State of Origin 3 – 2008: A Kid Made For Origin

1 07 2008

With the series level at one all, it has come down to a decider for the right to claim interstate dominance in 2008. Queensland have named an unchanged line up after an emphatic 30 – 0 victory in game 2 three weeks ago. NSW have made 5 changes though it can be argued only one of those is an actual selection decision. Missing through injury are Peter Wallace, Mark Gasnier and Greg Bird while Jarryd Hayne comes back into the side for Steve Turner after being suspended for game 2. The only “change” therefore is dropping Steve Simpson in favour of Ben Cross. In for the injured players are Mitchell Pearce, Joel Monaghan and Braith Anasta.

How the sides line up:

New South Wales


Brett Stewart

1. Fullback

Karmichael Hunt

Jarryd Hayne

2. Wing

Darius Boyd

Joel Monaghan

3. Centre

Greg Inglis

Matt Cooper

4. Centre

Brent Tate

Anthony Quinn

5. Wing

Israel Falou

Braith Anasta

6. Five Eighth

Jonathan Thurston

Mitchell Pearce

7. Halfback

Scott Prince

Willy Mason

8. Prop

Steve Price

Danny Buderus (c)

9. Hooker

Cam Smith (c)

Brett White

10. Prop

Petero Civoniceva

Craig Fitzgibbon

11. Second Row

Michael Crocker

Ryan Hoffman

12. Second Row

Ashley Harrison

Paul Gallen

13. Lock

Dallas Johnson

Kurt Gidley

14. Interchange

Billy Slater

Ben Cross

15. Interchange

Ben Hannant

Anthony Laffranchi

16. Interchange

Nate Myles

Anthony Tupou

17. Interchange

Sam Thaiday

Craig Bellamy


Mal Meninga

Willie Mason has been named at prop for NSW for the fifth time in three years. In his last four games in the front row for NSW they have had mixed results, two wins and two losses. This appears to not only be an attempt to get the big fella involved more in the middle of the park, but also to blunt the effect of Queensland’s work-horse props, Price and Civoniceva. This may work against the Blues with the Queensland side likely to send a lot of traffic at him in the opening 20 minutes to sap his energy.

As a Queenslander I think Mason may just hold the key for New South Wales though. Normally a man who likes to talk himself and his game up in the media prior to big matches, he has been awfully quiet for the last nine days. Could this mean he is concentrating more on the game rather than getting himself heard? I hope it’s just that Craig Bellamy has slapped a media ban on him. Whatever the reason, Mason loves being involved in the game and, even if he does only last twenty minutes in each half I get the feeling that it will be these periods which will give the Blues their best chance of stopping Queensland winning three series in a row.

There is no doubt though that if Queensland can match the New South Welshman in the middle third then they have the back line arsenal to crack New South Wales right open. Greg Inglis’ display in Game 2 was simply outstanding with four line breaks to absolutely destroy New South Wales’ right hand side defence. He was backed up on the other side by Brent Tate who topped the tackle count for Queensland and racked up the third highest metre gain of the match.

To combat Inglis, it appears likely that Matt Cooper will be moved from the left to the right side. This may play greatly into the maroons favour though as Monaghan plays right centre at club level. This would put him on his least preferred side against Brent Tate and Israel Falou – out of the frying pan and into the fire really isn’t it. Really though, changing them around is not necessary. Monaghan is quite a good defencive centre in his own right, effecting 85% of attempted tackles. Mark Gasnier even has 88% effectiveness in defence and Matt cooper has 90%.

Realistically, if Cooper and Monaghan attempt 20 tackles each, Monaghan will miss one more than his more experience centre partner. I seriously do not think it would have mattered if matt Cooper or Superman had been marking Inglis in game two, the result still would have been a severely battered ego for his opposite number.

The best match ups though are with the play makers the 6, 7 and 9 for each side ~ Prince vs Pearce, Anasta vs Thurston and Buderus vs Smith.

The two best hookers of the last decade match up against each other for the 16th consecutive State of Origin match and Danny Buderus’ last. Smith has been in eight winning sides, Buderus in seven and I am sure Buderus would love to square the ledger and take a 4 – 2 series win over his fiercest rival. Smith on the other hand is a very determined captain and will not concede easily. The running games of both from acting half may have a great bearing on the game if referee Tony Archer polices the ruck area as he did in game 2. If there is one thing that may separate the two on the night it will be Smiths kicking game which was employed so well in last years first two matches to get the Blues trapped deep in their own half early in the match.

The five eighths are pretty much chalk and cheese in most departments. Braith Anasta is a big man with an ability take on defences and break the line with sheer power and determination. Jonathan Thurston is a wily ball player, more adept at avoiding the tackle, breaking into space at the back of the line and picking up his fast men coming through in support. Both possess a lethal armoury of kicks and passes and both are right up with the leading halves for the year in try assists, remarkable in the fact their teams are on opposite ends of the competition ladder. The biggest question will be on Thurston in defence given his terrible effort in game two, making just four tackles from nine attempts. Will be targeted for sure.

Scott Prince spoke this week of his nervousness in the early quarter of game 2, his first Origin in four years, and compared it to the butterflies normally associated with a rookie in this, the toughest sporting arena of them all. If he was nervous, imagine what Mitchell Pearce will be going through:

The youngest ever New South Wales half back

The second youngest ever New South Wales origin debutant, and

The first half back in origin history to debut in a decider.

The presence of his Roosters’ halves partner will provide some comfort but if I was him I’d be stocking up on underpants for Wednesday.

That being said though there are those that claim he is one of those players that is made for Origin football. He possesses great skills for such a young man, is level headed and as tough as they come (no surprise given who his father is). Last week former Queensland Origin great, Arthur Beetson, declared Pearce a superior athlete to Thurston and that he would supplant the Cowboys halfback as the best player in the game in the not too distant future. Endorsements don’t come much better than that.

It may just be Prince’s experience that separates the two. Even throughout the season though, Prince is ahead on vital statistics such as line breaks, line break assists and try assists but slightly off the pace on metres/kick and defencive effectiveness.

That’s not to say Prince is a liability in the tackling department, he effected 87% in game two after the talk of his defence being the reason he was over looked in game 1. Prince’s and Pearce’s effectiveness is like that of Monaghan’s and Cooper’s as described above. The difference here though is that Pearce seems to revel in a higher defencive work load and has no fear of bigger men. In fact, he has put on some shots that have made bigger men wary of him.

Prince’s experience, and over all skill level at this stage should see him out point the young warrior with the Origin pedigree. So why select him? Obviously the Blues are still looking to the future. If he does well here, even if they lose, he will have proven himself capable of the hardest task ever assigned in rugby league.

Why NSW will win: 1. Danny Buderus last game. They will be keen to send out a true champion of New South Wales and Australian rugby league in the best way possible.

2. The club combination and kicking games of Anasta and Pearce will give them better options and more ground on fifth tackle.

Why NSW will lose: They haven’t learned from the mistakes of games 1 and 2 with only two specialist props in the side. The maroons have four making it very hard defencively for the New South Wales pack.

Why Queensland will win: 1. The memory of Dick “Tosser” Turner.

2. A three pronged kicking attack and the more potent back line provided they are given room to move the ball.

Why Queensland will lose: Willie Mason. If his silence this week really is a sign that he is, for once, more concentrated on his physical preparation rather than making headlines then he has the ability to tear Queensland to shreds. If he lifts, expect the rest of the Blues to follow suit.

My tip: QLD 22 – NSW – 6

For more Rugby League talk, check out The Amphitheatre




2 responses

2 07 2008
mitchell cross

[…] line up after an emphatic 30 ?? 0 victory in game 2 three weeks ago. NSW have made 5 changes though cross between a motorcycle, a Segway and ‘Star Wars’ Chicago TribuneStart with a motorcycle, add […]

3 07 2008


QLD 16 – NSW 10

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