Five hit ups: the talking points from State of Origin one
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Nate Myles gives the thumbs up during State of Origin One. AAP Image/Action Photographics, Brett Crockford
The opening game in the 2012 State of Origin series provided everything we’ve come to expect from the jewel in rugby league’s crown. It was intense, it was tough, it was skilful, it was close, it was controversial and it was passionate.
There’s always plenty to discuss after an Origin game, but from my perspective, here are the five main talking points from game one.
1. The refereeing was appalling
I’d prefer not to talk about it, but when the referee’s have such a dramatic effect on the outcome of a game, it is simply irresponsible writing to ignore it.
Giving a player ten minutes in the bin is a big call in modern rugby league. You very rarely see that punishment handed out by referees anymore, due to the large impact it has on the game. Referees are much more likely to award a penalty, then place a player on report and let the judiciary decide the ultimate punishment.
And that’s exactly what Matt Cecchin should have done with Michael Jennings.
If you’re going to give a player time in the bin for being ‘third man in’, you need to be consistent. Jennings was about the tenth player in, so how he was singled out, even if he did run 40 metres, is baffling.
And if he was marched because of the punch he threw, then Matt Scott and Mitchell Pearce should have joined him.
Jennings being sent to the bin gave Queensland a large advantage which they capitalised on soon after, via a Darius Boyd try.
The penalty on Greg Bird for lifting in the tackle was questionable at best, especially considering the toughness of Origin football. Yet the Maroons were awarded a penalty late in their tackle count, thus gaining crucial metres, before scoring their second try.
The fact that Nate Myles performed a similar tackle without punishment in the second half only added to the Blues frustrations.
Lastly, there was the video referee’s abysmal decision to award Greg Inglis a try, despite the fact that Stevie Wonder could tell he knocked on.
Let’s be completely clear: Robbie Farah did not strike at the ball with his foot – his boot was simply in the way. What was he meant to do, become invisible? Farah was running towards the ball, then when the ball hit the ground and bounced, he wrong footed himself as he attempted to change direction, which saw his boot hit the ball as Inglis attempted to ground it.
Knock on. No try.
Or that’s what every sane rugby league fan thought. Instead, perhaps the worst call in Origin history was made.
The referees decided Origin one, not the players, and they did so with incorrect decisions.
2. Queensland were lucky
There’s no such thing as a hollow victory in State of Origin; you always have to earn it. So I’ll stop short of saying the Maroons didn’t deserve the victory.
However, they went about as close to an undeserved Origin win as a team can get.
As mentioned above, they benefited greatly from three referee errors. Other than that, they rarely looked like threatening the Blues try line.
Cameron Smith had a solid game, but he was clearly not 100%. A point backed up by the fact Queensland had many players performing the dummy half role throughout the game, particularly in the first 15 minutes.
Cooper Cronk made some kicks, but otherwise rarely got involved in the attack, and made few of his signature runs at the line. This clearly had an effect on his favourite support player, Billy Slater, who failed to trouble the Blues consistently. In fact, Slater himself proved he was human, making some uncharacteristic mistakes, especially under the high ball.
All in all, with a few exceptions including Greg Inglis, Ben Hannant and the two players I mention below, Queensland looked a little sluggish and off-the-pace. Whether it was the virus that ran through the team, complacency, or the speed of the Blues, Queensland struggled a little bit.
Yet it speaks volumes of their ability, heart and nous that they still found a way to win, despite being well below their best. It’s a quality that champion sides have.
3. Brent Tate and Johnathan Thurston were amazing
You can’t help but be inspired by Brent Tate. He’s had three knee reconstructions, plus a career-threatening neck injury that sees him still wear his distinctive neck brace. It’s a miracle he’s even playing football, let alone shining on rugby league’s greatest stage.
Tate was sensational last night, diffusing bombs with consummate ease, running hard off his centre, making crucial scoots from dummy half, and completing some fantastic tackles. He was the Maroons best player, and when you consider what he’s overcome, it makes his story even more impressive.
As for the Maroons five-eighth, what more can you say? Thurston was at his dazzling best in the opening encounter of this year’s series.
His patience, skill and precision with the ball in-hand are fantastic to watch. The Blues right hand side defence certainly agrees, because they were caught watching him several times. He mesmerised Carney, Morris and Uate in setting up Darius Boyd’s two tries.
In my preview to last year’s series and this year’s, I mentioned how Queensland rarely make mistakes when given a chance inside their opponents 20 metre line. It’s Thurston’s decision making and skill that makes this happen.
He is just a wonderful footballer.
4. Jarryd Hayne = Origin
After last night’s game, anyone who questions Hayne’s selection in an Origin team should be admitted to a psychiatric hospital.
Hayne should now be awarded lifetime selection for the Blues until the day he retires.
It’s clear that Hayne is that rare player whom, no matter what type of form he’s in at a club level, always performs for his state. Queensland made a habit of selecting these types of players, and became renowned for it. New South Wales need to take a leaf out of the Maroon’s book and understand that some players are just Origin players, plain and simple.
Hayne has not only never let anyone down at Origin, he’s consistently been the Blues best player. A sky blue jersey is his for as long as he wants it.
5. Minimal changes for game two
Queensland won’t make any changes to their team, unless they have injury or suspension worries. Mind you, that shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Queensland hardly ever make changes and are known for their loyalty.
For New South Wales, despite the fact that they lost, they shouldn’t make any changes to their team either.
The Blues have a reputation for panicking and then chopping and changing their playing group. However, they need to show faith in the 17 players that were selected, because the Blues were the better team for the majority of the night.
The four players that may come under heat are Akuila Uate, Todd Carney, Ben Creagh and Jamie Buhrer .
Uate was badly found out defensively a number of times, particularly coming off his line, and was subsequently punished by the patience and brilliance of Thurston. However, his outstanding series last year, along with the promise he showed in attack, means he has the credits in the bank to earn a reprieve and therefore selection in game two.
Todd Carney was nervous in his Origin debut and it showed. He made some costly errors, particularly with the boot. On a few occasions, his mistakes had the simultaneous effect of relieving pressure on the Maroons, while heaping it on the Blues.
However, once he settled into the game, he made some nice runs and passes, and he’ll have learned a lot about the step-up in football from club level, and therefore be better in game two.
Ben Creagh was lucky to be selected and will be incredibly lucky to play again this series.
The other player that might come under pressure is Jamie Buhrer. Not because he did anything wrong, because he didn’t. It’s simply a case of what I feared going into the game: he didn’t have a role. He played less than 10 minutes as back-up hooker, giving Robbie Farah a quick, but unnecessary breather.
I think his bench spot could be better utilised by picking another forward with some size.
Where the definite changes should be made is the referees. All three should be dropped.
Matt Cecchin seemed to have little feel for Origin football. And video referee Sean Hampstead’s clanger is all the evidence you need to punt him.
Ryan is an ex-representative basketballer who shot too much, and a (very) medium pace bowler. He's been with The Roar as an expert since February 2011, has written for the Seven Network, and been a regular on ABC radio. Ryan tweets from @RyanOak.