So for once, instead of struggling to come up with a topic to write about, this week there has been so much going on that I couldn’t decide which topic to pick. Therefore, as the fence sitter than I am, I figured I’ll just touch on a bit of everything and then reward myself with a weekend away.
To start, let’s talk about the Origin decider. The Queensland streak remains alive after they hung on to win by two and NSW have to wait another year to try to end the drought. Those who follow me on Twitter or Facebook know that I, like many others, think the biggest issue for NSW was halfback Mitchell Pearce.
The only people I have seen defending Pearce have been Roosters fans and even Roosters fans have been divided on it. I am not questioning Pearce’s heart or effort levels. I think he desperately wants to be the best player he can and gave it his all yet again, but he quite simply isn’t good enough. He is a good defender for his position but NSW need a halfback that can create points and that is something Pearce has not done in five years playing for NSW.
His kicking game is below par and he doesn’t have the dynamic passing or running game. He also didn’t take control of the direction of the team, which lead to many plays that looked like they had no plan.
The argument that a halfback needs a forward pack going forward to be able to perform doesn’t hold water here either as the NSW pack won the arm wrestle. NSW had every opportunity to win game 3 as well as getting the better of the forward back for the last two years in general. Pearce may well be a great guy, but he has had more than enough chances and it’s time NSW make the move they should have made before this series. It’s certainly a popular opinion and I’m not saying anything that hasn’t been said elsewhere over and over, but enough is enough and it’s time the Pearce experiment ends. He just isn’t that good.
Onto the Ashes, where Australia lost the First Test but there were certainly a number of positives to take out of it. From a neutral standpoint it was one of the most entertaining and gripping Tests I have ever watched and whilst Australia ended up on the losing end, it gave me belief that we can absolutely make this a competitive series.
Darren Lehmann’s decision to play Ashton Agar instantly paid off with one of the greatest moments in Test history, with a 19 year old Agar, batting 11 and with Australia in dire straits, getting to 98 (alongside a tremendous knock by Phil Hughes) before holing out trying to get his century.
There is clearly a concern with the top order, which hopefully will be rectified as the series moves forward, but I can’t remember a tail that so consistently wags. Our bowlers are honestly not that much worse at batting than our specialist batsmen are. Which isn’t really a compliment to our batsmen, but is still praise for our bowlers.
As I write this the team for the Second Test was announced and so I had to quickly rewrite this bit about selections for the match. Cowan was axed as expected and replaced by Usman Khawaja, who was the likely replacement. Mitchell Starc also makes way with Ryan Harris getting the nod over Jackson Bird as the replacement fast bowler. Cowan had to go and Starc has been a bit down on form so neither was unexpected. I wasn’t sure whether Harris, Bird or a second spinner would come in depending on the conditions and it’s hard to argue with Ryan Harris getting the nod.
But either way, I’m no longer feeling as down about our chances for the series as I was before the First Test, which is saying something considering we are now officially trailing in the series.
Also a quick point on the whole DRS and Stuart Broad saga. First of all, I think we need to be a bit careful to put all the blame on England, when we got a bit lucky ourselves in the first innings with Agar and the fact that Clarke continues to misuse the review system. That said, Broad should have walked and the fact that he didn’t absolutely makes him a dirty cheat. Also, the on field umpires were atrocious for both sides and this wouldn’t be an issue if they actually did their job at a level even near competent. Aleem Dar is one of the worst umpires I can remember and it baffles me how he continues to get such big matches. He is like cricket’s Jason Robinson.
Onto Le Tour. Whilst some of the individual stages have been exciting, is it just me or is the fact that Chris Froome is so dominant making the race kind of boring. It’s hard to stay up at night knowing the result is already over barring injury. That’s not to take anything away from Froome himself. He was expected to do this and he is delivering in spades and proving that he probably would have won Le Tour last year as well if his team had let him.
I also think raising speculation of him cheating as the media have been doing is ridiculous. It’s an unfortunately side effect of the sport’s history, but Froome has done nothing to suggest he is cheating besides being really, really good. I’d like to think he isn’t cheating because neither are his competitors anymore. However, should he end up in a doping scandal at any stage, it would be tragic and would be another nail into the coffin of the sport for many people.
We also are currently being graced with the presence of English Premier League champions Manchester United, who are here to play an A-League All Stars team this weekend. Then next Wednesday, my beloved Liverpool will be taking on the Melbourne Victory and I am fortunate enough to be traveling to Melbourne to watch the game. I’ve never seen Liverpool play and I’ve never been to a sporting event at the MCG, so to say I’m excited would be an understatement.
I hope to write about the experience next week, so stay tuned for that and remember, ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’.