Craig Bellamy remembers the bitter disappointment he felt when Ryan Hinchcliffe and Ryan Hoffman were not chosen for New South Wales in this year’s State of Origin. He hopes a day will never come when he would instead be hoping his players were overlooked.
But that day could come for many clubs, with Bellamy claiming that fans — frustrated at seeing their teams suffer slumps in form during and after the Origin series — are already thinking that way.
While he said Origin was the pinnacle of rugby league and players were still desperate to play, there could come a time when players begin to miss Origin games with “mystery” injuries, if clubs believed it was in their better interests to keep their players from taking part in the series.
“If it’s going to affect clubs especially going into semi-final series, like it has the last couple of years, then it could go down that path,” Bellamy said.
“I hope it doesn’t and I hope the [Australian Rugby League] Commission does something about it.”
Bellamy has been a long-time advocate of playing Origin games as a stand-alone competition rather than having representative players back up for NRL games the following weekend.
The Storm have lost six of its past seven games including the past five in a row, but Bellamy does not blame all his club’s woes on the physical toll of this year’s Origin series.
However, he said fans’ frustrations struck home after he met some Manly fans after the Storm’s most recent win, in round 15 at Brookvale.
“Everyone knows what I think and I’ve said my piece for four or five years. It needs to be a stand-alone competition,” Bellamy said.
“The last thing we need is people out there, supporters and people in clubs, not wanting their players picked in Origin because that’s the pinnacle of our game so we want our supporters, we want our sponsors, we need everyone at the club, fellow players, coaches really wanting players to play Origin,” he said.
“I’ve talked to fans, and not only Storm fans but fans of other clubs, who are hoping that their players are not in Origin and we don’t want to go down that track, so I think they should look at that schedule very [seriously] and very soon and try and sought something out.”
“I was coming down to breakfast after the [Manly] game the next morning and there were a couple of people [who] had Manly jumpers on and they were saying to me they would prefer that Manly players didn’t get picked in Origin in the future because it affects their team.
“I had never thought of it like that … I was very disappointed this year when Ryan Hoffman and Ryan Hinchcliffe missed out on the NSW teams and I’d hate to be sitting in my chair in two or three years time hoping that my players don’t get picked for Origin.”
Meanwhile, Bellamy today said he would keep faith with the Storm’s established players, who led the team to nine wins in a row at the start of the season, despite the team’s drastic form slump.
While he warned that chances were running out for some of the struggling players, it was not an easy choice to blood younger players who may not be fully ready for the challenge of NRL.
“I suppose we can make a whole heap of changes if we want to … but these players have done a wonderful job early in the year and we’ve given them some chances to find that again and slowly but surely that time is running out but we’d like to think we’d find some consistency in the things we need to do,” Bellamy said.
“I suppose there is a little bit of a loyalty factor … I don’t want to be throwing some young blokes in who are not ready for it. That’s not going to help us but it’s certainly not going to help that young guy either.”
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