Awards in rugby league: There has to be a better way

This article was first written for and published for The Roar.

I’ve never been a rugby league fan that is passionate about awards.

I of course take notice of who is awarded the Dally M, the Clive Churchill and the Wally Lewis Medals, but how these awards are determined has never been a topic that I’ve been that interested in discussing.

That was until last Wednesday night after State of Origin Game III when Billy Slater was awarded the Wally Lewis Medal for being the man of the 2018 series.

Awards in rugby league: There has to be a better way

This article was first written and published by the Roar.

I’ve never been a rugby league fan that is passionate about awards.

I of course take notice of who is awarded the Dally M, the Clive Churchill and the Wally Lewis Medals, but how these awards are determined has never been a topic that I’ve been that interested in discussing.

That was until last Wednesday night after State of Origin Game III when Billy Slater was awarded the Wally Lewis Medal for being the man of the 2018 series.

Freddie’s ‘wacky’ methods could be formula for long-term success for Blues

This article was first written and published for NRL.com.

When inspirational NSW captain Boyd Cordner lifted the State of Origin shield on Wednesday night, I turned to my family and said: “Finally. It’s about time I got to see a team I support lift a shield.”

Despite Queensland winning Game III at Suncorp Stadium by 18-12, the series was already done and dusted by the time the teams headed north of the border.

A few coaching hints for the Queensland Maroons ahead of Origin 3

This article was first written for and published for The Roar.

This Wednesday night’s State of Origin Game 3 is a dead rubber with the New South Wales Blues already sealing the series with a 22-12 win in Game 1 at the MCG and an 18-14 victory in Game 2 at ANZ Stadium.

The Blues have not won the series in a clean sweep for 18 years. Even when Queensland were at their most dominant, the Maroons also only managed the clean sweep once in 11 years.

South Sydney Rabbitohs coach Anthony Seibold should take a bow

This article was first written for and published by NRL.com.

I’m one of the many rugby league fans that didn’t have the South Sydney Rabbitohs in my top eight for 2018.

Despite boasting, on paper, a strong squad with the likes of Angus Crichton, Damien Cook, the Burgess brothers and Greg Inglis, I wasn’t willing to take a chance on a team with a new coach, particularly after their form over the last two seasons.

History happens with Origin but women’s revolution just beginning

This article was first written for and published for the NRL.com.

Along with the biggest crowd in history for a women’s rugby league match, I was part of something magical at North Sydney Oval on Friday night.

I will never ever forget the first women’s Holden State of Origin match at North Sydney Oval.

It was an opportunity to celebrate how far women’s rugby league has come in the last few years, but it also gave me the chance to reflect on my personal journey with the women’s game.

To think when I first started following footy I had no idea that women could even play, to now being at a point where so many of the women on the field at North Sydney Oval are my role models, inspirations and friends is massive.

I know I am not alone in idolising these women – boys and girls can now grow up looking up to players like Kalyn Ponga, Sammy Bremner, Clint Gutherson, Maddie Studdon, Boyd Cordner, Karina Brown, Cameron Munster and Ali Brigginshaw. And this is the way it should have always been.

I felt immense pride for every woman that took the field and I know the players share my tremendous respect for the women that have come before them and paved the way to a point where the men’s and women’s fixtures are now on equal footing.

Even though I watched a great game of footy, I couldn’t tell you what the final score was.

I know the NSW Blues won.

I can only recall certain moments from the game. I remember Isabelle Kelly scored and Kezie Apps also almost scored too. I remember Corban McGregor going off injured and seeing Kody House warming up on the sideline. I remember the crowd standing on its feet at the full-time siren and Maddie Studdon being swamped by her teammates after becoming the first women’s captain to win an Origin.

Maroons captain Karina Brown scores.
Maroons captain Karina Brown scores. ©Nathan Hopkins/NRL Photos

I remember getting to run on the field and the players being on the field while kids, some not so young, swarmed them at all angles. They were genuine, pure and most importantly themselves.

Maybe I don’t remember the score because it was about so much more than a result. It was about so many people that have championed and pushed and advocated and demanded so much more for the women’s game for so long. This match was for all of us.

It was a chance to celebrate a very special moment for our game, and a history-making one at that.

When my eyes weren’t on the field, they were on the crowd to see the faces and the people that had gathered to watch women’s sport take centre stage.

When I shut my eyes, I can still hear the roar from the crowd when the two teams ran onto the field led by Studdon and Queensland’s Karina Brown. I remember laughter. I remember cheers of support. I remember boys and girls chasing each other, footballs in hand pretending to be Billy Slater and Kezie Apps.

There were also plenty of people who were watching with pride. I know for so many people in the crowd this game was the manifestation of a pipe dream they never thought they would see eventuate.

NSW players celebrate Isabelle Kelly's match-winner.
NSW players celebrate Isabelle Kelly’s match-winner. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

Like Tarsha Gale, a former NSW and Australian captain, who played in the first Interstate Challenge 20 years ago. Tarsha was such a pioneer that the NSWRL named a competition in her honour – the Tarsha Gale Cup. This competition for girls runs alongside the junior representative leagues.

On Thursday night, Tarsha had the opportunity to present the Blues women with their jerseys and I know how proud she was to do so.

Former Jillaroos and Queensland Maroons representatives were also there like Karyn Murphy and Jo Barrett. Many of you would have heard Jo in commentary on Channel 9 with Phil Gould and James Bracey.

Gavin and Kasey Badger were there. Kasey is a woman that may have had some mixed feelings. She became a referee because there was no longer an opportunity for her to play footy. I know how much she would have loved the game, but I’m sure there was also a small part of her wishing that she had had her chance.

Proud skipper Maddie Studdon after the Blues' win.
Proud skipper Maddie Studdon after the Blues’ win. ©Robb Cox/NRL Photos

Then there was my little friend Amaya Clarke who is five years old and has just started playing footy. Her heroes are Bec Young and Caitlin Moran and when you ask her what she wants to do when she grows up, she answers “play footy”.

know the celebrations continued long into the night. But as I left with the rest of the crowd and the Friday night lights started to dim, I had a small moment of reflection on the giant step that this match represented in our game.

I reflected on women like Kasey who never got the chance to play rugby league at this level, I reflected on women like Steph Hancock who has waited so long for her opportunity and finally received it. And I reflected on the next generation of women who I don’t even know yet but will get their opportunity because of the work that has gone into this evening.

The best part is, we are just getting started.

Now the countdown is well and truly on to the beginning of the inaugural Holden Women’s Premiership which will kick off in September. I hope we can channel the momentum from Origin and keep it going for the remainder of what has already been a history-making year.

And to the 6824 people who came out to North Sydney Oval, a big thank you for putting on a celebration worthy of those women that took the field. You were there when history happened.

Why Ben Hunt shouldn’t play Origin again

This article was first written for and published for The Roar.

Today when the Queensland Maroons announce their State of Origin squad, I am expecting them to name Ben Hunt in the number seven jersey.

If I’m Kevin Walters, I wonder what the point is of making drastic changes to the Maroons squad. The final game is a dead-rubber. The squad will want some stability particularly after the potential injury concerns over the weekend to players like Greg Inglis and Dylan Napa.

Also, even if Ben Hunt could be replaced, who would replace him for Game 3? Michael Morgan is still injured and it looks like Kalyn Ponga will be another player unavailable for the Maroons.

The challenges of a three-game women’s Origin series

This article was first written for and published for The Roar.

The women’s State of Origin at North Sydney Oval last Friday night was a roaring success.

While the New South Wales Blues were victors on the night, defeating the Queensland Maroons by 16-10, it felt like this game was about a lot more than the result.

Almost 7000 flocked to North Sydney Oval to watch women’s rugby league. The adults that attended this game paid at least $10 for their ticket. While the attendance at the ground was impressive, it was also backed up by the television numbers.

The Blues will win the series tonight

This article for first written for and published for The Roar.

The only thing stopping the New South Wales Blues from destroying the Queensland Maroons in tonight’s State of Origin fixture is belief.

If the Blues believe they are the better State of Origin team – and they are – then they will put a margin on the Maroons.

Game I in Melbourne at the MCG showed that NSW are not only the superior side, but are the only side heading in the right direction.

Injuries wreak havoc on Freddy’s Origin selections, but there’s a silver lining for some deserving players

This article was first written for and published for The Roar.

I’m not sure what has caused more chaos to my weekend – injury concerns in the NRL or Brad Fittler surprising all of us and deciding to announce his New South Wales Blues squad for State of Origin Game 2 at 10.30pm on Saturday night.

The announcement took place just after Ireland had beaten the Wallabies in the rugby and France had beaten the Socceroos at the World Cup.