State of Origin 1 – 2008

21 05 2008

For a Rugby League fan in Australia, there is nothing better than State of Origin. Queensland vs New South Wales in the toughest, fiercest, most physically draining sporting contest in the country, many say, in the world. It is 80 minutes of of speed, skill and violent teeth jarring collisions, that has to be seen to be believed.

Yes, there are other sports with bigger hits, faster play and more delicate touches but NOTHING combines nearly every aspect of human sporting endeavour like State of Origin. There is also no other rivalry like it in world sport. 7 million people live in NSW and 4 million in Queensland and nearly everyone one of them, whether or not they are Rugby League fans, has an opinion on each years series and will sit down to watch all three games. The tribalism in unbelivable.

One of my brothers-in-law is a Blues (New South Wales) supporter and I am passionate about the Queensland Maroons. We get on well, really well. In fact we are both Wests Tigers fans in the NRL, but at this time of year we pretty much can’t stand each other. There is no way we’d buy each other a beer, that’s for sure. What started as a one off game in 1980, a game many pundits south of the Tweed River that separates the states believed would be a meaningless farce, has grown to become the pinnacle of Rugby League achievement.

Over the entire 28 previous years, there is little to separate the two teams. 12 series wins apiece and two drawn series, 40 matches won by QLD and 39 won by NSW. Just as importantly though are the personal rivalries, from Queensland captain Arthur Beetson’s punch on his Parramatta club mate Mick Cronin in the first Origin game to the more recent stoushes such as Justin Hodges and Eric Grothe Jnr or Carl Webb’s one man war on the entire New South Wales team, especially Luke Bailey, in 2006.

Tonight, 34 of, arguably, the best Rugby League players in the Country will line up for the first match of the 2008 series. This is how the teams will line up:

QLD

NSW

Billy Slater

1. Fullback

Brett Stewart

Brent Tate

2. Wing

Jarryd Hayne

Greg Inglis

3. Centre

Mark Gasnier

Justin Hodges

4. Centre

Matt Cooper

Israel Falou (d)

5. Wing

Anthony Quinn (d)

Karmichael Hunt

6. Five Eigth

Greg Bird

Johnathan Thurston

7. Halfback

Peter Wallace (d)

Carl Webb

8. Prop

Brett White

Cameron Smith (c)

9. Hooker

Danny Buderus (c)

Petero Civoniceva

10. Prop

Ben Cross (d)

Michael Crocker

11. Second Row

Ryan Hoffman

Sam Thaiday

12. Second Row

Willie Mason

Dallas Johnson

13. Lock

Paul Gallen

Interchange

PJ Marsh

14.

Anthony Laffranchi (d)

Ben Hannant (d)

15.

Anthony Tupou

Nate Myles

16.

Craig Fitzgibbon

Jacob Lillyman

17.

Ben Hornby

Mal Meninga

Coach

Craig Bellamy

Already the hype surrounding the match is living up to expectations. New South Wales have claimed, through various team members and past Blues greats, to have as much, if not more, passion than Queensland. They have claimed to have a more dominant forward pack. Surprisingly they have also questioned the eligibility of several of the Maroons to play for Queensland while at the same time having three members of their own squad not originally from New South Wales.

The Maroons camp has been quiet by comparison although coach Mal Meninga has cried foul that his New South Wales counterpart has brought his Melbourne Storm club’s wrestling coach, John Donehue (the man credited with such holds as the “Chicken Wing”, “Crusher”, “Ripper” and the “Grapple” tackle), in as part of the Blues full-time staff. He neglected to mention that his own squad had done some training in the last week under the Gold Coast Titans’ wrestling coach.

The only other person in the Queensland camp doing any real talking is Trevor “The Axe” Gillmeister, veteran of 22 State of Origin matches including one where he discharged himself from hospital against doctors orders to go and captain his beloved Maroons. Gillmeister hit back at the claims of New South Wales’ Paul Gallen that the Blues forwards are going to smash and dominate their Queensland opponents. Gillmeister, in his weekly column in The Sunday Mail, pointed out what many people on either side of the border believe – that Gallen is a thug who has the potential to be great if he can rein in his temper and that all the talk prior to the match will mean nothing without an on-field performance and final result to match.

Meanwhile, Queensland players have given virtually nothing, preferring to concentrate on the job at hand.

It will not be an easy task and frankly I cannot split the teams except in the halves. Greg Bird will play just his fourth representative game at 5/8 and will partner Origin debutant Peter Wallace. The 22 year old has had a stellar start to the season but was a surprise pick ahead of last year’s game 1 half, Jarred Mullen.

Qld on the other hand are playing Karmichael Hunt in the number 6 jumber and this seems to be an enormous risk. Consider though that the last Queensland and Australian fullback to make the same positional switch is now rated the best player in the world, Darren Lockyer, it may be less of a hurdle than first thought especially given Slater, Inglis, Smith and Marsh can all also play the first receiver role on one side of the ruck with great effect.

I know I’ll be rushing home from work this afternoon, scoffing down my dinner this evening and cracking open a beer and settling into my arm chair (though I normally spend more time on my feet during Origin matches). We’ll have the usual pre-match hype, the coin will be tossed to decide ends, the players will enter the arena and then the National anthem will be sung and applauded with gusto.

Each side will take their place for the kick off. The referee will signal to the time keeper. He’ll blow his whistle for time on and a deafening roar will engulf the stadium. The kicker will run in and launch the ball high and long and a phalanx of eager defenders will follow it up field.

The ball will be caught by a member of the opposition who will look up, pick a man to run at and launch himself at full speed at the defencive line with no thought of self preservation. Both will brace for the huge impact that is sure to follow and ……

………. so it begins.

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12 responses

21 05 2008
Big Al

As usual Don,,an extremely biased,,one eyed view by your alleged expert in this field of sporting endeavour..
I feel that the entire credibility of this world famous,,and previously,,unbiased Web site,,is being eroded by your employment of such a partisan correspondent,,whose grip on reality is tenuous at best,,and laughable at near worst..
With regards,,from your even handed,,but fuggin proud Blue,,Al..

21 05 2008
withmalice

As I have always said Al – feel free to shoot me an alternate viewpoint…

Or just tear him to shreds here!

21 05 2008
bigredman

He has tried to tear me to shreds in many places before Don …….. he’s still TRYING.

21 05 2008
Big Al

Don,,the mans ego knows no bounds..
I understand it is just the inferiority complex that most Queenslanders feel when in the presence of the Alpha Male,,a New South Welshman..
However,,you are to be commended on the fact,,that he is at least given a chance to have a say,,even if it is in Japan !!!!
Don,,these pages will run red tomorrow,,from the blood and tears spilt by your correspondent..Have pity and mercy on him..It will help sustain him through his darkest hours..
Cheers Don,,and you too bloodnut,,,Al..

21 05 2008
griff

A question – did this john donohue also re- invent the “squirrel grip” for the nsw players to use tonight?

21 05 2008
bigredman

No. For Paul Gallen that is a natural technique.

21 05 2008
brumbygg9

As a proud Victorian it’s really all about which team you hate the least…. and given the number of Storm players running around in maroon I will have to hate them the least tonight!

21 05 2008
withmalice

The interwebby knows no national – or state – boundaries…

I look forward to the spray that shall follow this epic encounter… whichever way it goes!

21 05 2008
brumbygg9

I started following the Brumbies mostly because they weren’t NSW or Qld…. Old habits die hard!

21 05 2008
withmalice

LAUGH!
Exactly the same reason I follow ’em Rob!

21 05 2008
withmalice

So… Blues, huh?

21 05 2008
bigredman

Quiet please Don.

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