State of Origin 1 – 2008: The Aftermath

28 05 2008

Oh dear me. Did we Queenslanders get our pants pulled down or what?

What a fantastic effort by the New South Wales Blues to shut down so many of Queensland’s potent armoury. This was achieved in the most part by the coaching of Craig Bellamy. Some will say it is brilliance but I will disagree. There is no doubt that Bellamy is a great coach and a superb tactician but the QLD selectors played right into his hands with the inclusion of six of his club players in the starting XIII. Craig Bellamy coaches these players on a daily basis and has intimate knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of each of them.

I wonder what the game would have been like 30 minutes in if PJ Marsh or Aaron Payne had been the starting hooker for QLD with Cameron Smith coming off the bench. What if Scott Prince had been the QLD 5/8 with Karmichael Hunt starting at fullback? I dare say things would have been a lot harder to contain around the middle given Bellamy has only had experience of these players from an opposition’s point of view.

If Darren Lockyer is not fit for the second game of the series, and the QLD selectors are looking at a replacement 5/8, the worst thing they could do, and it has been discussed, is to select Cooper Cronk. Doing so might see QLD further embarrassed.

NSW exceeded expectations. For a team with a supposedly inferior backline they made the Queenslanders look, at times, pedestrian. What many were failing to remember is that apart from Peter Wallace and Anthony Quinn, the other five either currently are, or not so long ago were, Australian representatives. They certainly were far from inferior on the night.

Much of this was achieved through a few things.

QLD not shutting down Danny Buderus, allowing him to get good ball to Wallace all night long with hardly a challenge. It seemed that QLD were so intent on pressuring the debutant halfback that they ignored the wily master hooker from Newcastle. At no time did I feel that Buderus was under any sort of pressure at dummy half.

Queensland’s lack of speed off the line then compounded things further by allowing the young number 7 more time and space than is deserving an Origin half back, especially one on debut. NSW showed that by targeting Cameron Smith, Jonathan Thurston was negated through out the match. We’d have been better served targeting Buderus and allowing Wallace to make the mistakes that poor ball delivery would certainly induce. Instead he was able to deliver time and again to Bird, Gasnier and Cooper.

That being said, what a great “unearthing” Wallace was in the sky blue jersey. Not once did he let the pressure of Origin football get to him and he has deserved the well earned praise going his way since last Wednesday.

Mind you, Buderus in turn can thank his forwards. All night they piled players into tackles and turned QLD on their backs. For a hooker used to playing behind a dominant pack, Smith looked like a fish out of water and didn’t seem to know exactly what to do about it. While in attack, NSW were not dominated at any point in the game (with the exception of Ryan Hoffman who was repeatedly smashed by the “weak defence” of Karmichael Hunt). They had good, quick, clean plays of the ball which allowed an unhindered Danny Buderus to play his best football.

Out of it all some disturbing events have occurred, the first, immediately after the game. The channel 9 commentary team, the supposed experts employed to help educate us poor mugs, made two very broad and misguided statements. Unfortunately not all people are as sceptical as me and the two statements, through the print media and other television outlets, have since become a “well known fact” in the rugby league fraternity.

Statement 1. “The QLD selectors rarely get selections wrong” in reference to the selection of Karmichael Hunt at the expense of the more publicly favoured Scott Prince.

At 12 series wins a piece going into this year’s contest, and now with each state having won 40 games, that suggests to me that the QLD selectors get selections wrong on 50% of occasions.

Statement 2. “The QLD selectors rarely make changes even to losing sides” again referencing Prince and the fact that, if Darren Lockyer is unfit, then the Titans’ halfback should play 5/8 in Game 2. The underlying assumption was that the NSW selectors are less likely to keep players in for a second or third game if they haven’t performed up to standard.

In the history of State of Origin football, NSW has used an average of 1.5 more players (an odd number to use I know) than QLD over the course of each series. This though is not entirely at the discretion of selectors. Injuries and retirements also play a major role in who they pick. I would suggest that, previously, QLD selectors were just as likely to drop players who did not perform up to standard as their NSW counterparts have been.

The second happening that upset me was QLD coach Mal Meninga’s claim that the QLD players from Origin 1 “deserve a shot at redemption”.

WHAT??

A SHOT AT REDEMPTION??

Does such a thing exist in this famous sporting rivalry? Is there any room to carry players who were so out enthused and outclassed in to battle a second time? I don’t think there is. QLD need to make some changes and not be afraid of damaging players’ egos. If there are tough calls that need to be made then the QLD sporting public are fully understanding.

Obviously Mal didn’t see the quote by Jack Gibson that was screened during the pre match talk.

“State of Origin games are proof that the meek inherit nothing.”

For more Rugby League talk, check out The Amphitheatre

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28 05 2008
backs forwards

[…] potent armoury. This was achieved in the most part by the coaching of Craig Bellamy. Some wihttp://with-malice.com/2008/05/28/state-of-origin-1-2008-the-aftermath/Cockies just short Gloucester AdvocateOn Saturday the Gloucester Cockies played the Old Bar Clams on […]

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