Queensland currently reigns over the most dominant period of State of Origin since the concept’s inception in 1980. Coach Mal Meniga has arguably the greatest pool of talent to choose from and has built a team that has at times destroyed the best NSW could muster in the past 7 series. Billy Slater, Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk, Darren Lockyer, Jonathan Thurston, Justin Hodges, Sam Thaiday, the list goes on. Queensland players have come in all shapes and sizes but the one thing every player that has put the Queensland jersey on in the past 7 years has one thing in common, they would bleed for the jersey.
One of the Maroon’s best ever Greg Inglis was born in Kempsey, which despite the song “that’s in Queensland” is definitely in New South Wales, yet he declared himself available for Queensland. Mat Rogers, son of NSW legend Steve Rogers was born in Caringbah, NSW yet played 8 games for the Cane Toads. Adrian Lamb and Tony Carroll represented other nations yet fought eligibility laws to be able to play for Queensland.
So whilst Queensland are fielding players who have shunned elegance with both other states and even nations New South Wales are unable to convince their best centre to put the jersey on. Jamie Lyon is still being referred to by many today as the best centre in the game, yet he refuses to play for the Blues. Can you imagine Justin Hodges refusing to wear a Queensland jersey?
Attitude is the big difference between the states. If a player refused a Queensland jersey they would become public enemy number one and the QRL would do everything within their power to convince the player otherwise. The NSWRL are not only accepting of Lyon’s ridiculous choice but are content to field a second rate centre pairing. NSW coach Ricky Stuart even said he was proud of Jamie’s decision. Personally I can’t see Mal Meninga applauding Greg Inglis for sitting out an Origin match.
I don’t know the exact reasons for Lyon’s decision but the public explanation was that he doesn’t look the criticism that goes along with rep football based on his experience playing for the Kangaroos in the past. Some people just aren’t built to withstand the pressures of big games but this is a guy who has stared in grand finals, has played well in Origins before and has represented his country overseas.
Then again this is a man who walked out on his Parramatta team mates to play bush footy before heading to England for a big pay day. Upon deciding he could go back to the NRL level Lyon signed with great rivals of the Eels in the form of The Manly Sea Eagles. Lyon is without a better player now than he was last time he represented the Blues at Origin level so why won’t he play for NSW now? Is he really that worried about a few people saying he had a bag game should he not live up to his own standards?
If twitter is any indication, and it is, each and every week during Manly’s games there is criticism of Lyon. He could score 5 tries and lay on 5 more try assists and someone would still be bagging him, so why can’t he overcome this fear of criticism come the time for representative football? No one will ever know for sure but one thing you can be sure of is that if Lyon was any chance of playing for Queensland, the QRL would be all over him to play.
Josh Morris and Michael Jennings are likely to line up for the Blues after playing well last season in the Origin series and believe me, they are no mugs. Both are extremely dangerous centres and will give everything for their state, their teammates and their fans BUT they are not NSW’s best centre. Queensland best centres are Greg Inglis and Justin Hodges, both will play unless seriously injured and even then you’d need to tie them down to stop them trying to take the field. Meanwhile NSW’s best centre is tearing it up on Manly’s right edge a few days before or after Origin.
Should the NSWRL push for Lyon to play? Do you really want a player who doesn’t really want to be there? Yes and yes! Jamie Lyon could be the difference between winning and losing a game or series. Last season NSW went in with Todd Carney as their kicker, and whilst Carney is a capable kicker, he does not land them at anywhere near the same percentage as Jamie Lyon. NSW lost a game by one point last season, if it was to come down to a kick after the siren I’d much rather have Lyon lining up the kick than a player who doesn’t even kick for his club.
NSW NEEDS Jamie Lyon and as a NSW resident I want Jamie Lyon to line up for the side. He doesn’t lose too many centre battles in club football and he is the best chance of nullifying Greg Inglis or Justin Hodges come Origin 1. It frustrates me that he won’t play Origin but it angers me that more has not been made of it.
Laurie Daley should be on the phone to Lyon each and every weekend asking him to play for the blues. He should not take no for an answer. He should be truthful if telling Lyon that NSW’s best chances lie in Jamie Lyon playing in the centres and kicking the goals. If Lyon declines his offers Daley should go to the papers and publicly plead for Lyon to play. Put the pressure on, if Lyon is so scared of pressure, put him under the ultimate pressure in the media, not only will he play for the blues but he’ll kick that winner after the final siren to capture the Blues first win in 8 years.
Of course all this is a moot point if Daley continues to overlook form players Merritt, Reynolds and co. for players out of form who has failed at Origin level in the past … but that is an argument for another day.