The question that divided the rugby league public leading into State of Origin last year was whether or not Robbie Farah, playing off the bench for the Tigers at the time, was worthy of the NSW number nine jumper.
The very same question has resurfaced again this year as we make the final descent towards Suncorp Stadium and origin one. So far though, Farah has done well to weather the storm.
Against his old club on Friday night, Farah, starting for the first time in five rounds despite being listed on the bench, played like a man still thirsty for rep football and determined to prove doubters wrong.
He was instrumental in the Rabbitohs win, making 37 tackles and setting up a try.
So good was his form, Maguire brought Cook into the action sometime around the 60th minute by benching Tom Burgess, who seemed to drop anything thrown his way.
But Farah, much like last year, must stave off bids on the NSW number nine jumper by in-form hookers Nathan Peats and Cameron McInnes; both of whom have been in scintillating form for their clubs sides.
Had Nathan Peats not been tossed out with the garbage by Parramatta last year, it’s likely he would have secured a rep jumper, forcing Farah out of the side. Now with another year of first-grade under his belt, he is primed for selection. Outstanding performers tend to stand out in a struggling team and Peats, at the Titans, is one such example.
The argument for Cameron McInnes is just as strong. Last week he pulled on his very first rep jumper; helping the City side to an upset victory over Country in the concepts last hurrah. The game was a farce, and the teams patchwork, but it still showcased some of the finest rugby league talent in NSW and that can only bode well for players who performed to an exceptional standard.
Once again we have a situation where Daley must choose between loyalty and form.
On Friday night, Farah ticked both boxes. But having started off the bench for much of the season, the latter has been difficult to track. The remaining few rounds in the lead up to the bye will be paramount in Farah’s case for origin selection.
As for the other two candidates, there is little more they can do. Farah is as volatile as an Indian meal, some will go down smoothly while others will send you running for the toilet every five minutes. You just have to pick him and hope he doesn’t make your stomach churn two hours later.
Defence is of crucial importance in Origin and Farah has both McInnes and Peats well and truly covered in this department.
The experience factor must weigh into the equation also.
Then there’s the argument that while Farah has been at the helm, NSW have won just one series in eight attempts. A dismal statistic and one which in a number of sports around the world would earn him a permanent spot on the no-fly list.
But Orgin is a different beast. Experience counts for more than form. That is why if Jonathan Thurston is fit come Origin one, he will slot straight into the halves for Queensland despite having spent just one game on the paddock in two months.
This is why Queensland have been so dominant. They don’t bother with off field politics or involve themselves in speculation that has the potential to cause infighting and divisions.
If the Maroons dynasty is remembered for anything, it will be their harmonious team culture, the loyalty displayed by their fearless leaders Mal Meninga and Kevin Walters, and the confidence with which they played each game, which was no doubt instilled through the backing of coaches and selectors.
NSW fans can claim they are too old, too slow and sitting ducks waiting to be picked off by camouflaged hunters. But until they change their mindset and begin adopting a winning attitude, they should expect a continuation of the heartache that has accompanied them for ten of the past eleven years.
Questions like whether or not Farah is the right man for the job is symptomatic of a team which has made a habit of loosing and is an indication that frustration and impatience is beginning to set in.
Who talks about contentious selections in the Queensland Origin team when they are released each year? No one, because fans are supportive of the panel who have been the architects of Queensland’s success; their record proceeds them.
Their formula is simple: remaining loyal to players removes egos and unnecessary distractions.
If Jarryd Hayne is selected for Origin one, pending fitness, this will only serve as further evidence of NSW trying to force wins and select a team of champions, rather than building a champion team. Another false step.
Follow Queensland’s blueprint. That’s how you win Origin.
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