If I
may be permitted one comment on this morning’s soccer match: it reminded me of
the bad, bad old days in rugby league when scrums were scrums and some referees
were cheats!

Many a
close game was decided by a highly dubious scrum penalty, given to the
attacking side, right in front of the goal posts. That is one reason why scrum
penalties are, fortunately, history.

Now,
in case you missed it, the two teams for next week’s Origin decider in Melbourne were announced yesterday.

Changes
were made to both teams from Origin Two – the Blues because of a bad
performance, and the Maroons because of injury.

The
biggest change in the Blues is the dumping of the halves combination of Brett
Finch and Braith Anasta who have paid for the Origin Two wipe-out.

But
the shock is in one of the replacements. The recall of Craig Gower to the half
back spot was predictable, but the moving of centre Mark Gasnier – the best
centre in the NRL – to five eighth is a gamble, but one the Blues have to take.

But
the Maroons are not without a surprise selection as well, that of the Cowboys’ Josh
Hannay in the centres. The Cowboys (and Blues) coach, Graham Murray, has not
been able to find him a spot in first grade for much of the 2006 season! (Six
in first grade, nine in lower grade). Hannay will be out to prove a point to
his club coach.

The
other major Maroons change is at full back, where justice has finally been done
with the selection of Clinton Schifcofske as fullback. He has played one game
for the Maroons – way back in 2002 when he was picked on the wing, even though
he has played his whole career at fullback.

The
Blues side looks stronger, while the Maroons are only going to be weaker in one
department – the centres – where Justin Hodges was inexplicably chosen even
though he has an injury that will rule him out for at least six weeks. He has been a
standout for the Maroons and will be a huge loss.

It all
makes for a very interesting decider tomorrow week in Melbourne.

Peter Fray

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