N TERMS of cheap State of Origin tricks it doesn’t get much lower than this …
With all other tactics tried and failing, NSW have delved deep into their playbook and pulled out one which is almost impossible to counter. They’ve appointed a coach, Laurie Daley, who is Mr Unhateable.
Talk about messing with minds.
For some Queenslanders who know him well, this will be like jumping into the ring for the heavyweight boxing title of the world and seeing Santa Claus with his gloves on in the opposite corner.
It might not stop him from copping one in the bread basket, but it’s just not quite as much fun.
What is Origin football without a seething dislike for the rival coach?
An Origin series with no man in black in the coaches’ box is like a cowboys and Indians movie without the Indians.
Part of the fun for Queensland fans is not so much rejoicing in victory but inflicting despair on the vanquished.
How many times have you heard: “I just couldn’t stomach watching Ricky Stuart (or Phil Gould) celebrating after a series victory”?
Shots of the winning dressingroom are never the end of the story for Queensland fans. They must see heartache down the hallway.
As the saying goes, success is not enough - friends must fail.
Through the years, rival coaches have played a rich role in the fervour of Origin football.
From the fact that Frank Stanton came from Manly (that was always enough), to the provocative Gould, the feisty Stuart, the divisive Terry Fearnley, and the clinical, mega-intense Craig Bellamy, Queenslanders have never had much trouble disliking the Blues mentors.
Even though he was greatly admired, beating supercoach Jack Gibson was also a special moment for Queensland fans.
Though Brisbane coaching legends Wayne Bennett and Bob Bax worshipped at his altar, Queensland fans never quite felt the need to drop to their knees in awe. Jack was the Blues’ hero, not ours. There was always a personality trait, real or imagined, Queensland fans could pick out in a Blues coach and say “it just doesn’t sit well with me”.
This year it’s a bit different.
Daley is a hard man to dislike because he is the sort of earthy, unpretentious character that Queenslanders admire, the Junee boy who never changed.
When his mum and dad dropped him at Canberra in 1987, Laurie reckons he was crying in the driveway of the place he was staying, but his parents knew he needed tough love, so off they went.
From that point, he roared off to a magnificent career which saw him captain his state at 22.
But as his career blazed skywards, Daley’s ego remained admirably anchored to the tarmac.
When Daley got married to Michelle, his best man was not one of the glitterati set he met in Sydney, but former butcher Scott Duncan from Junee, his old mate.
If you want to catch Daley having a quiet ale, it won’t be at one of Sydney’s showy hot spots, but down at the unpretentious Northbridge Hotel, where locals know him well and give the star treatment a miss.
The State of Origin team is not the only team he coaches . He also guides the under-11 team in which his son, Will, plays in North Sydney.
As for notoriety, he was no altar boy, but one of the few things he did off that field that made headlines was accidentally dropping the Winfield Cup off the back of a car in a parade after the 1989 grand final.
It was one of few times a grand final trophy had finished in worse shape than the team who were celebrating its capture.
Each grand final week, Daley dips into his own pocket to take friends on a cruise of Sydney Harbour.
When he first started the tradition, his boat was dinghy-sized, but the outing has grown in popularity to the point where a larger vessel is now needed.
NSW released their team yesterday, two days after it was leaked to The Courier-Mail. No name in it was cause for Queensland concern or sleepless nights.
The greater concern could be news that a few weeks ago the NSW team of last year - and those likely to be chosen this year - had a planned catch-up over dinner. That’s not what Queensland want to hear.
For years NSW never felt the need to bond because talent was always enough. They had the raw materials. The glue would come on the night.
But for seven years the glue pot hasn’t opened. This year they are going looking for it.
Just goes to show just how out of touch these clowns are with the public. Read any forum anywhere and this guy is almost universally disliked by the rugby league public. Its like they’re trying really hard to sell him as a mr nice guy. They did everything bar tell us he volunteers at a soup kitchen or dresses as a clown and entertains sick kids at hospitals. Every time you think the DT has hit rock bottom they somehow manage to drill through the rock