michael Maguire was glowing in his praise after Monday night against the Dragons. Walker was easy to talk up after 14 runs, 142 metres, a try, six tackle busts, two line breaks and 12 tackles without a miss.
Reward the 'kid' and give him his chance. It's the way it should work.
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3) Are the Knights gone?
No… not quite.
Not too many teams running second last make only one handling error in a half of football, as the Knights did last Sunday against the Warriors.
It is obvious they are down on confidence after just two wins in 2014. However I saw enough last weekend against an in-form Warriors side to think Wayne Bennett's men are not a spent force.
28 competition points was enough to make the finals last year. On that score, the Knights would need to acquire 22 points from the next 14 rounds. More than three losses and it will absolutely be game over.
My prediction is the Knights, given some luck on the injury front, might just win more than they lose from here on. Whether that is enough, only time will tell.
4) Is there a better rags to riches story than Semi Radradra?
I can't think of one.
What a rise… from earning $300 a month just a few years ago to signing a million-dollar four-year contract in a sport he barely knew existed growing up in Fiji.
And it's not just Eels fans that get the benefit of this imposing giant. I can't imagine there is any NRL fan that doesn't like watching the "semi-trailer" play.
Makes me wonder how many more 'Radradras' are out there waiting to be discovered.
5) To the MCG, or not to be?
I say no, but I am open to a decent debate.
In my opinion, taking Origin to Melbourne has served its purpose in the past, but not any more.
If growing the game was truly the priority we would play an Origin game in the Victorian capital each year, not just every three.
Better still what about insisting on greater free-to-air coverage across Victoria? Make it a goal to fill AAMI Park every second week for Storm games.
For mine, State of Origin is the domain of NSW and Queensland only.
The only big games we should hand over to Melbourne are Test matches, where the fans there can attend not confused about which team to support.
6) How good is the round of footy coming up?
On paper, it's another cracker.
It's worth pointing out, it's the last full round we have in the NRL until Round 19.
Take your pick on the standout. Sea Eagles v Bulldogs, Eels v Cowboys, Storm v Roosters…
For mine it's the battle in the west with South Sydney to face off against the Warriors. Both sides have won four of their past five matches.
I'm that excited about calling the clash for Fox Sports on Saturday night, I'd be happy to go by bus to Perth!