LIKE 90% of rugby league fans who do not support Manly, I generally don't have a lot of empathy with the Sea Eagles. But I reckon they have been dealt a dud hand by the QRL this week.
Taking Daly Cherry-Evans in to Origin camp in Melbourne with the Maroons is a bit rich. After all, he is 18th man and only a chance of playing in game one if Cooper Cronk is injured during training.
I'm as captivated by State of Origin as the next bloke. I was at Lang Park for the first game in 1980 and estimate I have attended close to 50 of the 93 games played. It is my favourite sporting contest of the year.
But Origin is tough on the clubs. I have seen first-hand how Broncos players have returned from the Origin series physical and mental wrecks and, because of their massive involvement over the years, I have no doubt Origin has cost them a couple of premierships.
But it is not only after the series that players are affected. Had Origin not been on the horizon, Justin Hodges would have played for the Broncos last Friday night and maybe a specialist centre might have closed down the two breaks made by Steve Matai that led to Manly tries.
Queensland taking Cherry-Evans to Melbourne all this week for what is nothing more than an initiation, is out of bounds, and selfish. The Sea Eagles have already lost Glenn and Brett Stewart, Tony Williams and Jamie Buhrer and can ill afford to have their halfback and chief playmaker away on a holiday while they prepare for Sunday's vital clash with the Roosters.
Cherry-Evans will probably be a better player as a result of his week in Camp Maroon, and the Sea Eagles will be the chief beneficiary of his improvement. But surely the Manly club should at least be shown the courtesy of their permission being sought.
After all, it's the clubs who pay the wages.
Cheap shots unfair
WAYNE Bennett doesn't need anyone riding shotgun for him and wouldn't be looking for people to make excuses for him at the moment, but the veteran coach is copping some unfair bagging.
Much is being made of the Knights' 4-6 start to the season and the real possibility that for the first time since 1991 a Bennett-coached side may not play finals football in 2012.
No one would be more disappointed in that outcome than the 640-NRL game coach.
Talk is that Bennett - back on his farm at Warwick during the bye week - spent his time mulling over the future of a number of off-contract players. And he is genuinely concerned at the lack of form of some of his big guns, who simply have not fired this season.
But while there might be form concerns and issues relating to a new coach coming on board, surely the major problem at Newcastle is the loss of two key players. Kurt Gidley and Danny Buderus are irreplaceable.
Take Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk out of the Storm and they would struggle. And the Cowboys would be lost without Johnathan Thurston and Matt Bowen, as would the Tigers without Robbie Farah and Benji Marshall. The cheap shots at the master coach are unwarranted and unfair.
Merrin top choice
WHILE some of their selections may be queried, in Trent Merrin the Blues have selected the best-credentialed interchange player in the game.
Merrin has made 52 NRL appearances for the Dragons over three seasons and - remarkably - 33 off them have been from the bench. And in his four rep games - two Origins last season and Country of Origin this year and last - he has been a bench player.
Even last Monday night against the Panthers, despite being selected to start in the second row, Merrin was once again benched. Interestingly, Matt Gillett is not exactly a stranger to sitting on the sideline for the Broncos, awaiting his entry.
Of his 50 NRL games to date, 28 have been as an interchange player. Neither should suffer stage fright when called to arms next Wednesday night.
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