The NRL season hasn’t even started but already the Queensland State of Origin selectors face a true embarrasment of riches.
In the NRL All Stars game on the weekend Ben Barba seamlessly carried his form from last season in to 2013, scoring a first half hat-trick and helping his side to an emphatic 32-6 win, yet realistically the reigning Dally M Player of the Year is extremely unlikely to earn a starting spot in the maroon jersey.
State of Origin sides have traditionally been selected on form. Every year a host of exciting young players are introduced to the game’s fiercest arena, and every year a number of veteran players miss selection. But of course there are players who are immune to any selection policy; players who have proven themselves so many times at the top level that inclusion in their respective State’s run-on team is just a given. Billy Slater is unquestionably one of these players.
How could you leave Slater out of a side? I’m not sure that you could. Slater could have a horrible start to the NRL season for the Melbourne-based defending champions, but you’d still have to believe that he could lift when it came to the big games, and his expereince in those key clashes is purely and simply invaluable.
So is there anything Barba can do?
Not really. At best he can continue his scintillating form and hope to snare a spot on the subs bench, depending on the coaching staff’s preference for the make-up of their reserves.
Champion halfback Johnathan Thurston said as much following the weekend’s game, calling Slater the best fullback he had ever seen, and stating ‘he has the fullback jersey sewn up for some time.’
And that’s why, in a nutshell, Laurie Daley’s quest to end the maroons’ dominance of the Origin series is a seemingly insummountable one – Queensland have far too much fire power. As if it’s not enough to have Cameron Smith, Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk, Greg Inglis and Billy Slater on the park they’ve got superstars in the making like Barba who will potentially be sitting in the stands watching on, wishing they were involved.
Oh the pain of being a New South Wales supporter!