There has been a lot of talk in media circles about an even more firey contest in State of Origin this year. But does it ever become more than a push or shove these days? Will it really be a melting pot that explodes like it used to years ago?
Well Origin fans were treated to a small taste of what it used to be like, in 2009. Last year the final minutes of the Origin were all out war – with NSW securing the win, amongst a full-frontal attack from tthe Maroons – the ‘up and under’ bomb on Kurt Gidley looking more like ‘charge of the light horse’ as opposed to Rugby League.
The more this game turns into a slug fest as opposed to a game of touch footy, plays greatly into NSW hands. Selectors for the Blues might have been out of line picking non-specialists in Lyon and Gidley in their repsective positions – but they’ve picked a team with enough aggression and experience to handle the job.
Queensland already know this and have made pleas to the referees to keep the game disciplined. You see the Maroons have a virtual Australian backline, give the likes of Inglis, Folau or Slater any room and they’ll cut you up. If the usual situation where referee’s in Origin – ‘let things flow’, in other words – let a few cheap-shots slide, you can bet there will be a ‘cattle-dog’ flare up at some stage.
The Queenslanders will be riding the referees in the media in the coming week or so, it’s that important for them this year.
Because in 2010 – Queensland are lacking the enforcer, mongrel names from recent years. No Carl Webb, who even when in average form would always find an extra gear for Origin – was the face of Maroons toughness in recent times. You see, NSW have sometimes picked on ‘form’ . But, NRL form has nothing to do with Origin – because the games are played so differently.
People talk of a faster game, which by all accounts – it seems to be. But in reality, it’s a game with a 5m rule as opposed to 10mÂ – so it’s more like a rumble in the street as opposed to a run in the wide-open park. This is aggressive, in your face footy from the opening whistle.
Mick Crocker the former Roosters and Storm backrower loved a street fight – not in the side this year. Massive loss here for the Queenslanders, Crocker was the modern day Maroon.
No Dallas Johnson, no Justin Hodges. They have the skill in the side, but are they going to be the feared unit they once were. Hodges as everyone knows loves a sledge, he pretends to like a fight – but has rarely thrown a decent punch in his life – but regardless, his niggle and ego frustrate the hell out of NSW and their supporters.
For NSW, even without the bash brothers Bird and Gallen or even O’Donnell – they have a feared bookend combination of Josh Perry and Michael Weyman. Both love to throw their weight around and certainly won’t be dominated like the Blues has been in recent times.
Watmough is a tough character, Waterhouse and Creagh are workers – but it’s hard to see them taking a backward step – which has been the case in recent years. The Carl Webb standover of Luke Bailey typified what NSW have been lacking in Origin. With respect to big Bailey, a great player himself, heÂ like so many other NSW players – weren’t prepared to ‘step it up a notch’ and fight back against the bullying Maroons.
If the Blues get a good roll-on, which they should with this pack – there is no reason why their own big, fast backs can’t do their thing. Tahu, Coops, Hayne and Idris have the size, speed and skill.
History tells us that nobody dominates origin on debut and most players who have been given a second chance perform better with experience. Nathan Hindmarsh’s first origin was forgettable, but he became an integral part of the Blues’ mid â€˜noughties’ success. Anthony Watmough was sacrificed after a sputtering start to his representative career but when given a reprieve last year, was NSW’s best forward. We implore Bob Fulton and friends to have faith in players they have selected in recent series and don’t waste another year rebuilding. Even through your own ineptitude, you have already built a nucleus that is now origin ready.
Adding to Queensland woes is the injury to Cameron Smith. That is a major blow to this sides chances in 2010.
The bookies might have the Maroons as favourites, but now could be the time to throw some money on the Blues – they are long overdue and have the brute to do it this year.