23 talking points from State of Origin 1
Origin I was certainly not the prettiest game of rugby league I’ve ever seen. Nevertheless, it still had all the components of any recent Origin match.
There was a horrible and embarrassing pre-game performance by Delta Goodrem (surely the NRL can get someone better than Delta for one of Australian’s most popular sporting events?), the Australian anthem sung by some red haired girl who they thought was cute, a fight, some big hits, tries, guys on debut choking under pressure (Carney), and of course Queensland winning.
With almost a week to digest the result, here are my 23 thoughts on Origin 1, 2012:
1. First and foremost, the last and controversial try Greg Inglis scored in the 71st min was 100 percent a try. Recently the rules were changed and now players can make a play at the ball over the try-line. If the ball comes loose it is not deemed a knock on, therefore it’s play on. Which means as Robbie Farah played at the ball knocking it out, it bounced off the forearm of Inglis (not played at), and then Greg grounded it.
The only argument the Blues have, is that Farah didn’t play at the ball. Funnily enough only after Ricky Stuart put a media ban on his players Robbie Farah came out and said he didn’t play at the ball. He said this not during the game, not after the game, not even two or three days after the game. NSW great Andrew Johns says there is no way he didn’t play at it, explaining that it’s just instinct to make a play at the ball to prevent a try.
In Robbie Farah’s defence, he did everything he could, what more could he have done? If he really didn’t play at the ball he should be embarrassed that he didn’t contest the try. It’s time for NSW to move on.
2. The first 20 minutes of the game had every Queenslander just a little worried. The speed at which the Cockroaches played the ball, the way the Blues were destroying Queensland up the middle of the ruck, the slow play of the ball from Queensland had all the momentum favouring the Blues. However, the 18-10 score line shouldn’t over shadow the large amount of poor decisions made by Ricky Stuart and the Blues that costs them the match.
3. NSW complain too much, especially Ricky Stuart. If he shut his mouth and stopped whining and was more concerned about his teams’ preparation rather than talking to the media, NSW will have a much better chance in game two. I have no doubt in my mind Ricky’s game plan was to go out and be a bunch of pests and try to intimidate Queensland. This was NSW’s undoing. Greg Bird slapped Cam Smith in the fifth min, Hayne jabs Thurston in the ninth min, and in the 20th min Pearce gives Queensland a penalty for being offside.
Here Greg Bird pushes Matt Scott over as he gets up, Scott reacts by throwing the ball at the back of Bird’s head which makes him square up to 6 or 7 Queensland players. During the push and shove Michael Jennings has a brain explosion and runs 15-20 metres, leaves his feet and throws a right hook which connects with the back of Brent Tate’s head.
This is where Ricky’s plan to be overly aggressive backfired.
4. On the fight, it is interesting to note that not one Queensland player threw a punch in game one, even after Pearce swung at Shillington and then connected with Thaiday’s mouth.
5. When Gorden Tallis was sent off in the 2000 State of Origin series for calling referee Bill Harrigan a ‘cheat’, David Peachey went over in the corner and Queensland lost the game 20-16. Queensland lost the series 3-0. Yet the aftermath was nothing like what we are hearing from NSW about the Jennings send off.
When (not if), Queensland go on to win the series, I guarantee NSW will bring up the Jennings send off. The bottom line is Jennings act was dirty and malicious and that’s why he received a ban
6. The backlash from this was Jennings being sin binned for 10 minutes. I do believe throwing Jennings in the bin was the wrong move by the referee. There are only three games of Origin a year and being down one man for 10 minutes out of those three games is a lot of time. Origin is the pinnacle of rugby league and should be treated differently to a typical NRL match.
All situations like this in Origin should be left for the judiciary to deal with after the game. In no way am I condoning what Jennings did, his act was cowardly, weak and proved he wasn’t mentally prepared for game one, which falls on the shoulders of Ricky Stuart.
7. Besides the sin bin, Jennings and Hayne were fantastic for the Blues. Looking incredibly dangerous every time either of them touched the ball, the two of them combined for a gain of 319 meters, 25 tackles (18 for Jennings), 3 line-breaks and 1 try.
They were by far the most threatening players for NSW. Look for them to be utilised in Origin II.
8. Robbie Farah more than justified his selection. His dummy half running was explosive, his decision-making was fantastic, and his creative play is something the Blues have lacked in recent years. A great tackle by Matt Scott held Farah up in the 16 minute, and even with 10 minutes on the bench Robbie managed to rack up 38 tackles for a gain of 76 meters on 9 runs. The only notable mistake Farah made was in the 75th minute when he went for a 40/20 and kicked the ball out on the full.
The idea was right, he had the winger and full back beaten, but the execution just wasn’t there. In the 59th minute Ricky Stuart pulled Farah off and put on Jamie Buhrer. I’ve never agreed with substituting your hooker in any NRL game. When selecting a team you choose a hooker who can play 80 minutes. There is no point taking your hooker off, especially not 59 minutes in, when they have been playing extremely well and have a complete feel for the game.
When you bring on a replacement number 9 they often look one step behind the play and cannot get into any rhythm. This is what happened to Jamie Buhrer last Wednesday night. Jamie had one good run from dummy half, however, threw a horrible pass on the fifth tackle and had no impact on the game. Subsequently he was replaced after 10 minutes. Ricky Stuart and NSW wasted two interchanges. This was another poor decision from Ricky.
9. While NSW were busy interchanging their hookers, Queensland’s Captain Cameron Smith was leading from the front. Besides topping the tackle count with 47, Smith had 3 kicks with a gain of 170 metres on the night. To put his kicks in perspective Thurston had 7 kicks for 170 meters, Cronk had 12 kicks for 367 meters, Carney 4 kicks for 109 meters, Pearce 11 kicks for 312 meters, and Farah 5 kicks for 89 metres.
All three of Smith’s kicks came from dummy half and hit grass. Two kicks in particular stood out to me. In the 12th minute Queensland were under the pump and down 4-0 on the scoreboard, NSW were making twice as many meters as Queensland on their sets by darting up the middle of the ruck. On the fourth tackle, 34 meters out from the Queensland line, Cam shot into dummy half and pulled the trigger. He managed to hit grass 13 meters out from the Blues line and the ball rolled to the try line.
The second kick came in the 56th minute, same situation, Queensland were on the back foot and had been struggling to get out of their own half. On the fourth, Smith steps into dummy half and kicks down field rolling the ball into the corner where a good chase left NSW playing from their own try line. Both of these kicks were timely and released the pressure NSW had been building.
10. Without a doubt, Nate Myles and Brent Tate were Queensland’s best performers on the night. Though honourable mentions must go to Greg Inglis and Ben Hannant. Nate Myles was man-of-the-match, which surprised a few people at first including me. Darren Lockyer said he was blown away with Myles’ performance on Wednesday night stating, “I loved playing with Nate”.
After re-watching the game a few times, it became pretty evident just how much work Myles put in. In 55 minutes Nate had 11 runs for 76 meters and 36 tackles, however it was his work around the ruck that sparked Darren’s comments. As I said above, the first 20 minutes of the game Queensland were being destroyed up the middle, the Blues play of the ball was incredibly fast which fuelled their fantastic dummy half running and left Queensland’s big men exposed.
Myles was the one who stopped this; he was unbelievably strong in defence. Myles would come out of the line and make the first initial hit in which he would go high and wrap up the ball. The key here was that Myles would very rarely get bumped off, thus heavily stopping the Blues offensive flow which shifted the momentum Queensland’s way. Normally Myles gets knocked out every Origin, to be honest I was worried when this didn’t happen, however he still seemed to kick butt.
11. Brent Tate was spectacular. While Queensland gave up two tries due to mistakes under the high ball, Brent Tate was plucking them out of the sky. Tate defused four or five critical high balls, made an important tackle on a run away Jennings that forced the ball loose, cleaned up a mistake from Billy under a bomb, ran 20 metres to take down Carney in space 10 metres out, had a great 25 metre run in the first half, was denied a try from a fantastic tackle by Hayne.
When Queensland was under the pump in the 69th minute, he made a darting run from dummy half down the side line to put Queensland on the attack. Two minutes later Inglis scored to seal the game. Tate led Queensland in metres, with 154 in 15 runs.
12. If Brett Stewart straightens up when the Blues run their second man play it will be way more effective. For some reason NSW ran the play mainly down the side where Inglis defended. The first and second time Stewart took three or four steps to the right when he got the ball and then off-loaded, leaving the guys outside him with no space to work and a hungry Inglis to deal with. Needless to say, Inglis won every battle.
13. Queensland second man play exposed Uate’s weakness in defence. Uate’s lack of judgment allowed Thurston to have a field day. The first time Queensland ran the play Uate rushed out of the line, JT sold a dummy to Uate and then through a pass behind him to a rampaging Inglis down the line. The next time Uate stayed back when he should have come up, and from then on his confidence was low and he couldn’t put a foot right.
14. Victoria should not under any circumstances get the rights to an Origin match every year. It is called ‘State of Origin’ for a reason and none of the tradition or culture created from Origin came from Victoria.
15. State of Origin games should be held on stand-alone weekends. We did it for the Australia v New Zealand test this year, why not for Origin? Some teams such as the Cowboys have players who are forced to play three games in eight days. Rugby league is too physical and players cannot be expected play this many games in such a short period, especially at the back end of their careers. It’s these heavy schedules and old age that forces teams like the Broncos to sit stars Thaiday, Petero and Hodges out, which resulted in Brisbane being dominated by the Storm 34-10.
Finally, some facts:
16. Fact: Greg Bird’s tackle on Cooper Cronk was not a penalty.
17. Fact: NSW only scored points because of two Queensland mistakes.
18. Fact: I love having Johnathan Thurston as Queensland’s goal kicker!!
19. Fact: Cooper Cronk was well below par.
20. Fact: I love and miss Darren Lockyer
21. Fact: Paul Gallen had 22 runs for 230 meters along with 33 tackles. The Blues’ skipper was awesome.
22. Fact: If Anthony Watmough isn’t injured he will play Origin II. Not picking Watmough was another poor decision.
23. Fact: Gallen needs to stop his endless bickering with the referees. Gallen’s constant squabbling throughout game one was a sign of frustration and defeat. Imagine being a NSW player and all game you see your captain arguing with the referees, wouldn’t you think “Gallen is disputing everything, he doesn’t look confident, he doesn’t look in control, he looks frazzled, he’s worried, I should be worried”.
On top of this, the decision to kick for goal when given a penalty 40 metres out was not the right call. Even if Carney managed to get the two points, Queensland were massively on the back foot and the 10 minutes prior to this heavily favoured NSW. Tate had to defuse two high balls, Jennings scored a try, and Queensland hadn’t really been out of their own half.
With Origin I complete we sit back and wait for Origin II. With the second game in New South Wales and the Blues now realising just out how damaging they can be up the middle of the ruck, the Maroons have their work cut out for them.
However, as a Queenslander, I would be more afraid if my team didn’t consist of names such as Billy Slater, Johnathan Thurston, Nate Myles, Cameron Smith, Matthew Scott, Justin Hodges, and a rampaging Greg Inglis who at the young age of 25 now holds the record for most tries in Origin at 13. That he is only 25 is a great sign for Queensland.
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