WIZ: Melbourne State of Origin was a winner
Greg Bird of NSW in action during State of Origin between Queensland and New South Wales (AAP Image/Julian Smith)
I was at the opening State of Origin match in Melbourne this week and it was a wonderful spectacle. Whether they knew much about rugby league or not, to their credit, the Melbourne locals really got behind the event.
I was actually sitting next to two women at the game who had no idea about State of Origin or the NRL, but they loved the action and that type of enthusiasm made the whole evening a lot of fun for everyone in attendance.
People who criticised the plan to play the opening match down south are a little short-sighted.
At the end of the day, rugby league – in a very competitive market – needs to make money to survive. So if someone’s willing to bring the game to another state, and that move generates more money for the game, then we have to lose our parochial attachments to the traditional league centres and embrace the change.
Extra money in the bank for rugby league as a whole will ultimately help play the players more.
And, trust me, they’re well worth it.
As for the game itself, I thought the Blues played good football and really should have won that game.
But a couple of unlucky calls went against them, and the Maroons showed what a great team they are by taking advantage of the limited chances they got, and that was the difference in the end.
Remember, Origin football is very different to regular NRL games. In a typical NRL match, a team might expect 10 or so try-scoring opportunities in a game and perhaps convert 4 or 5 of them.
In Origin, it’s typical that each team might only get a handful of opportunities – if they’re lucky.
That’s the way this game went, and the Maroons, who have had their key combinations playing together for several years now, were able to better capitalise when it mattered.
I thought the Blues could have made more of their opening 20 minute burst and chanced their arm a bit more. They had Queensland on the back foot every time they spread the ball.
But Jennings going to the sin-bin took the wind out of their sails, and the rest, of course, is back (and front) page news still (the tackle Greg Bird made should have been allowed. The ref got it wrong).
As for the Greg Ingils try, well, sorry to let you all know that it was a try under the rules and Shaun Hamstead got it correct. Playing at the ball with your foot or trying to steal the ball and it comes off a player’s hand is not a knock on
It’s in the rule book.
For Queensland, Tait, Slater, Inglis, and Smith were sensational.
Smith was in bed for a couple of days leading up to the game with the flu. But he played the house down and his long kicks were fantastic.
In the Blues camp, Ricky will have to seriously consider bringing Watmough in for Game 2 to add a bit of excitement around the ruck area.
But, really, few changes are needed.
The stage has already been set for a classic Game 2. I can hardly wait.
Gary ‘Wiz’ Freeman is one of the great halfbacks in New Zealand rugby league history. Now an outspoken and popular media personality, he joins The Roar as an expert rugby league columnist.
Gary 'Wiz' Freeman is one of the great halfbacks in New Zealand rugby league history. Now an outspoken and popular media personality, he joined The Roar in 2012 as an expert rugby league columnist, and continues in 2013.