Where do NSW Blues go from here?
Have Ricky Stuart and the NSWRL selectors made the right decision to drop Uate for State of Origin Game 3? (AAP Image/Paul Miller)
Straight after Wednesday night’s Origin III, we were all scratching our heads at the prospect of a seventh straight series’ victory for Queensland after yet another defeat for NSW. Now we scratch our heads and think “What do we do now?”
It was our time and out moment for glory.
But it wasn’t to be.
The Maroons held on for a nail-biting 21-20 victory last night, extending the misery of their NSW neighbours.
If there’s anything that NSW fans can take out of the match, it is that the tide is definitely turning. The Blues are getting extremely close to regaining the shield, which has been eluding them for the past six years.
Last night was like a boxing match.
NSW was like a young fighter who relished the big stage, but just couldn’t deliver the knockout blow.
Queensland, like the experienced heavyweight, scratched and clawed to hold on for a points decision victory.
Having squandered the best opportunity to defeat the Maroons in years, the Blues camp is left with more questions than answers.
The most important: Where do we go from here?
NSW had the best preparation and lead up to the third Origin game. The players presented each other their jerseys, developing a bond and sense of team spirit in a close knit camp.
In the opposition camp Billy Slater ruled himself out of the Origin decider and was sorely missed.
The Queensland backline lacked fluidity at times and the try to Brett Stewart in the 47th minute would not have been conceded if Slater were at the back.
The Queensland team will only get stronger with Slater returning. The Blues will need to step it up a gear if they want to try and break the Maroons streak next year.
The Ricky Stuart – Paul Gallen combination has been instrumental in bringing back the pride and passion to the NSW jumper over the past two years.
They have taken the Blues to Origin deciders in the last two years and were minutes away from stopping a seventh series victory.
But with Ricky Stuart strongly linked to the Canberra Raiders, will he cut ties with the Blues side?
At the end of 2010, Ricky Stuart was appointed coach of the Blues because NSW wanted a full-time coach who had no club commitments.
The Blues modelled this selection on Queensland coach Mal Meninga, who has not lost a series since he took over in 2006.
Stuart has taken giant steps in derailing the Queensland juggernaut, should we give him a third and final crack at it?
If Ricky Stuart and the Blues were to agree to one more year, the debate would be raised as to whether a coach balance state and club commitments.
This ironically was the same issue being debated before Stuart’s appointment.
But if Stuart does not return as Blues coach who becomes a viable candidate for the job?
Is it Des Hasler?
He is arguably the best current club coach, but we would be hiring him in spite of the same reason Stuart left.
Is it Laurie Daley?
An experienced campaigner in and around the NSW Origin camp. Daley has coached the Country origin side but may not be ready to make the jump to State of Origin.
Or is it Phil Gould?
He is the best choice as NSW’s next coach but will he is willing to take the reins.
Turning our heads away from the administration side of things, it is the on-field decisions which will raise the most questions for blues supporters and coaches.
The halves were a major talking point in the Blues loss.
Mitchell Pearce and Todd Carney failed to deliver in the three Origin matches, which was a key factor in NSW’s demise.
But do we keep this halves combination and give it time to grow?
Keep in mind they have only been together for a year, although Pearce has had more than enough time and NSW is running out of patience.
Whatever the outcome, NSW cannot make hostile changes to their side like they have been doing in previous years.
Five players that were picked for Origin III in 2011 retained their jerseys in the first game of 2012.
There seems to be a lot of hypotheticals coming from this debate but the loss has rattled the NSW camp who were so sure they would win.
The Blues tried so hard but it wasn’t enough. There are some serious questions they need to ask themselves before they are celebrate an Origin win.