State of Origin 2 Reviewed

In the NSW camp, a devestated NRL News reporter ‘The Grubber’ – casts his eye over State of Origin Game 2.

The Grubber is angry and he wants answers, here is his expert review:

In the interests of full disclosure I should start by saying that I didn’t attend the game. Origin is best watched on TV, where you get a real sense of the physicality of the contest. And I hate the Olympic Stadium. Never feels like Origin out there. Too far from the action, too quiet, too sterile. Is there any way we can get this event back to the SFS? Imagine how good that would be? 45,000 people crammed in, great atmosphere and plenty of pubs to fill before kick-off.

The Homebush Hoodoo is dead now anyway so that can’t be an excuse anymore. Sure, we’d have to raise prices a bit, but with the additional corporate interest that would be attracted by having one of the biggest games of the year right next to the CBD, I think a premium could be charged.

Anyway, on to the game itself. Gus let loose with his usual pre-game spiel. “Origin is special, it is the pinnacle of human achievement, mankind will never do any better” etc and Tim Gilbert (whoever that is) was assigned the job of interviewing Brett and Glenn Stuart’s old man. Mr Stewart looked pretty uncomfortable in his Volcom “Hoodie”, which surely must have been a loaner from one of the Stewart boys. Predictably Dad came up from the Gong on the day and having been unprepared for the chill of the western suburbs must have borrowed the offending garment from one of his boys. Unfortunately, he is too old a man to be wearing a hooded sweatshirt. In fact, no man should probably ever wear a hooded sweatshirt.

The Blues got a great reception when they ran out and I almost allowed myself to think that the crowd might be able to have an impact on this one. I certainly hoped that they’d inspire the Blues into an old-fashioned Donnybrook in the opening exchanges. Of course, I was sadly disappointed.

Where was the biffo? Couldn’t Willie have thrown a haymaker to wipe the grin off Petrols-seventy-cents-a-litre’s face? The lack of mongrel all seems to stem from a “lack of hate” in Origin. It stands to reason I suppose. These guys are professional athletes. Where is the incentive in trying to split some other bloke’s skull open anyway? It could mean a suspension, loss of contractual payments, and perhaps more importantly, a target on your head for every other Origin game you play. Worse still, you could cop a lucky punch and miss some club games yourself, which might impact on your next deal.

Maybe we need to start drafting in some talented CRL (that’s Country Rugby League for the ignorant) players. Just a couple of blokes who could come off the bench and open a can of whoop-ass on the QLD forwards. Right hook to Carl Webb, uppercut to Tony Carroll. And as for you Brent Tate? Well no one wears a neck brace in Group 6, harden up!

The Blues were pretty solid in the first ten. The kicking game was much improved under Kimmorley and the forwards seemed to be going forward this time. Possession started to favour Queensland after that, but still, NSW kept their resolve and continued to make some solid gains on each set. Kevin “Shayne” Hayne kept things flowing (as his mentor Billy Harrigan would have it), and some brilliant awareness from debutant Brett Stewart opened the scoring. Unlike his father, Brett looked more than comfortable in his Blue jersey. In fact, he owned it last night. He might as well change his surname to “Steward” such was his excellent custody of all matters back field. He only proved what Manly-Warringah fans have known for a long time, the kid is something special. With a little bit more time in camp (and with a halfback willing to push the pass) he might have been able to inject himself into the backline on offence and raise some real questions.”

The Queensland try to Inglis was softer than the NSW forwards in game one. It was a real creampuff. I don’t know whether it was King again rushing in too soon from his wing, or Lyon rushing up and leaving a gap. Either way, it smacked of pretty poor coaching (but that’s a whole column in itself) and there is probably not much point in dwelling on it.

I thought the Blues were pretty lucky to get out of the half at 6-6. They never really looked like scoring (and that includes the King effort in the corner) and they suffered from a lack of creativity that obviously dogged them in the second half. There were some positive signs in the first half for NSW. Carroll was well subdued by the Blues and now looks like he is really just in the QLD team for novelty purposes. A kind of historical anachronism to give the fans some hope that there might be a fight. Likewise Carl Webb was contained, who with his African style earrings looks like a bogan Central Coast fashion victim.I don’t know what Graham Murray said to his side at halftime, but it can’t have been all that inspiring.

They continued to make the same mistakes in the second stanza and were pushing passes that were never on. Hoffman was horrendous on that front. He looked completely overawed. Cameron Smith continued to run like Todd Carney evading the Police and showed Buderus up as an old hack trying desperately to cling on to his former glory. The Johns brothers naturally did their best to talk up their mate “Bedsy” but I think most people probably saw through that. Farrah needs to be tested for Game III. If we can’t roll the dice then, when can we? Plus I’d love to see the Tigers have to suffer some kind of burden during Origin. They seem to get away awfully easy with their team of “almost quite there but not yet” players.

Thankfully the half-time interview with Ben Ikin was brief. It was in fact very brief for me. I switched the channel as soon as I saw his dopey face. Notice how he looks like a criminal whose just been busted on COPS? He has that same, deer in headlights, “what am I doing here?” expression.”

Overall I found the second half to be a pretty dour contest. There wasn’t a lot of creativity amongst the halves and heaps of dummy-half running and one-out play. And that was just the Queenslanders. NSW were worse with their flat play and almost no lateral ball movement when it counted. That’s what happens when you shove a bloke who doesn’t even want to play 5/8 at his own club into the number 6. Bird wasn’t much better at 5/8 but with a bit more game time he might have an impact.

Kimmorley found plenty of space with his long range kicking, but his 5th tackle options (when he managed not to get caught with the ball on the 4th) were pretty unimaginative and I just got the feeling that he was so concerned with not screwing up and losing the game that he wasn’t prepared to take the risks necessary to win the game. That probably sums up the NSW effort from my perspective. No one really tried to win it. Even in the dying stages (and they had about three attempts to try and win), every single member of the side was just desperately offloading the ball so that they wouldn’t be caught with it when time or tackles ran out.

Steve Price should have been found guilty of a professional foul for just generally trying to kill momentum and waste time. And his swan dive when marking Luke Bailey was a stunning bit of hypocrisy for a man who prides himself on playing the game tough. Perhaps the most despicable moment of the entire evening came after the match. I couldn’t believe Meninga getting stuck into the ref – after they’d won! I half expected him to break down and claim “I can’t do this anymore” before storming out of the press conference the same way he ended his political career.

Changes will be made. They have to be. All I wanna see is a little more aggression and a bit of flamboyance. Is that too much to ask?

Yours in league,
The Grubber

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