The State of Origin 2012 wash-up
Another Origin series is over and I thank God, Buddha, Mal, Allah and Darren for it. For while I love my Origin and was absolutely enthralled by that stunning 80 minutes of rugby league just gone, I have to admit to having had my fill of all the nonsense that goes with it.
Finally, the irrepressible idiot that is the Origin Hype Machine can be put to bed for another year!
It is with foolish and misguided optimism that I write this, but with Origin out of the way I feel like finally the media can start to wind down the hypocrisy, slander, bigotry and fiction. On top of the made up reports (e.g. NSW might actually consider paying Ricky Stuart $500,000 a year to exclusively coach State of Origin) perhaps with a little luck, our nation’s most generous rugby league-covering newspapers could even endeavour to apply more moderate, reasonable coverage to the incidents that actually do occur!
Indeed, despite the heroic bravery, skill and work ethic shown by every player involved in this year’s Origin series, it has been the reliably moronic media coverage of the contest that has made the biggest impression on me in 2012. From the infamous and much-mocked (by me) Ricky Stuart articles, to the general “the opposition are cheats!” absurdity of the mainstream press in both states, the media seem to have really lifted their game (or lowered it) this year.
For keen followers of the game’s news, sifting through this stinking dross has been a daily chore of significant repugnance. So now hopefully, with these state v state frivolities out of the way, I can once again read a sports report that does not intentionally twist and distort each and every utterance to stupidity’s most embarrassing extremes.
On the series itself I think both teams deserve congratulations. It was a fantastic, hard-fought series of encounters that had many twist, turns and other clichés one would use to lazily describe a thrilling journey. NSW have improved and, despite their eventual and laudable victory, Queensland have declined. This is as it should be in something as cyclical as sport; a shift in the balance of power that can surely be expected when one side finally employs a full-time coach and selection consistency, and the other loses a champion like Darren Lockyer (and suffers depth-testing injuries to Billy Slater, Jharal Yow Yeh, Willie Tonga etc).
NSW players, as their media so belligerently assured us in the game three build-up, finally had the belief that they could win. Considering their side’s own improvement in the context of Queensland’s undeniable decline, it was a legitimate ambition.
However, despite the legitimacy of such a hope, NSW proved unable to lay the smack down on any of the game’s truly decisive plays. For this, I lay the blame in equal measure on their outclassed halves and their irrational coach. How any coach can justify selecting four specialist back-rowers on their interchange bench (particularly when starting the game with 80 minute players in the back row) I will never know.
Luke Lewis, outstanding in game two, was oddly reduced to a bit part player this time around as the go-to-guy of conservative, defeatist coaches everywhere (Beau Scott) was called in to replace Glenn Stewart. With Tony Williams also coming into the squad, the side’s third prop Trent Merrin dropped out.
For reasons regarding NSW’s eventual loss of forward ascendancy (after a bright opening), look no further than this fact: Queensland selected four specialist props, NSW selected two (both of whom are rookies).
Given NSW have a halves combination that would struggle directing plays in a theatre, producing the match-winning outcome behind a beaten pack was always going to be tricky. Robbie Farah tried hard (too hard, come his late play-the-ball blunder), but he received precious little support.
Indeed, despite the hype each has attracted over the years, nothing in the play from either Todd Carney or Mitchell Pearce suggested they are long-term Origin playmakers. With little respite on the playmaking horizon, this sad truth could keep NSW fighting from the ropes (in a straight-jacket) for years to come.
The leadership of Gallen, the toil of their out-muscled pack and the brilliance of their outside backs (the Morris boys in particular) kept it close, but against this desperate Queensland side they needed more. With Queensland’s aggressive pack rolling forward for Petero, Thurston applying the magic and Cronk the calm that NSW’s halves so sorely lacked, Queensland seemed in control for much of the final hour.
In fact, taking everything into account, it is to NSW’s eternal credit that they managed to get so close.
So that’s it for another year; Origin is over and despite things evening up a little, Queensland are champions once more. Who ever thought seven consecutive series wins would be possible? It is a remarkable achievement that deserves the highest praise. The Queensland team’s efforts have been professional, committed and inspirational throughout.
Despite the Tele’s laughable vitriol, this is a team that deserves the respect of the nation and adoration of their state (and certain sections of Fiji, New Zealand and Northern NSW).
Well done lads!