He’s the man charged with developing the NSW engine room at both junior and senior levels, so when Mark O’Meley picks his replacement for departing captain Paul Gallen, he’s going to be taken seriously.
Speaking at this week’s Under-16s and Under-18s Pathways Camp at the NSWRL Academy, the NSW True Blue was a vital resource for the developing forwards. Alongside the likes of Andrew Johns, Danny Buderus and Anthony Minichiello, the man affectionately nicknamed ‘Ogre’ will fill a specialist positional coaching role in both the NSWRL Pathways camps and at the senior NSW VB Blues level.
With 10 Origin appearances and 15 caps for the Kangaroos – and having been involved with the Pathways system for two years – O’Meley is well-positioned to make a call regarding the state’s next Origin captain. A number of names have been thrown into the ring to fill Gallen’s big shoes, but the former VB Blues enforcer has suggested a man from one of his former clubs.
“Boyd Cordner looks ideal to me,” O’Meley tells NSWRL.com.au. “I think he’s a no-nonsense player, he does all the little things right and leads by example.
“Guys like that are who you respect in the game.”
Cordner, who was named the VB Blues’ best in Origin I last year, before injury prematurely ended his series, now has six Origin selections to his name and despite experiencing just one win in that time, he has consistently done his job both off the bench and in a starting position. With the second-rower generally working well on the left edge, however, the door remains open for the replacement in Gallen’s lock position – and that is a much harder proposition.
“It depends; NSW will have to have a look and see who’s developed in the off season, who’s maturing more,” O’Meley says. “We’ve got a lot of senior players that are arguably at the end of their tender, so the new batch will come in as you’ve seen last year with (James) Tedesco and those guys.
“I couldn’t single-out one replacement for ‘Gal,’ but we need to build some stability over the next five or six years.”
That stability in selections and quality begins at the junior levels and with better Pathways systems in place than ever before, O’Meley can see his work contributing to the state’s long-term future.
“The knowledge is getting better in club land; we’re getting more and more athletes with more knowledge,” O’Meley says. “Everyone’s up-skilling and learning more and more, so each year you come back and the quality of athletes is improving.
“Just because you’re a forward, it doesn’t mean you have to be so isolated,” O’Meley adds. “You need to actually teach them what they’re doing and what purpose it’s for, so you’re trying to build a base and then improve on that.
“There’s a lot of kids there with great potential. I think we’re in good stead.”
While question marks remain over the future make-up of the NSW VB Blues, it is clear that the side’s long-term future is in good hands.