Monday Morning Halfback: Round 7
Tim Sheens's selection headaches, the rise of the women's game, Kiwis on the verge of history, and why no lead in the NRL is safe.
The Kangaroos team will be named on Sunday night and there are a few points of contention for selectors and coach Tim Sheens. With no Jarryd Hayne (NFL), Brett Morris (hamstring), Justin Hodges (hamstring), Billy Slater (shoulder) and incumbents Dylan Walker (in doubt) and Sione Mata'utia currently playing in the NSW Cup, there are plenty of decisions to be made for the Kangaroos three-quarter line.
Skipper Cam Smith believes Melbourne teammate Will Chambers is currently the best centre in the game and worthy of a test call-up. Coming from the captain, it must carry some weight.
"I know the rep period is coming up and he is certainly going to be well in the mix for Origin but I think his name certainly needs to be involved in discussions for the Australian side, there is no doubt," Smith said.
"To say he is playing well is an understatement, he is playing very good at the moment every week. I'd be putting his name for a green and gold jumper for sure."
Also a point of conjecture will be the make-up of the bench. Sheens has traditionally picked a utility of the Daly Cherry-Evans, Ben Hunt, Robbie Farah or Luke Lewis mould in his Kangaroos teams. It will be interesting to see which way he goes.
Women's game on the rise
The Australian Jillaroos team to take on the Kiwi Ferns at Suncorp Stadium on May 1 was announced on Friday afternoon. The women's game is heading in the right direction with an increased focus from the NRL, and this should be a great contest between two highly competitive teams. The girls weren't just a welcome addition to the NRL Auckland Nines earlier this year, they stole the whole show with some of the best games of the two-day rugby league extravaganza. Not to mention some of the biggest hits.
The girls certainly turned heads with the way they played the game. It was the same for the last Test match they played last year when the Kiwi Ferns scored in the dying minutes to steal a dramatic victory.
Jillaroos coach Steve Folkes believes women's rugby league has come a long way in a short space of time and he is also enjoying the different tempo they bring to rugby league.
Folkes, a former 300-game first-grade coach with Canterbury-Bankstown, is relishing his time as coach of the women's national side.
"The women's game is less structured than the men's and I think that is a good thing," he told NRL.com.
"The girls don't get to play as often, so there are less attacking structures, you see a lot more individual brilliance.
"There is certainly no lack of passion or commitment to the game. We are the world champions and we really want to win, but there is no doubting how good the Kiwi girls are, they show that every game we play them."
Good luck to the remarkable 19-year-old Mahalia Murphy who will make her debut after switching codes two years ago. I had the pleasure of talking to her about her meteoric rise and the hard work she has put in to earn her first green and gold jersey.
Murphy wanted to be like Cathy Freeman and was well on her way to achieving that dream, but a chance game of rugby changed everything. She will be very proud to be representing the Jillaroos on May 1.
New Zealand eying historic three-peat
New Zealand has only once in rugby league's 107-year history won more than two games in a row against the might of Australia. The Kiwis won the first two games between the sides in 1908 but had to wait 42 years before they managed to win four consecutive games between June, 1952 and July 1953. It was the first and only time they have managed a hat-trick of wins in 129 games against Australia.
After defeating the Aussies twice last year on their way to the Four Nations crown, this New Zealand squad has an opportunity to do something very special. It would be some turnaround after going tryless in a one-sided 2013 World Cup Final at Old Trafford.
Country to Country
Sione Mata'utia was pulled from relative obscurity last year to become the youngest ever player to pull on the green and gold jersey and represent Australia at just 18 years and 129 days. The talented youngster has struggled to start the 2015 season and was dropped by Newcastle coach Rick Stone to NSW Cup. With representative season approaching, Mata'utia could conceivably go from Australia, to NSW Cup to Country Origin. It would be a remarkable state of affairs.
No lead is safe
In all seven games so far this round the winning team had to come from behind to claim the two important competition points. The Cowboys trailed for 78 minutes in their clash with the Warriors, the Bulldogs overcame a mini Sea Eagles revival, the Titans rallied after going behind early, the Storm survived a ding-dong battle with fellow heavyweights the Roosters, the Dragons and Eels both went behind on two separate occasions before claiming victory, but no comeback was as dramatic as the one the Raiders managed to orchestrate on Sunday afternoon.
The Green Machine recovered from a disastrous start to overturn a 22-0 deficit against Wests Tigers at Leichhardt Oval. Canberra scored 30 unanswered points to leave the home side and their supporters stunned. It was the greatest comeback in the club's 34-year history.
Tipping nightmare a good thing
The average round 7 score for NRL tippers heading into tonight's game between the Sharks and Rabbitohs is 2.5 or just 35%. That is after we have had the chance to gauge how each team is going after seven rounds and apply what we have learnt. There isn't much between the best and the rest in this competition and the unpredictability is a great thing for rugby league fans with exciting footy played across the weekend. If you managed to tip three or more - you are above average for the week. Well done!
After a horrendous tipping week for your humble correspondent - my neighbour has stopped talking to me after following my tips - I may resort to flipping the coin next week.