David Taylor was asked to step up in game two of Origin this year after an injury to Sam Thaiday kept him out of the game. Unfortunately the giant Queenslander played in such a way that it was memorable for all the wrong reasons.
Taylor played well in Melbourne in the opening game, but had a great deal of blame leveled at him following the Blues win in the sequel. There’s no doubting that he failed to play an adequate role in that match. At the representative level players are expected to show a certain level of maturity and effectiveness across the board, which Taylor failed to do. One poor decision also cost Queensland a crucial four pointer when Taylor tried to gather the ball over the line instead of simply diving on it.
But Meninga’s choice of Ben Te’o for the decider looks to be a result of poor coaching choices as much as player contribution. Taylor has never played a traditional role as a front rower, and rightly so. His massive size coupled with excellent ball playing skills puts him in more of a Sonny-Bill Williams mold then that of a typical prop, despite the obvious physical difference between the two men, they both wield more strength, speed, and vision then most players, let alone forwards.
Yet the style of play, and what might be called ‘X-factor’ isn’t what the game of rugby league is built on in Australia. That should be obvious to all who look on. Especially those in the coach’s box. Structure and defensive leadership should be expected to fall on better suited players such as Cameron Smith, and Nate Myles. There is no doubt that Taylor will do his share in defense, but his talents are such that at times he’s a better contributor when his role is made clear by those leading the side. Andrew Johns was a perfect example of this. Directing and commanding both forwards and backs with or without the ball with clear instructions throughout the match. Part of what made Johns superb was his ability to bring the best out in all his players. Much of that came from putting them where they needed to be.
The Maroons never should have started Taylor in game 2. His on going development has yet to reach a point where he’s able to pick up the slack left when core players such as Thaiday are missing.
A saving grace for Meninga is that his side boasts plenty of attacking brilliance in Inglis and co. There’s no lack of X-factor in his side so they certainly shouldn’t struggle to score points. Also New South Wales come into the match with a solid but traditional team in that they will look to win via good fundamentals and effort more so than freakish flair. Meninga will be looking to ‘not lose’ as much as he is trying to win. So he’s chosen a more reliable, though less threatening option in Te’o
Taylor looked every bit like a burnt player out to prove his worth in last weekend’s match between Souths and Penrith, which was also his 100th NRL appearance. He had a try laid on for him which he hit at such pace that he’d easily be mistaken for a wing or fullback hitting the line.
Queensland will genuinely fear loosing to Ricky Stuart’s Blues. So they’ve gone for a safer bet in Te’o. Meninga might have just thrown a rookie into the deep end of the biggest Origin decider in years, and thrown out another who, for all his short comings, is a genuine threat every time he touches the ball and would have run onto the haloed ground at Suncorp with something big to prove. New South Wales on the other hand, will be more then happy.