MELBOURNE coach Craig Bellamy has proposed a radical overhaul of the State of Origin schedule which would involve games one and three being staged on a Wednesday and game two on a Sunday.
Speaking to reporters at Gosch’s Paddock yesterday during Storm training, Bellamy said the NRL had blown the chance for a big crowd at Sunday’s ANZ Stadium grand final rematch by denying his side and Canterbury access to their Origin stars.
While calls for Origin to be moved to a weekend, and all club football to be paused, are common, Bellamy had a slightly different idea.
“Maybe play the games with 10 days in between them – two Wednesday nights with a Sunday game in between them,” he said. “That wouldn’t affect the NRL and the NRL wouldn’t affect Origin.
“It seems to get tougher every year. I don’t know about physically but it seems to be more mentally draining for the players.
“I think they’ve probably missed a real good opportunity to get a good crowd there (on Sunday).
“I’d like to see the Origin stand on its own and perhaps like the … rugby union, with the Lions tour, they suspended their competition for three weeks.
“We’ve got to be looking towards that direction. I don’t know, with the TV rights, whether we can or whatever.
“I know each competition affects the other. Obviously Origin affects the NRL competition but also if you’ve got players playing … 10 days before Origin, that affects the Origin team as well, which is what happened to Greg Bird.
“I think we should be looking down the track to perhaps pinch that idea off the rugby union and suspend our competition for a few weeks and get the Origin games over in one go.
“Hopefully we can start working towards that.”
Bellamy said he remained uncertain exactly what role rookie Ben Hampton would play on Sunday – in the halves or at fullback. But he argued Canterbury custodian Ben Barba was playing as well as he did last year, when he took home the Dally M medal
“I’ve got so much admiration for Benny – I think he’s a wonderful player,” Bellamy said. “People don’t need me to tell them (that).
“There probably has been a bit of comment about they don’t think he’s been in his best form this year but I don’t think that’s right.
“I probably wasn’t aware until this week, when I watched a bit of video on the Bulldogs from the last month – I think he’s playing every bit as good as he was last year.
“Perhaps some of the other things around him are not working quite as well as they were last year.
“But jeez, he’s breaking a lot of tackles and every time he gets the footy, you’re expecting something to happen. He’s a tremendous young player and, as I said, I think he’s in as good a form as he was last year.”
Filed for: THE AGE