State of Origin 2014, Game 2: 5 talking points

Well it has finally happened: New South Wales have won an Origin series.  For the first time in the smart phone / twitter error the Origin shield is staying south. For the first time in their living memory my nephews, all proud Queenslanders, have smelt the bitter aroma of defeat.

It might not have been the best game of rugby league I have seen but boy it was a pulsating contest.  Here are my 5 talking points from Game 2:

1. Congratulations to New South Wales

It is simple: when you lose you must congratulate your opponent.  So congratulations to New South Wales on winning the 2014 Origin series.  I am not an advocate of getting the “dirts” about losing contests like this and simply put, the better side won.

2. Time to lift the “one punch” ban

The NRL CEO, amongst much fan fare, announced 12 months ago a ban on all punches with an immediate sin binning the result for infractions.  Can anyone cogently argue that the silliness of that edict did not deleteriously effect the contest last night? The game was screaming out for a fight in the early contests and, to me, a stoush in the first 10 minutes would have reduced the niggle that pervaded the first half.  The message to the NRL must be: lift the ban, let the boys sort things early doors and let the game go on.

3. Time to remark Dave Taylor’s card: NEVER TO BE SELECTED AGAIN

Many on social media and in the actual media have been advocated for the selection of Dave Taylor for Queensland this series.  Simply put: he is not up to State of Origin standard.  Yet again last night he put out a performance in a maroon jumper exemplified by missed tackles and horrid offloads.  He is a liability and must not be selected again.  Enough said.

4. Refereeing: it is not an excuse but it was woeful

Can any fair-minded New South Wales fan argue that the refereeing in this game was fair? I know I am not a regular watcher in the NRL but in what context has there ever not been a penalty for Hayne’s strip on Thaiday as he was about score? I concede it wasn’t a try but surely the ball had to return to Queensland?  And then, to add insult to injury, the ball richoceting off Woods’ chest and out of play with 5 minutes to go being determined to be a penalty to New South Wales is just incongruous with the laws of the game.  There is all this technology in the game and yet a decision as simple as that was just plain WRONG.  Hayne and Cummins should go the way of Dave Taylor and have their cards marked: “never again”.

5. Gallen and Bird: I am glad they play for New South Wales

Are their two more distasteful players to watch then Gallen and Bird. Every tackle they make includes a fore arm to the head of the tackled player on the ground.  Every time they are penalised they scream at the referee. Any bit of niggle or incitement between the players is not their fault.  If these two blokes are supposed to exemplify the best of New South Wales rugby league I am happy for them to play in a blue jersey.  There are ways to win and ways to lose and the way that Gallen and Bird win, albeit successful this time out, is hardly a way to win.

So that is that: series over.  New South Wales can proudly claim to have won 1 series in a row.  Bring on the 2015 series!

Queenslander: Happy Queensland Day!

155 years ago today, 6 June, Queen Victoria signed Letters Patent separating the colony from Queensland from New South Wales.   Since separation from those to the South of us, Queensland has been leading the way in the development of Australia economically, socially and in sport.

Consider these, both positive and negative, “firsts” for Australia that happened in Queensland:

  • In May 1860, Queensland became the first Australian State or Colony to establish its own parliament.
  • In 1899, the world’s first Labor Party Government was elected in Queensland, albeit it only lasted a week.
  • In 1921, Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Limited (Qantas) was established in Winton.  It is considered to be the worlds oldest continuously operating airline. In 1979 Qantas was the first airline to introduce business class.
  • In 1922, Queensland abolished its Upper House of parliament and continues to be the only State to have only one legislative house.
  • In 1928 the Royal Flying Doctors Services took its first flight from Cloncurry and Sir Charles Kingsford Smith landed in Brisbane to complete the first trans-Pacific flight.
  • In 1935 the cane toad was first introduced into Australia in Queensland from Hawaii.
  • During the Second World War, General Douglas MacArthur established the headquarters of the South West Pacific Area Command of the Allies in Brisbane.
  • In 1962 the first commercial production of oil in Australia occurred in Queensland.
  • in 1969 the first natural gas pipeline in Australia, between Roma and Brisbane, became operational.
  • In 1988, Rick Mayne invented the split-cycle internal combustion engine in Queensland.
  • In 1992 the world’s first multi-focal contact lens was invented by Stephen Newman in Queensland.
  • Also in 1992, the Queensland Reds became the first Australian rugby team to win a Super Rugby championship having won the inaugural Super 6 competition then.
  • Between 2010 and 2012 Brisbane Roar FC set an Australian record by going 36 games without being beaten in the A League.

Add to all of the stuff the fact that Queensland is not New South Wales and it is clear that Queensland is a great place to be whilst there can be no higher honour than being a Queenslander.

So I say Happy Queensland Day to all of my fellow Queenslanders.  For those you reading this blog not from the greatest place on earth that is Queensland then:

  1. I am sorry that you are not from here; and
  2. I invite you to visit the best place on earth so that you can return to your homes or places of business and report to your family and friends that you have been to this place.


Reds v Highlanders: Six thoughts from an epic encounter

The Queensland Reds defeated the Highlanders last night in a pulsating clash at Lang Park that ended with a Reds try after the siren after the Highlanders had launched a might comeback. I have been pondering this game much since leaving the ground and 6 key thoughts have continued to resonate so I thought I would share them:

1. Been a long time since I was so excited by a win: boy the Reds needed that!

I have been a member of the Reds for a long time and a fan even longer. The last time I hugged the bloke next to me in overjoyed celebration at the end of a Reds game was when the Reds bested the Crusaders to win the championship in 2011. That was until last night: the emotion in the crowd, let alone on the field, at the end of last night’s game was indicative of how much this victory really meant for the Reds. It has been a season of lament but this victory will be long remembered.

2. The emotion of the victory should not mask how bad this Reds season has been

There is a golf analogy that is apt: “there is always one shot that keeps you coming back no matter how bad you play”. This win by the Reds could well have the same effect: in the wash up of a terrible season this game could be remembered and, indeed, mask what has been some terrible rugby by the Reds in 2014. Not wanting to take the shine of a great night but there were still signs of how bad the Reds have been this year in last nights win: silly penalties and options still were prevalent as was some lacking defence under pressure.

3. Will that win save Richard Graham? Probably but it shouldn’t

I was listening to Tim Cox’s program on 612 ABC on the way to the ground last night and heard one of the panelists comment that Richard Graham’s job has to be safe because the Reds will not want to go back to the dark days of changing coaches every year after bad results. I concede that I agree with that concept, in theory, but I can not agree with it as a principal justification for keeping a non-performing coach. This win will help Graham’s cause as will avoidance of a hard decision by the QRU but all of the statistics point to a coach, in Graham, who is not up to Super Rugby. Take his whole record and the squads that he has had and that is the only available conclusion. He should go in my opinion but will not.

4. Why video ref? Why?

The usage of the video referee this season has been more prevalent and has been nothing short of a failure. Incorrect decisions, interminable delays and incongruent silence when assistance is actually needed have been hallmarks of the use of the TMO in 2014. Last night we saw, again, the use of the TMO in unnecessary, match delaying, situations and making wrong decisions. I am an ardent Reds fan but even through that lens the decision to disallow a Highlanders try for an alleged obstruction that occurred on the 50 metre line seemed like the wrong decision to me. No system is going to be perfect but one that does not delay the game and gets decisions write more often than not would be nice!

5. Will Genia: superstar!

It was Will Genia’s 100th game in a Reds cap last night and he provided the Reds faithful with probably his best performance in 2 years. I have been overt in my views about Genia’s form and probably watch him more closely than anyone else on the field at home games and I have to say last night’s effort was just a joy to watch. Take a bow sir!

6. Just kick a bl**dy field goal!!!!

Decision making has not been the strong suit of the Reds leadership of late and so, again, we saw what could best be described as garbled decision making almost cost the Reds the game. Can anyone cogently explain to me how a former test captain (Horwill) and current test vice captain (Genia) miss the obvious opportunity to attempt a field goal in the dying moments of the game. The play was set up under or around the posts for at least 10 phases before the final try was scored. Surely that made going for the field goal the better option? To me the win is more important than the glory and I would have had Harris and Lucas both in the pocket from about the 4th phase.

As I said in the preamble: this was an epic encounter. It was also a vital win for the Reds: not for their season but for their psyche. 2014 will still end as a season of much lament for Queensland players and fans but we will always have 30 May 2014.

State of Origin: Shumpty’s Top 5 moments

I wrote two years ago on this blog of my love for State of Origin ( ) and nothing has changed.  Whilst I have become an ever more passive fan of Rugby League, aside from when the Canberra Raiders are playing, this is a time of year that still focuses my attention away from Rugby Union and onto the other rugby game.

This year I will not be attending the games in Brisbane: I refuse to pay the exorbitant prices the QRL have placed on tickets.  That does not mean though that I will not be focused on the game come Wednesday night; I will just be doing it from the comfort of my lounge!

As with any major sporting event that is about to chalk up its 100th edition, everyone has favourite moments of the event and here are my top 5:

1. 1995: Fatty’s “Nevilles” win 3-0

I concede that this is not a single moment rather a full series but as a Queensland fan I can not go past it.  This is the series that is quintessentially what State of Origin is about: a group of mates totally written off by everyone standing up for each other and their state and besting a more fancied rival.  Every year I pull out my old VHS tape of highlights from this series and re-watch it. Enough said!

If you want to watch the highlights again, here they are:

2. 1991: The King is dead … Long live the King

In 1991 the man who dominated State of Origin for its first 11 years and remains, to this day, the best player ever produced in Queensland (if not Australia) retired from State of Origin competition.  That game was also my first attending live.  I will never forget the roar of the crowd as Mal Meninga converted from the sideline to win the match nor will I forget seeing grown men openly weeping as King Wally did a lap of honour at the end of the game.

3. 2008: Thurston’s show and go

I have been lucky enough to venture into “enemy territory” twice to watch the Maroons play in Sydney.  This is the game for me that always stands out.  The series was tied at 1-1 and the game was tied 10-10 with 17 minutes to go, when J Thurston changed the game. Now you have to remember that I was in my Queensland jersey amongst a sea of blue and my mates and I had been copping it deluxe from everyone around us.  What happened in the next 30 seconds silenced the crowd and move us to full voice.  I can still see it now: Thurston shapes to pass outside and then slides through a tired NSW defence, Slater looms on his inside and suddenly is in under the posts.  Game, set, match and series for Queensland.  We still haven’t been beaten in a series!

Check out the highlights here: … the try is at 8mins 30secs.

4. 1995: Queenslander!!!!!!

I know I have spoken of 1995 above but this wouldn’t be a trip down my personal memory lane of highlights without including Billy Moore and the “Queenslander” chant.  Watch this:

I really don’t need to say anything more do I?

5. 1992: Alfie’s field goal

Another State of Origin classic was played out in the second game of the series at Lang Park.  Queensland had been down to 11 men early in the game (Bill Harrigan at his NSW favouring best) but fought hard to ensure their line was not broken all game.  With 66 seconds to go (after Ricky Stuart had missed two attempts) and the scores locked up 4-4, Allan Langer nonchalantly slotted a field goal from the 22 metre line to secure a 5-4 victory for Queensland.

This year the season is no less exciting for Queensland’s almost decade of dominance and history again beckons for the Maroons.  Maybe there will be a moment to rival one of these five moments.  Even if there is not: this will still be a season for the ages.


The other AFL story this week: the new Queensland powerhouse?

The biggest story in AFL this week has revolved around the vilification of one of the marquee players of the game. I do not want to get into that: enough has been written and said and whilst I am very concerned at the way it has been handled by the AFL there is another story about AFL that I want to comment on. I will quote the CEO of the AFL:

“By the end of the year, that [Queensland’s] will the second highest participation rate in Australia, higher than WA or South Australia”.

That is right folks: AFL is apparently a big business in Queensland and that is even when compared to rugby league. These statistics don’t lie: rugby league reports that in 2012 it had 170,027 active participants whilst the AFL reports that it had 155,000 such participants. Additionally, AFL is working off the back of growth in participation numbers of 9% per annum. That, in anyone’s language, is exceptionally good growth.

I should be very clear here: I am more a fan of cricket and rugby union rather than rugby league or AFL. What I find interesting about those numbers is the significant shift in the demographic of the players of sport in Queensland. Times certainly have changed from when I was a kid running around sports fields playing sport. Some 25 years ago I did not know that one could play AFL in Queensland and I would be astonished if any young bloke growing up in my generation thought any different. AFL was not the played sport back then: you played rugby league in the winter or cricket in the summer and that was pretty much it.

So why am I writing about this? Two reasons:

1. I do not believe the AFL and Brisbane Lions in particular have received enough kudos for the work they have done to develop the game in this state; and
2. It has to be stated that rugby league has done an equally poor job.

Upon the Lions winning their brace of three premierships they have leveraged off their massive up lift in membership and attendances at games to educate the people of Queensland about the game. The last of those victories was a decade ago and yet the fans continue to flock to the Gabba in droves to watch their team. What I think the Lions and the AFL have done particularly well is that they have won over the parents of sports playing kids.

Obviously one of the ways in which they have done this is that they have publicised the game of AFL as an essentially non-contact alternative to rugby league for children. Also, it is obvious when one goes to the games (I have attended recently at the Gabba as well on the Gold Coast) that attendance at the games is certainly kid friendly. Every game I have been too I have been impressed with number of children in attendance and engaged in the game.

The rugby league authorities have not done enough, conversely, in my view to make attendance at games kid friendly. This is an entirely personal view based solely on my attendances at games. The test that I have applied in coming to this conclusion is whether I would be happy to take my nephews or kids of my mates to a game and, indeed, have I actually done so? This year I have taken my nephews / kids of my mates to AFL and rugby union games but I have always been hesitant about taking them to a rugby league game. The vibe is just different: I cannot explain it. I guess I am going to be less likely to take young kids to a sporting contest that I myself in the past have felt personally threatened for my safety being in the crowd and that has only ever happened at rugby league games.

I am not at all here casting negative aspersions on rugby league fans: I am not. What I am saying is that if there is one area in which the NRL and the other rugby league authorities including the clubs have let themselves down it is in making the game family friendly. Of course parents, particularly mothers, are going to prefer their children to play a game that they feel comfortable taking them to watch.

The other area in which I think the NRL has let itself down is in its traditional heartland. Whilst kids are still playing rugby league in, for example, Ipswich and Toowoomba, it is entirely obvious that the AFL is making inroads in both places given, for example, the involvement of a number of junior teams from the Ipswich area in the greater Brisbane junior AFL competitions. A NRL team in either centre or even in Central Queensland would go a long way to pause those inroads being made by the AFL.

The rugby league authorities need to lift their game in Queensland: there is no escaping that. Equally, I for one am pleased that kids these days have a freedom of choice when it comes to sports they play. The fact that those kids have that choice is all to the credit of the AFL. I am waiting with baited breath for a similar report to come out next year on 2013 participation numbers in sport. I am fairly certain that the AFL will have pushed passed the rugby league to be the most popular oval ball sport in Queensland. Who ever thought they would see that day? I, for one, certainly did not!

For the love sport: State of Origin

As many of you will have worked out by now, I am a sports fanatic: simply put, if it is sport I will watch it and I will follow a team.  Over the years I have fallen in and out of love with many sports.  Rugby League is a sport that I have loved and fallen out of love with over time and it would be fair to say that aside from my ongoing support of the Canberra Raiders, the NRL competition in Australia really does not interest me much.

That fact declared, it is that time of the year again that my fervour for the game of rugby league reaches its peak because it is State of Origin time.

For as long as I can remember as a young child there were only three nights in a year that I was allowed to stay up late and they were the Wednesday nights that State of Origin was on.  I would sit with my Dad, watch and listen to his oft frustrated rumblings about high tackles, repeat sets of six and head high tackles all the while not really knowing what was going on. It would be fair to say that during my formative years I was not so much a rabid supporter of State of Origin rugby league but more a passive observer.

That all changed when I went to my first game of State of Origin at Lang Park.  12 June 1991 was the date and it was the third game of a hard-fought series ultimately won by Queensland 2-1.  I have three vivid memories of this game: first that we were in the old outer of Lang Park sitting on concrete steps; second that Mal Meninga kicked a goal from the sideline and I had never heard a sound like it and third, it was Wally Lewis’ last game.  To that point in my life I had never experienced anything like it and was hooked.

Still though, even after my 1991 experience I did not possess that “hatred” of New South Wales that most of us from the Sunshine State possess around this time of year.  It was not until 1995 that I really understood what it meant to Queenslanders to beat New South Wales.

For those that can remember it, the 1995 series was held at the start of the “Super League War” and all of the expectations were of a New South Wales whitewash, the bulk of Queensland’s usual team sheet being aligned with the rebel faction.   New South Wales players, coaches and supporters were insufferable before the series started and I wanted nothing more for Queensland to prove them wrong.  Everything that those much more senior to me had been complaining about with respect to those who reside on the other side of the Tweed River finally was sheeted home to me. 

History shows that Paul Vautin’s team of “Nevilles” (as he described them) defeated their much more fancied opposition 3-0.  Sitting in the lounge room of the Humphreys’ Family homestead in Ipswich images of Billy Moore screaming “Queenslander”, Brett Dallas running away to score under the posts in Melbourne and Trevor Gillmeister leading Queensland into the last game when we all knew he was crook sent chills up the spine.  Even now as I sit here writing this I get the chills.

That was a series Queensland was given no chance to win by anyone and yet despite all of the disadvantages put in front them prevailed against all odds.  That win meant so much to me, my father, my mates and anyone else I spoke to and for the first time I really realized how much it means to Queenslanders to beat New South Wales.

I am not going to get into the usual banter about which state is better: the fact is that I am biased and it is impossible for me to answer impartially.  What I am going to say is that the “hatred” between the supporters of the two States is, to me, what continues to make these series of State of Origin games what they are.  For weeks before game one, the best of mates will be sniping at each other about their respective teams chances and, with the advent of mobile telephony, there seems to be not a moment in the game that goes past that does not lead to a text message or a tweet directed at the opposition teams supports being received or responded to.  Having attended two games in “enemy territory” in New South Wales proudly sporting my Queensland jersey I have felt (and heard) the disdain with which interloping supporters are considered with.  Without that byplay between the respective groups of fans, I do not think the series would be what it is today.

It is important to recognise here though what I also consider to be the essence of State of Origin.  It is the fact that for the period of the game and its preliminaries it truly is mate against mate from the players right through to the fans.  Which, by extension means, that the following day we are all still mates no matter what the result.  It is for this reason I have purposely put the word “hatred” in inverted commas during this post.  Hate is a word easily bandied around but the fact is that we do not hate each other (as that word is meant to be used), we just hate losing to each other.   It is just sport afterall.

With that, I look forward to 4 July when the third game of the present series reaches its crescendo at Lang Park and hope the best side wins: of course we all know that that team is Queensland.  Let the banter begin!