Country vs City: The Continuing Trials of Josh Reynolds

This year’s City vs Country game in the regional hub of Wagga Wagga lived up to the hype that previous incarnations of the NSW Origin audition had failed to deliver, although not all of the theatre was for positive reasons. Despite City getting off to a confident start through the brilliance of Origin bolter Blake Austin, who was unlucky to not be named man-of-the-match, the boys from the country clawed their way back to a 34 – 22 victory through some solid attacking play from their outside backs. Along with the taste of defeat, the road trip to Wagga was furthered soured for the City slickers by a continuation of Josh Reynolds’ patented brain explosions, which now threaten to derail his involvement in upcoming NRL and Origin fixtures.

Today we saw the trigger-happy foot of Reynolds out once again, this time trying to trip Tariq Sims following a missed tackle on the Knights dynamo as he powered his way over for a four-pointer. The trip was unsuccessful but Reynolds was rightly placed on report by the on-field official. Following the trip, the City five-eighth once again found himself under the scrutiny of match officials, and a disappointed Andrew Johns on commentary, following an attempted shoulder-charge on David Mead who was racing away in broken play. Mead was unscathed by the incident but for the second time in the game, Reynolds was placed on report by the referee.

Today’s misbehaviour continues a series of temper flare-ups and questionable tactics from the Bulldogs and NSW star that have left him labeled among fans and players, “The Grub”. A selection of the evidence case supporting this unfortunate nickname includes the times we saw:

  • A shoulder charge on QLD’s Will Chambers in Origin III of 2014, following the defensive move being outlawed by the NRL earlier that year
  • A fiery Broncos clash that included Reynolds
    • kicking Sam Thaiday in the face
    • pulling Jake Granville’s mop-top hair
    • tripping Ben Barba
    • aggressively taking Alex Glenn in a high tackle which resulted in the Bulldog being sent from the field
    • damaging part of the Suncorp Stadium dressing room while venting his frustrations
  • Another trip, in March earlier this year against the Panthers’ James Segeyaro

This list is by no means exhaustive, but offers some idea as to why the Bulldogs and NSW coaching brains trusts remain frustrated with their man. Given his existing carry-over points on the judiciary penalty system scoresheets, it’s reasonable to expect Reynolds to find himself rubbed out from the next few weeks of NRL fixtures. This is clearly going to threaten his chances of staking a claim on his incumbent NSW Origin position, and given the outstanding form of fellow young playmakers such as Blake Austin and Jack Bird it’s not unforgivable to consider Laurie Daley looking elsewhere for his halves combination.

I don’t believe Reynolds has malicious intent in mind when he suffers these moments of madness, but it’s a part of his game that has troubled him before and a part he needs to continue working on erasing. Josh is a talented young player with the potential for a long representative career that all league fans would love to see, but for this future to be realised the Bulldogs playmaker must learn to regulate his temper and focus on maintaining a clear mind in match situations. If he is unable to produce this change in his game mindset, the future of his representative rugby league career may start to resemble the shattered ruin of the chair he left behind in Suncorp Stadium’s dressing rooms last year.

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