NEWS Mam or Dearden? Why Munster agony should signal Ezra’s moment to shine

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Just last year, Maroons coach Billy Slater signalled his philosophy when it came to bestowing Queensland jerseys: form would prevail over reputations.

For that reason, Broncos star Ezra Mam should be considered the frontrunner to fill the void set to be left by Cameron Munster, courtesy of yet another injury.

The sight of the Melbourne Storm five-eighth clutching in agony at his troublesome groin during his side’s 48-16 Magic Round triumph on Sunday is expected to leave him in a cluttered Queensland casualty ward for State of Origin Game 1 on June 5.

He will join Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, Thomas Flegler and Tom Gilbert, while reigning Dally M medal winner Kalyn Ponga is also on the sidelines.

Munster was set to get scans on Monday, having missed the first month of the season with the same setback, and concern is rife his year could be over if surgery is required.

“Don’t put me 100 per cent here - but I think if he has an operation now he probably won’t play again for the rest of the year,” Storm coach Craig Bellamy said post-game.

“He missed the first four or five games of the season with it. If he’s capable of playing towards the end of the season we might go that way, but he has to have a say in it, too.

“I had a chat with Billy the other day – at the end of the day I’m not saying he can’t play Origin either ... I’ve never stopped anyone from playing Origin who wanted to play.

“That’ll be a decision for Cameron to make when we find out what the damage is and our plan to try and mend it.”

While Munster’s absence would be a cruel blow to the Maroons’ hopes of sealing a third straight series win, Mam has been electric for Brisbane without halfback Adam Reynolds, out with a bicep tear.

The 21-year-old’s best performances this year have come without his regular partner in crime, and he now appears destined to enter a two-way battle with Cowboys maestro Tom Dearden for Munster’s Maroons jumper.

Dearden, who starred in his sole appearance for Queensland two years ago, produced a timely reminder of his credentials in Magic Round – his two tries and a pair of linebreaks helping North Queensland break a five-game losing streak against the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

But since the Broncos’ round six win over the Dolphins, Mam has surged into contention, registering three tries, eight try assists and eight linebreak assists in his past five games.

His defence has also improved – often the first man in the tackle on kick chases – and his instinctive style could be the perfect foil for halfback Daly Cherry-Evans.

For his part, Dearden has registered five tries, three try assists and five linebreak assists in 11 outings this year.

But Maroons centre Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow believes past relationships could give Dearden the edge.

Tabuai-Fidow made an emphatic comeback from a hamstring injury in the Dolphins’ Magic Round triumph over the Tigers on Sunday, and is ready to reclaim his place on the Maroons’ left edge.

“The Hammer” also played alongside Dearden with North Queensland, and experienced first-hand what impact pre-existing partnerships could have in Origin when he lined up with close friend Murray Taulagi.

“I played with Tommy Dearden at centre too, and we all know what he can do,” Tabuai-Fidow said.

“Obviously, Murray plays the same side as him, and it will give him confidence as well - they play week in, week out and if he does come into the team I think he’ll do a really good job for us.

“He works hard, and he’s a good attacking player, too. Obviously, we have big names out, but whoever pulls on that jersey I know is going to put 100 per cent into it as well.”

It is a compelling argument, and may also work in Mam’s favour given his rapport with Reece Walsh and Selwyn Cobbo.

Slater also showed last year his willingness to decide on form when he chose Walsh to become the state’s new fullback, despite Ponga’s man-of-the-match performance in the decisive Game 3 clash the year prior.

He displayed that same mentality in selecting Gilbert – traditionally a middle forward – in the second row at the expense of seasoned campaigners Kurt Capewell and Felise Kaufusi.

And when it comes to the big stage, cast an eye over Mam’s grand final hat-trick just seven months ago.

He proved then that the game’s most daunting cauldrons would not deter him.

Sydney Morning Herald
 
Fitzy

Fitzy

NRL Captain
Sep 10, 2018
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I honestly can’t agree I think Ezra has been by far the better player in every metric except defence which I don’t think is shit at all let alone shit enough to not select him. Not something I would get outraged or even disappointed over if Deardens picked but like let’s be real Ezra definitely isn’t going to lose you an origin but he sure as fucken shit can win you one, Deardens intangibles and through effort alone can definitely help win one but I don’t think he can win one off skills.

I think Ezra slots into that spine and that role better than Tom does. Remember Cameron’s a big x-factor. If it was one game I could understand Tom Dearden every day of the week but over the course of the series we are going to need something special and someone who knows or is good enough to unlock walshy. Ezra ticks both of those boxes on top of also in my opinion being a better 5/8 and in better form. I’m happy for people to disagree like it’s a tight call but I think if you take that 1 game for Dearden away there is absolutely no hope in hell anyone sides with him. NONE. Which is fine as well he played well that’s a testament to his ability and work rate that he stood out enough to have this many people back him but I do think Mam is the better player and the future of that maroons spine whether it be at 6 or 7. With Deardens seemingly inable to effectively make the move to 7 I don’t see his future in that side long term as guaranteed especially if Ezra doesn’t become a halfback. I think in all areas except defence and origin experience which can just as easily be rivaled with GF experience he comes out on top in 95% of footy metrics.

Thats my opinion. I think you put Ezra in there he kills it, I think you put Tom in there he kills it as well just in a very different way. I don’t see us losing the series with Ezra at 6, I very easily can see us losing with Tom.

Ezra specializes in x-factor and special moments, something you need in origin and something we need to replace with Munster out.

Seems to be a very strong opinion that Deardens the man and whilst I don’t contest that he wouldn’t do great I just contest he wouldn’t do better than Ezra.
 
Jedhead

Jedhead

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I think Ezra's defence is wot wins it!
 
Battler

Battler

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Dec 4, 2013
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Mam’s the better all round player, is coming off what would’ve been a ccm performance in the gf if not for a once in a lifetime showing from Cleary, is improving game to game as a playmaker in arey’s absence, and has combinations with Walsh and cobbo.

Baffles me that Dearden is considered the ‘safe’ choice because he’s played one game two years ago (in Ezra’s rookie season).
 
J

Johnny92

NRL Player
Jul 3, 2021
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I honestly can’t agree I think Ezra has been by far the better player in every metric except defence which I don’t think is shit at all let alone shit enough to not select him. Not something I would get outraged or even disappointed over if Deardens picked but like let’s be real Ezra definitely isn’t going to lose you an origin but he sure as fucken shit can win you one, Deardens intangibles and through effort alone can definitely help win one but I don’t think he can win one off skills.

I think Ezra slots into that spine and that role better than Tom does. Remember Cameron’s a big x-factor. If it was one game I could understand Tom Dearden every day of the week but over the course of the series we are going to need something special and someone who knows or is good enough to unlock walshy. Ezra ticks both of those boxes on top of also in my opinion being a better 5/8 and in better form. I’m happy for people to disagree like it’s a tight call but I think if you take that 1 game for Dearden away there is absolutely no hope in hell anyone sides with him. NONE. Which is fine as well he played well that’s a testament to his ability and work rate that he stood out enough to have this many people back him but I do think Mam is the better player and the future of that maroons spine whether it be at 6 or 7. With Deardens seemingly inable to effectively make the move to 7 I don’t see his future in that side long term as guaranteed especially if Ezra doesn’t become a halfback. I think in all areas except defence and origin experience which can just as easily be rivaled with GF experience he comes out on top in 95% of footy metrics.

Thats my opinion. I think you put Ezra in there he kills it, I think you put Tom in there he kills it as well just in a very different way. I don’t see us losing the series with Ezra at 6, I very easily can see us losing with Tom.

Ezra specializes in x-factor and special moments, something you need in origin and something we need to replace with Munster out.

Seems to be a very strong opinion that Deardens the man and whilst I don’t contest that he wouldn’t do great I just contest he wouldn’t do better than Ezra.
100% agree.

Club connections would have to be considered aswell I think.
Walsh and Mam work so well together then you've got Patty and Cobbo.

I just want to see the tries a backline with Walsh, Ezra, Hammer and Cobbo will produce with DCE steering the ship.
 
Bucking Beads

Bucking Beads

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Absolutely love Ezra but I’m happy to have Dearden in the 6 for QLD. Ezra will get his shot eventually but at the moment Dearden is the more rounded player and performed superbly when he made his debut for QLD. He’s not playing that bad either
 
BroncsFan

BroncsFan

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I think Billy will likely go with Dearden he's done it before for him and he's a little more structured... but Ezra will definitely be in the squad and will be spending a lot of time with the squad and playing in the opposed team.

We have byes for Games 1 and 2, so Ezra will be there doing all the travelling, etc. with the team and will get his chance to show what he can do in opposed sessions. If Billy likes what he sees and we happen to lose game 1 or 2 then Ezra might be a chance later in the series.

Billy might give him some things to show when he's back in NRL land as well.
 
Sproj

Sproj

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Sep 6, 2013
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Dearden and Mam are totally different players obviously, so the key to think about is, which one compliments DCE more? DCE is not an x-factor player but then neither is Dearden. Munster IS an x-factor player and so he compliments DCE well. Then you have the Mam-Walsh connection on top of that. Dearden plays his guts out every single week and would let no one down if picked but he doesn't really have a combo with any key player other than Holmes / Taulagi and maybe Hammer. Mam has combos with Walsh, Cobbo and Carrigan already.
 
Jedhead

Jedhead

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Queensland always stay with the incumbent until they shit the bed, so Tommy Deardon will g the nod. Thank goodness for us in this round of games. But, eventually Billy 's hand will be forced and he will have to pick Ezra. Bit like when Kevvie , could not get Slater into his team.
 
Foordy

Foordy

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Queensland always stay with the incumbent until they shit the bed, so Tommy Deardon will g the nod. Thank goodness for us in this round of games. But, eventually Billy 's hand will be forced and he will have to pick Ezra. Bit like when Kevvie , could not get Slater into his team.

really all depends.

Billy made it pretty clear that form would be the deciding factor when he took over.

So if Billy sticks by his word about form, Ezra will get the nod. If Billy goes back to incumbency then Dearden will get the nod.

then there is the fact that given the injuries we've seen in the NRL this year, this may be a moot point come time for the selection.

only time will tell
 
Fitzy

Fitzy

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Sep 10, 2018
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Queensland always stay with the incumbent until they shit the bed, so Tommy Deardon will g the nod. Thank goodness for us in this round of games. But, eventually Billy 's hand will be forced and he will have to pick Ezra. Bit like when Kevvie , could not get Slater into his team.
I don’t agree necessarily, I think Billy has shown he will make the call he wants not the safe call. I genuinely think he will be leaning towards Ezra tbh.

1. Walsh
6. Mam
7. Cherry-Evans
9. Grant
13. Carrigan
14. Hunt

That spine makes so much more sense and looks far better than with Dearden. I have absolutely nothing against him but I think he is second rate in comparison to Mam. I think Mam currently is a better player than Munster. I think his natural role more closely resembles Munster than Dearden and I think he brings probably more x-factor than Munster is even capable of bringing anymore. He has the relationship with Walsh who is vital, he has the relationship with Patty who he will be getting heaps of ball off, he complements DCE better, and his support play off the back of Grant and Hunts creativity will be imperative. The more I think about it the more I am in the Mam by a landslide camp. Not to mention he can set up outside backs and support them very well which is important with the speed. I like Dearden a lot but seriously can’t see how he is in the conversation really. Like if Munster was fit the only person capable of pushing him out and performing as such is Mam. That’s all you need to know to make your decision. Think it goes Mam, an obvious enough gap, Dearden, a fucken huge gap, Walker.

Now this doesn’t bode awesomely for us during that period but like the blokes fucking earned it how he isn’t in the driver seat to get that spot is beyond me.
 
Jedhead

Jedhead

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I don’t agree necessarily, I think Billy has shown he will make the call he wants not the safe call. I genuinely think he will be leaning towards Ezra tbh.

1. Walsh
6. Mam
7. Cherry-Evans
9. Grant
13. Carrigan
14. Hunt

That spine makes so much more sense and looks far better than with Dearden. I have absolutely nothing against him but I think he is second rate in comparison to Mam. I think Mam currently is a better player than Munster. I think his natural role more closely resembles Munster than Dearden and I think he brings probably more x-factor than Munster is even capable of bringing anymore. He has the relationship with Walsh who is vital, he has the relationship with Patty who he will be getting heaps of ball off, he complements DCE better, and his support play off the back of Grant and Hunts creativity will be imperative. The more I think about it the more I am in the Mam by a landslide camp. Not to mention he can set up outside backs and support them very well which is important with the speed. I like Dearden a lot but seriously can’t see how he is in the conversation really. Like if Munster was fit the only person capable of pushing him out and performing as such is Mam. That’s all you need to know to make your decision. Think it goes Mam, an obvious enough gap, Dearden, a fucken huge gap, Walker.

Now this doesn’t bode awesomely for us during that period but like the blokes fucking earned it how he isn’t in the driver seat to get that spot is beyond me.
I get yours' and @Foordy call, but Queensland have not changed their 'incumbent' criteria since day one and it has kept them in good stead. So for Billy to change it is a huge call.
 
LittleDavey

LittleDavey

NRL Captain
Mar 25, 2013
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Interesting to see QLD's halves in coming years with Walker, Mam and Deardrie fighting it out.

Is Walker a smokey for Origin given his form?
 

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