Dane Gagai of the Maroons is tackled by Josh Jackson of the Blues.
Dane Gagai of the Maroons is tackled by Josh Jackson of the Blues. DAN HIMBRECHTS

Selectors way off the mark with man-of-the-match pick

BECAUSE of a lifelong fascination with rugby league, without hesitation I plead guilty if someone believes my mind may be somewhat closed when comparing the code with other sports.

But surely not many sporting pursuits can shoot themselves in the foot as regularly as the greatest game of all, and continue to survive - even thrive. In near on four decades covering the game I have deadset lost count of the number of times I have muttered "you guys are kidding".

And it happened again on Wednesday night when one of the true gilt-edged Origin thrillers was KO'd by the man-of-the-match announcement. Not only was the wrong player named, but he was from the wrong team.

Admittedly stats don't necessarily tell the real story but if they did Josh Jackson was well down the pecking order. He wasn't even the best for the Blues. David Klemmer, Aaron Woods and Jake Trbojevic each had more impressive stats than Jackson's 49 minutes, 10 runs, 67 metres gained and 26 tackles.

But surely, in a thriller like that with Queensland coming back from the brink and winning in a last-gasp thriller, a player in maroon should surely have been awarded the prestigious gong. That would seem common sense.

And there were plenty of deserving Queenslanders, among them the veteran spine members of Smith, Cronk, Thurston and Slater. But for one of the very rare occasions the so-called budding Immortals were overshadowed by the new breed - one of whom should surely have been bestowed the honour.

For mine, that man was Josh McGuire, whose stats were very impressive. He played for 63 minutes, ran the ball 13 times for 117 metres gained and made a phenomenal 49 tackles, albeit missing four.


Josh McGuire of the Maroons was outstanding on Wednesday night.
Josh McGuire of the Maroons was outstanding on Wednesday night. DAVID MOIR

It was McGuire's tackle-busting run 12 minutes into the second half that led directly to the first of two tries to Dane Gagai, no doubt changing the game and bringing the Maroons right back into the contest. But overall his work rate - and his go forward - was at least the equal of any other player on the field.

If not McGuire for the award, then how about Gagai? At that level a winger can do no more than run the ball 24 times in 80 minutes, score two tries - one the clincher - and scoot for 189 metres.

And then there was second-gamer Dylan Napa, whose second spell was massive and helped take the game away from the Blues. Napa was on the field for 55 minutes, gained 119 metres from 14 runs and pulled off 30 tackles. Unfortunately for the big redhead, he also missed seven tackles.

In fairness to the man-of-the-match judges - Australian selectors Darren Lockyer, Mal Meninga and Bob Fulton - who didn't make the most popular choice on Wednesday night, there are vagaries in the system.

Firstly, they had to make their decision five minutes before full-time, when the Blues were leading 16-12. And secondly Lockyer, a member of the Channel Nine commentary team, must surely have had his mind on other things.

But the solution is simple. If the game is close - like it was - select a man-of-the-match from both teams and give the ultimate prize to the player from the winning side.

News Corp Australia

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