State of Origin coaches Laurie Daley (NSW) and Kevin Walters (QLD) are highly respected for their ‘passion’ of the game, yet their selections and squad management leave a lot to be desired.
Game I of the 2017 State of Origin Series left a large majority of fans shocked to see Billy Slater and Valentine Holmes excluded from the QLD squad and the likes of Justin O’Neill, Nate Myles and Jacob Lillyman included. Following an emphatic NSW Game I victory, the QLD selectors were forced to swiftly correct these decisions. In Game II, QLD selectors also made the shock selection of Tim Glasby. This selection has yet to be proven justified.
Similarly, NSW have stuck by out of form players Josh Dugan and Blake Ferguson. The selectors faith is yet to be re-paid. While the most controversial NSW player for many years, Mitchell Pearce, disappeared in the pivotal moments of Game II; again, failing to prove the selectors right.
And now we are at Game III 2017, and the QLD selectors have again dropped a selection bombshell. With Johnathan Thurston and Anthony Milford unavailable, all the speculation was weather Cameron Munster or Michael Morgan would be promoted or if the in-form Daly Cherry-Evans would be brought into the squad. The other name occasionally mentioned was Corey Norman, having also shown decent form over the past two seasons. Yet the QLD selectors looked down their list of eligible halves, and kept going down, all the way down, down to Ben Hunt.
Ben Hunt who was playing QLD Cup Rugby League only three weeks earlier. The same man who has at times been the Broncos 4th choice half, behind Benji Marshall, Kodi Nikorima and Anthony Milford. Ben Hunt who of all the QLD halves in the mix, has the most missed tackles per game (See Table 1). The selectors have mentioned Ben Hunt’s running game in attempt to justify his selection. Our statistics show Hunt has the lowest line breaks per game of all the possible QLD halves.
Exactly how QLD will play their controversial selection remains to be seen. Starting Hunt off the bench doesn’t make much sense given he only really has the size and ability to play in the halves; not to mention the fact that this means having one less substitute forward available for a pack that has been dominated for the past two games. While starting him in the halves gives up the advantage of Morgan and Munster’s respective familiarities with the QLD spine. Starting Hunt also has the added downside of leaving a severe defensive weakness in the QLD side for the entirety of the game.
If QLD want to play Ben Hunt, they have every right to do so. We’d just like to congratulate NSW on their 2017 State of Origin victory.