Origin: Are we asking too much of players?

IN THE 100 State of Origin matches to date, no-one has played tougher than pint-sized Blues utility Geoff Toovey.

At 70-odd kilos wringing wet, the halfback-cum-hooker made 15 Origin appearances and never once took a backward step.

But Toovey, now the Sea Eagles coach, along with Storm mentor and former Blues coach Craig Bellamy, must surely be questioning where the fine line is drawn between Origin support, blind loyalty and the ludicrous.

The debacle which has been the Queensland training camp this past week could well have savage consequences on the premiership chances of both Manly and Melbourne.

And let's face it, because of their history both Toovey and Bellamy will always support Origin to the hilt and neither is likely to rock the boat.

But their No.1 priority, and allegiance, is to their clubs and this past week both coaches must surely have been biting their tongues.

With Storm sitting outside the top eight at the halfway mark of the premiership for just the second time during Bellamy's 14 seasons as coach, they certainly don't need star fullback Billy Slater missing more games this season.

Cooper Cronk.
Cooper Cronk. Quinn Rooney

Cooper Cronk is already sidelined until round 20 after breaking his arm in Origin I.

The same predicament applies to the Sea Eagles, and their match-winning halfback Daly Cherry-Evans. Also tick Greg Inglis, and the Rabbitohs.

From the outside looking in it seems players will put everything on the line to play Origin.

Corey Parker admits he was prepared to play with a fractured eye socket and risk permanent double vision until coach Mal Meninga convinced him otherwise.

Slater, we learn, spent $8000 of his own money to have a specific rehab piece of equipment installed in his home in a bid to recuperate more quickly from his AC joint injury.

And, in full glare of the media, Cherry-Evans ditched a knee brace late last week to hit the training track, albeit very gingerly.

But it isn't just the Queensland camp that is causing headaches for Toovey.

His gun second rower Anthony Watmough has decided to play on despite having his bicep torn from the bone in Origin I. To his credit Watmough has continued to play for the Sea Eagles since the injury but the immense workload of Origin could have dire consequences.

Even after 34 years the impasse over player welfare lingers. And while the smartest minds in our game have offered solutions and the decision makers are keen to avert the burnout among our elite, it seems only the most severe of injury will convince players to withdraw from the big stage.

The bottom line is that if the players are serious about the authorities addressing the burnout/ welfare issue, they need to heed the ancient Greek proverb "God helps those who help themselves".


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