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SPIRIT OF 55: Who would make your Grand Final team sheet?
10:31am Monday 18th June 2012 in Wolves news
WITH no Wire match to report on during this mini break in the Super League season, I have decided to take a little pause for thought.
Here is a game that all Wire fans can play:
Imagine all the players are fit and available for selection and the Wire are playing in the Grand Final tomorrow.
Write a list of all the players you would be happy to see representing your team in that game, not just the ones you would pick, but how many of them, if they were selected, would you be confident that they would perform well for the side.
I got up to 26 on my list, which is fantastic, far better than in years gone by when the list might have been around 10 and I would have been scratching around for another seven that ‘would have to do’.
Now comes the difficult part of the game, choosing 17!
After much deliberation I managed to come up with a 17 I am happy with, happy with in that I think it is an exceptional match day squad, but not completely convinced it is the best possible one from that list of 26 names.
If I were to do this every week until the end of the season I am sure the 17 would change a few times, but for what it is worth, here is my 17.
I can only imagine how much I would have deliberated over it if I had actually been in charge of team selection.
Spirit of 55's Grand Final team:
Brett Hodgson; Joel Monaghan, Stefan Ratchford, Ryan Atkins, Chris Riley; Lee Briers, Gareth O’Brien; Adrian Morley, Michael Monaghan, Garreth Carvell, Ben Westwood, Simon Grix, Chris Bridge. Subs: Micky Higham, David Solomona, Chris Hill, Ben Harrison.
No doubt a few eyebrows raised upon reading that, so I will try to explain.
Probably the most noticeable omission is Waterhouse, and though I would not have a big problem with him being in the Grand Final team, to narrow it down to 17 I had to be harsh on some players.
Whether it is because he does not quite fit in with the team's defensive system I am not sure, but he does seem to have become a player that opposition teams have enjoyed some success by directing attacking plays at and around him.
Also I do not think he has the versatility of players like Grix, Bridge, Ratchford and Harrison etc.
I have been impressed enough by Ratchford’s skill, speed and versatility that I wanted to get him in the side somewhere, and I do think that Bridge makes an excellent loose forward. Paul Wood would rightly class himself as hard done by, but the squad is well blessed with front row options, and again when it comes to versatility players like Harrison and Solomona have edged him out for now.
On the subject of Solomona, obviously with no game time yet this season this is a gamble of a selection, but I just wanted to add that bit of magic to the bench.
Myler might well force his way back into my squad with some good performances, but I just think O’Brien brings more creativity and passing accuracy to the team, as well as his kicking and goal kicking.
The younger players who have come close to establishing themselves over the last few years, Blythe, McCarthy and Cooper can also consider themselves unlucky not to be in the squad and I would have no doubts about their ability to perform on the biggest stage.
Other, more recent, additions to the squad such as Currie, Dwyer and Rhys Evans would also not let the team down, in fact if we do make it to Old Trafford I have a feeling that Currie will not be too far away from a surprise selection.
A lot of Wire fans might now be happy that I am not in charge of picking the team, but it is certainly a fun game and it would be interesting to see just how many different final 17s fans would come up with.
A couple of general Rugby League comments before I sign off.
One is a suggested rule change, as I really do not like the fact that a team that has a kicked charged down and recovers the ball gets another set of six tackles.
This is not just because Wire put a particular amount of pressure on kickers.
I just think that the rule rewards sloppy play from the kicking team or punishes excellent defensive work from the other team, or both.
I suggest that if that team recovers the ball then they have one more tackle, not six.
Also with regards to the Exiles match, I do admire the RFL’s innovation and willingness to try new concepts, but I am not sure I can get fully behind this one.
It is never going to be a rivalry along the lines of State of Origin, because I cannot ever see a day when young rugby league players from England will grow up dreaming of one day playing against a team made up of Aussies and Kiwis, most of whom are not quite good enough to represent their own country.
It especially loses credence when one player can play for the Exiles one year and for England the next.
I know they have tried it before but personally I would prefer to see a Lancashire v Yorkshire or East v West series, our own version of State of Origin.
I know it is impossibly difficult to imagine us ever having anything that quite matches the Queensland v NSW series, but I think if it is marketed right and the series is committed to then it can be a success.
There is plenty of history behind the rivalry, and as young players they will grow up representing Lancashire or Yorkshire, so why not continue with it at a professional level?
The build-up montages and mini documentaries really set the scene for the State of Origin and then it is up to the players to deliver and they so often do.
I think that if they were to start it off at some of the smaller Super League stadiums and get full houses or close to it, they should then get the Sky machine on board with the marketing and make sure the players fully commit to it.
If that happens then it could be a success both as a spectacle and as an international trial.
For the first few years at least dare I say you could even encourage the players to ‘bring back the biff’ a little, to build up the rivalry and get people talking about it, even those that are not big rugby league fans.
Whatever the RFL decide the fans do have to take some responsibility, we cannot moan about the lack of national press coverage for what we call the greatest game and then not support our own events.