Maroons playing selection mind games
Mal Meninga and the Maroons (AAP)
Leading into the Origin decider the mind games have been plentiful and the speculation vast, but most of all the anticipation is building.
Dave Taylor played a big role in the South Sydney win on Sunday after he was released from the Queensland camp. Would Taylor have played the same barnstorming role if he hadn’t previously had the disappointment of being dropped from the Maroons camp?
His game displayed the usual amount of bone-crunching runs and brute strength to offload. Coupled with that, he showed the halfback-like finesse he is blessed with.
Taylor is a physically intimidating player. Will his exclusion assist the NSW’s camp or will it lull the Blues into thinking they can easily dominate the Maroons pack?
Don’t get me wrong; I think the Blues can dominate the Maroons pack because of their past performance in the previous two games. But they won’t do it easily.
Another interesting selection/inclusion/18th man is that of Matty Bowen. To select two full backs, then have one ruled out by injury, then send one back to play club seems a very interesting position.
But then to bring that player back in as 18th man seems very odd. I wonder if Mal is trying to keep the Blues camp guessing.
It would be unlikely, but pretty controversial, if there was a late injury on Wednesday and Bowen was brought back into the 17.
The man I feel for is Ben Barba, who was the 18th man in game two. As a fullback, for him not get the call up for the next game despite no real slump in club form is a bit harsh.
Granted Inglis plays fullback for his club, it can be argued that three full backs are selected from the outset but I think Inglis is a centre for the Maroons and will be playing out of position at full back. He is the best choice and will do a great job.
At the end of the day I think Inglis was always the logical back-up to Slater. So why didn’t Mal bring in extra centres to cover his position and see how they performed and thus have stability in the fullback position during the lead up.
Is Mal playing too many games with his selection? I wonder whether this will hinder the Blues’ planning or cause disunity at the Maroons camp.
The exclusion of Slater is a major loss to Queensland. But to put the injury in perspective, in game three last year Jonathan Thurston was injured and Queensland still managed to prevail.
It’s true that Darren Lockyer was at six and is now retired, but the point is that no matter how many players Queensland lose they are still dangerous.
Bigger than all the selection and playing decisions may be the fact that game one was played in Melbourne. As such, NSW have only one game at home where they are so dominant.
This puts them in the same position as last year – they must win away to win the series.
It is certainly harder to win away so I wonder what the Blues would give to be able to play out the decider at home.
Win, lose or devastation – this will be a battle of the best and only the best will hoist the shied.