Stuart happy with what he has in Origin
Through the red mist propagated by his anger at the referees, NSW coach Ricky Stuart sees a squad he believes is capable of getting the Blues back into this year’s State of Origin rugby league series.
While the Blues face an uphill task after dropping Wednesday night’s series opener, Stuart was encouraged by the performances of several players who had carried question marks heading into the game.
Some were being tested for the first time while others came into camp in less-than-ideal form, but even a mixed night for debutant pivot Todd Carney – the man who shapes as the centrepiece for the next era of NSW Origin – could appease Stuart.
“It doesn’t matter if you’ve played 20 Tests or 200 NRL games – if you haven’t played Origin, it’s a big job and Todd would have got a lot out of tonight,” Stuart said.
Carney failed to get the Blues’ backline going, while two missed kicks at goal and a penalty he failed to put into touch when his side was reduced to 12 men – with Michael Jennings in the sin bin – proved very costly.
“He did a pretty good job tonight – but for us, I thought we did an even better job on him defensively,” Queensland captain Cameron Smith said.
“We tried to minimise his impact on the game and I thought we did that.
“He’ll have a look at the tape of this game and see where he can be better with the football.
“He’s had a taste now and I think he’ll be a lot better next time.”
There’s little doubt others too will improve, but the performance of prop James Tamou would have convinced Stuart he finally has someone to provide valuable help up the middle to ironman skipper Paul Gallen.
There are still some queries over Jamie Buhrer’s worth to the team after he made little impact off the bench, while the likes of Anthony Watmough and Tom Learoyd-Lahrs will come into consideration for a recall on the bench.
“I thought James Tamou, for his first game of Origin football, was outstanding,” Stuart said.
“I thought Jarryd (Hayne) was back to his exciting self. He looked dangerous every time he touched the footy.
“A number of the boys in the change room got a lot of credit from me tonight.
“It’s game one, we’ve got to dust ourselves off – which we will – and go again.”
And the Maroons will be ready for another torrid battle at ANZ Stadium on June 15, not that they underestimated their opponents in Melbourne.
In fact, Smith went to great lengths to give credit to the Blues.
He admitted his side’s six-year Origin dominance – which will stretch to seven with one more win in Sydney or Brisbane – masked the competitiveness of the Blues.
“It was probably one of the toughest Origins I’ve played in a couple of years,” Smith said.
“For as many series as we’ve won, we’ve won the last six, it overshadows the performances that NSW put in.
“They’re a great team and they play good football. It’s just that we’ve come away with six victories in a row.”© AAP 2013