Slack: ‘Dropping’ young Reds’ halfback defies logic
For mine, Tate McDermott has been Queensland's best player this season, and if you don't have him in your top three you haven't been watching closely enough.
It's been an impressive month's work from the young halfback in a team that has played pretty well, if without a great deal of luck, and unfortunately without enough composure at critical moments.
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Either way, McDermott's been, if not perfect, very good, and the reward he gets for his effort is to be dropped for a vital game against the best side in the history of Super Rugby.
Now, I'm aware 'dropped' is not a word much used in this 23-man game that used be a 15-man one, but I don't think the competitive instinct of rugby players has altered much since William Webb Ellis lifted the ball off the deck.
In most instances, if you're omitted from the starting XV, you feel as if you've been dropped. I don't know Tate, but he strikes me as the ultimate halfback stereotype.
Feisty, chirpy, cheeky, in your face and with the desire to be in the thick of the action until the full-time whistle.
According to assistant coach Peter Ryan, the logic behind preferring Scott Malolua as the starting halfback against the Crusaders on Friday night was this: "Tatey's been starting every game this year, so it's more a rotational thing for our halves, getting some game time for Scotty and obviously giving Tate a bit of a break from the longer minutes."
Pardon me drawing a pretty long bow, but did Don Bradman need a break from the longer minutes when he was closing in on another double century?
Tate's a million light years from being knighted for his services to rugby, but did he really want, or need, a break from the "longer minutes"?
And in a match which was on the edge of the "must-win" category, was it more important to put the best team on the field from the get-go or to give some action to someone who's had to cool his heels so far this season? Are the fans who so badly want the Reds to win every game happy to forfeit our best chance of victory by adopting this "every child player wins a prize" routine?
McDermott was set to come on as a "finisher", it was said. Not much point in that if he would have been useful earlier.
Apart from throwing an intercept pass, Malolua was a solid contributor in a most impressive display by the Reds, but was there a chance McDermott's spark might have been needed from kick-off?
Twice this season, McDermott has been taken off at crucial times in tight matches and replaced by Moses Sorovi who on both occasions made costly errors as soon as he came on.
What was the point? It was unfair on Sorovi, McDermott and the team.
These kinds of decisions reeks of the geeks having too much say.
It's often in the team's or individual's best interests for changes to be made as players tire, and those with specific skill sets that better suit certain periods of a game are either introduced or replaced. But this resting and rotating too often looks more like reading tea leaves than understanding legitimate scientific data.