This Sunday afternoon, Coffs Harbour will play host to the annual City Vs. Country event. Whilst the concept is a fun one and brilliant for the local area hosting the game, its fast losing credibility as a genuine Origin selection tool.
The presence of Origin certainties Jennings and Hoffman takes up 2 spots that could have been used to blood younger hopefuls for the future. Origin hopefuls Reynolds, Hayne and co withdrew with ‘injuries‘ that you could bet your bottom dollar wouldn’t keep them from playing for their clubs this weekend.
In the city team only Merritt, Mannah, Hoffman and Fifita stand any real chance of playing Origin, whilst country have Uate, Maloney and Merrin vying for selection. Players such as Tedesco, Reddy, Sironen, Peats, and Cuthberton, although all late call ups have no real chance of lining up for the Blues.
The majority of the NSW side has already been chosen:
1. Stewart (not playing)
2. B. Morris (Kangaroos Squad)
3. J. Morris (Kangaroos Squad)
4. M. Jennings (City)
5. UP FOR GRABS – Uate, McManus, Merritt, Taufua (all playing) Hayne (withdrew through injury)
6. UP FOR GRABS – Maloney, Reynolds, Carney (2 playing, 1 injured)
7. M. Pearce (withdrew through injury)
8. J. Tamou (Kangaroos Squad)
9. R. Farrah (withdrew through injury)
10. UP FOR GRABS – Grant, Woods, Mannah, Fifita, Merrin, Tolman (all playing)
11. G. Bird (Kangaroos Squad)
12. R. Hoffman (City)
13. P. Gallen (Kangaroos Squad)
14. A. Watmough (Kangaroos Squad)
15. L. Lewis (Kangaroos Squad)
16. UP FOR GRABS – Sims, Williams, Grant, Mannah, Fifita, Merrin, Tolman (all playing)
17. K. Gidley (Kangaroos Squad)
So in a squad of 17, 4 positions (which surely Merrin is a lock for at least one, Hayne is almost a lock for the second wing position) are up for grabs. Players are put at risk of serious injury for the sake of 2 spots in the NSW side.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the concept of the game, it’s always extremely fun and even with the withdrawal of star players both sides are brimming with talent. Why play a friendly game instead of moving an NRL game to Coffs Harbour. The Sea Eagles and the Bunnies blockbuster would be just as good a game as the City/Country and would be a better gauge of Origin conditions than a friendly one off. The result doesn’t matter in this game, players will have injuries in the back of their minds and they’ll have 5 or so days in camp.
Origin matters, no player would be thinking about injuries, and teams have 2 weeks in camp together. A club game result matters, injuries don’t come into mind and players train for weeks together. I am extremely confident than even a massive man of the match performance by Sironen, Cuthbertson or Wighton would mean absolutely nothing in terms of each player’s chances of Origin selection.
Maloney vs. Reynolds is an important clash as are Merritt and Uate, McManus and Taufua and Merrin vs. the city forwards … other than that, there isn’t a whole lot of interest in terms of Origin selection. Can anyone say that if Jennings has a shocker in this game he won’t play Origin? Is it a given that if Reynolds outplays Maloney he’s into the NSW side?
I won’t go as far as to say the concept is a farce, especially off field but honestly the game isn’t an important one. Each NRL side should take a game to the country each season and city/country should be scrapped. As a Sharks fan, I will spit chips if any of the Sharks reps are injured and miss club games for a game that doesn’t matter results wise and I can bet I am not alone in my thinking.
I look forward to the game, as I do each year, but can anyone tell me who won this game 3 yrs. back and name a try scorer from each team? The ONLY game I remember well is the one I attended in Wollongong as there wasn’t a club game in Sydney on that night and I wasn’t working. Any sign of rain and we wouldn’t have bothered.
The crowd this Sunday afternoon will be 95% Country fans, but I can bet any money all of them would gladly watch City win if it meant their club side was guaranteed a win next weekend. I hope the game is a good one, I really hope no one gets injured but I do not expect the performances of any player to have any real influence over Origin selection.
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com