Why NSW will win State of Origin III
Paul Gallen of the Blues makes a break during State of Origin 3 between Queensland and New South Wales at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, Wednesday, July 6, 2011 (AAP Image/Chris Hyde)
Billy Moore said it best at the weekend. The Queensland State of Origin veteran, who was born in New South Wales, was asked on radio why the Blues were a good chance of breaking the Maroons dominance.
Moore said Ricky Stuart’s men see blood in the water and “they’re hungry.”
Six years of starvation tends to have that effect.
The difference is that in the past the Blues were like the rookie doctor who faints while in surgery because a spot of claret has hit the operating room floor.
12-months ago, NSW found themselves in the same position as they do today.
The volume of blood in the water then as opposed to now was quite minimal.
The Blues had inflicted a paper cut on the Maroon juggernaut and got trampled at Suncorp Stadium in the first 20-minutes.
The contest was over before the Blues had realised what was going on.
This year, Queensland has a busted eye that’s closing fast, the nose is starting to trickle and one knee is on the canvas. The only thing required now is the killer punch.
Throughout the history of State of Origin NSW has had some of the best big men in the business to call on, but since 2006, the Blues have been dominated up front.
A cast of large characters have walked on to rugby league’s biggest stage, only to be told by several directors, “thank you, don’t call us, we’ll call you.”
The grunt has been missing and that has also led to a revolving door in the halves.
A year after NSW captain Paul Gallen challenged forwards with blue blood coursing through their veins to step up and demand selection, a group has finally done so.
Gallen has been able to move back to lock and “Aussie” James Tamou and “mini chief” Tim Grant dominated their opposition in Sydney.
Tamou had done the same during game one in Melbourne. Add to that the explosiveness of Tony Williams, the determination of Luke Lewis and the toughness of Greg Bird and you have a group of men worthy of wearing the jersey.
They’ve given Todd Carney and Mitchell Pearce the perfect platform to launch from. It’s now up to them to show they’re good enough to capitalise.
Then there’s Robbie Farah, who has gone from never to play again to a certain selection until he retires.
He also, crucially, provides a left foot kicking option out of dummy half and at first receiver when he drifts wider.
Those kicks should be able to find some of the green stuff known as grass. It has so far been a foreign concept.
Pearce was lauded for his kicking game in State of Origin II. He thumped the ball for 531 metres from 15 kicks, but most of those landed in the safe hands of Billy Slater.
Slater makes kickers look bad though. His ability to read where the ball is going before it even hits the boot is second to none.
Inglis may have had more tackle busts, line breaks and metres gained than Slater, but the Blues would be cheering that the Melbourne Storm live wire is missing.
Matt Bowen would’ve been a far better option at the back. The veteran would’ve created chaos buzzing around the shoulders of his North Queensland team-mate Johnathan Thurston who has struggled so far this series.
It’s all about forging quick combinations at this level and even though Inglis has been a huge part of the Maroons dominance, it hasn’t been at fullback.
In moving Inglis into the number one jersey they’ve also weakened their left edge in attack. Would you rather face Inglis or Dane Nielsen?
Cracks have also developed in Queensland’s famous loyalty and brotherly bond.
Mal Meninga must have been filled with a tiny bit of regret after watching Dave Taylor terrorise Penrith just hours after he’d told him he was surplus to requirements.
Perhaps, the biggest reason the Blues will win tonight lies in the dying embers of game two.
Queensland, down by four, attacked with everything they had. They threw spirit, toughness, loyalty, six years of experience and the kitchen sink at the Blues, but what players said afterwards was the “blue wall” didn’t crack.
During their history making run the Maroons have always been able to grind their way to victory. They’ve always been able to find a brick in the wall that has gone missing.
At ANZ stadium it didn’t happen. They tackled like their lives and careers depended on it and held on for the four point victory that has given them their shot tonight.
It was a mental breakthrough that changed the way the Blues viewed Origin.
In the past it had been the Maroons marching towards an inevitable victory regardless of how tough the Blues had played. Now, they’ve experienced a shut-out in the closing stages.
That is invaluable.
You can follow Luke Doherty on Twitter @Luke_Doherty and on Sky News Australia.
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