Let’s keep this brief. Maybe not …
Yes, it was an unfortunate incident.
Yes, it is a poor advertisement for the game in its fight to win the hearts and minds of the parents of potential new players. Without player growth at the grass roots, the game will wither on the vine. And we don’t want a generation of kids growing up playing a game where a 1-0 scoreline is treated as awesome, now do we?
There are many prisms through which to view an incident like this in addition to those above, and extended to include reactions such as “Oh, that’s just Origin”, or “Bring back the biff!”, or to wonder about how next weekend’s park footy will play out if it’s alright for role models to engage in brawls.
Here’s how I view it.
Origin matches are treated more leniently than club games because of their intensity and history. However, foul play still needs to be judged consistently, and with a strong hand.
The problem arises when referees fail to respond to pressure-cooker situations like Origin, where emotions are running high, tempers short and reactions instinctive. There’s no rigorous scrutiny anr evenly balanced debate going on here.
Failing to notice and deal with niggle or blatant flying headbutts that would make Richard Villisanti’s chest swell with pride can only inflame matters.
The referees can hear what the players are saying, the video referee can rewind a thousand times to make a judgement, yet they act as if their eyes are painted on. To not see the Myles/Hayne incident is a sad indictment of 2013 refereeing.
What do they expect is going to happen as the heat begins to rise if they don’t show leadership and mark boundaries?
Yes, Paul Gallen should have been sin-binned, though I can’t help feeling that if Myles had been placed on report early for his head-first tackle on Jarryd Hayne, something we’ve seen before, then it would have sucked the oxygen out of an incendiary situation. Instead, it unravelled.
Fine the refs 15k each for pissing on the reputation of the game. Take some leadership so we can have a mesmerising game, not a punch drunk one.
Objectivity and Tribalism
No one has ever seriously associated tribalism and objectivity in a positive way. They are complete opposites, rarely seen in the same room. Throw in a bit of social media, that fertile ground for all perspective to be thrown out the window, and the result is horrendous hypocrisy. What better way of expressing hatred and ignorance than within the confines of a 140 character tirade?
The outpouring of drivel on Twitter last night was a case in point, with many a character assault competing with assaults on the English language, and many of which coming from one of our oh so precious swimmers, who should be told not to mix the black line with white line fever. She has since apologised and is understtod to be changing her name to Jessica Schipper-Brains. Others came from those clearly on the cans from midday.
Nothing wrong with passion, but reacting to a NSW-instigated fight by extrapolating the incident toward infinity neglects the very many incidents initiated from the other side. Wasn’t the Origin/brawling culture begun in 1980 by the Maroons? And didn’t Brent Tate land a few on a pinned down Greg Bird last year, Les Kiss-style? We could go on …
How about this from Queensland’s and Australia’s best ever Origin player, Wally Lewis, after a professional foul on James Maloney led to a bit of jostling (and probably denied NSW a try):
“If I was one of the Queenslanders I would have been hoping that a brawl was about to start … just to try and spoil NSW’s game.”
… before adding to Sterlo that this is exactly what he would have done.
And it’s not like Gordon Tallis was a wallflower, is it?
Let’s be a bit more objective, shall we, and admit that wanton violence has many fathers?
At the same time we need to reflect on the damage these scenes actually do to the game.
Meanwhile, and I know I bang on about this, JWH sits shaking his enormous head at the fate that befell him …
The Maloney Baloney
Comment from the brief Origin Lube-Up:
“And not to delve too far into player match-ups (because it has been done to death), I’m quietly excited about the NSW halves. Pearce can finally bring it with ole mate Maloney next to him, and it will be a joy to watch a straight running 5/8 who asks questions of the defence on a consistent basis.”
Well it seems Maloney did what I expected him to do. He took the line on by running straight and had the defence in two minds, which keeps them on the back foot and provides more space for runners to accumulate precious metres. He was apparently just as good within the team environment leading up to the match. Not bad for a representative rookie.
Can all the critics zip their traps now? Those who questioned whether he was up to it seem to have missed his past 4-5 years in the NRL. He was instrumental to the Warriors making the Grand Final a couple of seasons back, is doing the same at the Roosters, and now, it seems, at Origin.
He was in everything last night, approaching his work with an expectation of success, not a fear of failure. His cheeky incursions to and through the Queensland line mimicked his behaviour in camp, and the blood dripping off his lip fittingly gave him the appearance of the impish kid trick-or-treating at Halloween. He seemed to be having a ball.
Origin New caps
Not to be outdone, the other new caps, Fifita and Ferguson, played like veterans. Both were strong, incisive and authoritative. Nothing the Queenslanders threw at them seemed to worry them, and they looked comfortable with the step up into the Big Show.
The best thing about this is that they already have competition for their places. I’m sure Tim Grant will keep the pressure on Andrew Fifita if his form wobbles. And if anyone else would, and Aaron Woods would, too!
Ferguson still has Nathan Merritt snapping at his heels, amongst others, so it will make sure his form remains elevated.
The major beneficiaries of this competition for places (other than the Origin team itself) is the respective clubs of these players. They now have Origin-tested players, or near-Origin selections representing every weekend. Happy days.
This Origin business is starting to get exciting again (if you’re a NSW fan)!