By Scott Woodward of www.ChampionProfits.com
Ricky Stuart is now 1-4 from his last five State of Origin matches as coach without Andrew Johns as his playmaker. That’s 25% and mirrors his win strike rate in his final two years as coach of the Sharks and the Roosters.
When is the penny going to drop with the mainstream media and they start to report accurately that their golden haired boy is just an average coach with a less than average record?
Coaching Origin is more about man management than pure coaching as Mal Meninga has proven, and aside from ensuring the players are happy and healthy there is not a great deal more a coach can influence, or can he?
Ricky Stuart is one of the best organising halfbacks that I have ever seen and his tactical kicking game was unrivalled. As the coach of the Blues, it is fair to assume that the NSW half pairing of Mitchell Pearce and Todd Carney were given some direction of what to expect and how to take control of the play and demand the ball.
Hullo, earth to players, Ricky wants to mentor you! Are you home?
The preparation of the all-important Blues halfs was pivotal as they were up against the Australian 6 and 7, Thurston and Cronk. Did Ricky even talk to them? If he did, it went in one ear and out the other.
The gifted Todd Carney looked a nervous wreck in the sheds prior to the game which was likely exacerbated by Ricky Stuart’s hand-picked assistant coaches who looked even more nervous as they walked around shacking every player’s hand.
Glenn Lazarus looked like he had five minutes to live as he hugged each player. Carney played and kicked like he had just had an all-nighter at the Queanbeyan RSL. His buddy Pearce managed to miss five tackles in the first half and gifted an intercept pass to a thankful Cam Smith who obliged by setting up a Maroon try.
To his credit, Pearce had a better second half, but he was still silent when the fifth tackle came near the Maroons try line and the ball went to a surprised Tony Williams feet.
Carney was still “sobering up” and Thurston’s magic made the NSW intel shaking their heads.
Carney is capable of delivering a world class performance and can go head to head with Thurston at his best, and his combination with Pearce has proven highly efficient at club level. In Origin I they both appeared to be totally under prepared and have no game plan.
Ricky Stuart also had at his disposal former champion half’s Laurie Daley, Brad Fittler and Trent Barrett, who also must share the blame for such an inept performance by the Blues 6 and 7.
It is the little things that count in Origin and a major turning point was when Blues skipper Paul Gallen had to decide on a kick for goal or the line giving him six tackles 40 metres out with a fresh Tony Williams. Ricky Stuart had at least 20 seconds to advise his runners near Gallen to not kick for goal; instead he just sat there and rolled his eyes when the wrong decision was made. We won’t even go there about the bench and how he used it, or should I say, didn’t use it.
Can we talk about the Blue’s right side defence?
When you know in advance that Thurston and Inglis will be charging down your side, it is fair to assume that plenty of work would have gone in to combat any leaks.
Glenn Stewart, Joss Morris and Akuila Uate had no idea what to do running all over the place. The Maroons successfully targeted the Blues right and came up with their only three tries. Stuart must get the right side defence solid for game two in Sydney as you get the feeling that Thurston, Inglis and Cronk have Uate’s number and know how to spook him into rushing his moves without thinking.
I would move Hayne from the left to right wing and bring in Brett Morris, widely regarded as the world’s best left winger.
NSW were very unlucky in Melbourne so clearly vast changes are not required but with no Tony Williams available, the Blues require a block busting runner as opposed to another off loader. Big Titan Jamal Idris fits the bill perfectly and can be a real match winner, the other former Stuart reject Willy Mason is another big man who would make an impact from the bench. He has been the Knights best forward in recent weeks and has the physicality and experience to be a surprise recall.
It will be fascinating to see how Ricky Stuart tinkers with his right side defence and selects his bench for game II.
If we read and listen to the media, we could be forgiven for thinking that the Stuart is a superstar coach with a record to match, but the fact remains that he has been sacked from his last three coaching jobs and he is now one more loss away from an even four.
Ricky Stuart Origin coaching record without Andrew Johns
2005 Game 1 Lost
2011 Game1 Lost
Game 2 Won
Game 3 Lost
2012 Game 1 Lost