Why Hurrell’s brain snap holds promise for Maroons

Robert Burgin Columnist

By , Robert Burgin is a Roar Expert

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    It was a game between two depleted teams occupying the NRL cellar. What insight could last night’s Rabbitohs-Titans clash possibly offer us about Wednesday’s forthcoming Origin game?

    At first glance not much, but if you froze the game just before halftime, when Konrad Hurrell’s brain departed the station for Crazy Town, there was a sliver of something the Maroons can work with.

    Ah Hurrell, such an entertainer for the fans. Such a nightmare for his coaches.

    For those that missed it, after being in a confident, comfortable rhythm at 14-0 up only minutes beforehand, the Titans slipped back to a slender 14-10 lead after two quickly conceded tries.

    The second of those incursions came about because of a one-man implosion attributable to the Hurrell-cane.

    Coming off his line, the Titans centre tried a hurried, messy play-the-ball that ended in a handover of possession.

    Unable to accept the referee’s decision and likely enraged by the precarious position he placed his side in, he then gesticulated, verbalised and shook with anger.

    It earned him another 10m penalty for dissent, and when the Rabbitohs chanced their arm, they knew exactly who to run at, suckering Konrad in for the big collision, then sending the ball wide for Alex Johnstone to score.

    Still not content, Hurrell remonstrated further with the referee as Adam Reynold’s took his position for the conversion attempt, needing to be restrained by both teammates and Rabbitohs hooker Robbie Farah.

    Surely at that point if Titans coach Neil Henry had any options, he would have hooked the Kiwi talent – not simply because he was a liability on his own, but because his reactive temperament changed the whole mindset of the Gold Coast.

    From being assured and positive, even after conceding a previous try, the inexperienced Titans became unsettled and distracted at the doing of a supposedly senior player.

    That flowed through to the second half, where the Rabbitohs kept the upper hand and discovered a focus missing for most of 2017. The Titans never fully got things back on track.

    Even before his minute of madness, Hurrell was showing signs of vulnerability, looking fatigued far too early, but disguising that with his trademark bustling runs.

    Later in the game he was trailing teammates on kick-chases and made a similar play-the-ball stumble which surrendered possession again.

    So what relevance does this have to Wednesday’s Origin rematch?

    Queensland’s best hope – maybe only hope – of stopping the fearsome Blues machine is to frustrate them, fatigue them and put them off their game.

    Gold Coast Titans player Konrad Hurrell at training

    (Supplied)

    If you look through the Blues side, it’s a squad packed with speed, size and dynamic footy smarts.

    But it’s also a line-up with a few trigger points which need to be tested.

    Keeping Andrew Fifita, David Klemmer, Blake Ferguson, Josh Dugan, Jarryd Hayne, Jack Bird, Nathan Peats and Wade Graham on an even keel is a monumental task for coach Laurie Daley. Even James Maloney and Mitchell Pearce are prone to the odd mental combustion.

    Exploiting that will come down to the application of consistent pressure through a multi-pronged approach.

    1. Firstly, it all starts with line speed. Getting up and chopping down the Blues early in their run will not only stymie their advance, but also frustrate those forwards who had it all their own way in Game One.

    2. Twisting and manipulating the attacker until they are uncomfortable and cannot find their elbows and knees.

    3. Good judgment and communication out of marker, not over-playing the role, but being prepared to move quickly, accurately and simultaneously to exert pressure and plug gaps.

    4. Being prepared to win a battle of fatigue. Queensland waved the white flag by kicking for the sidelines when both teams were struggling for breath at the end of the first half in Game 1. That’s when the Blues got the stiff whiff of blood. The Maroons have to keep the Blues forwards constantly in motion.

    5. Great kick chases and pressure on the kicker.

    Jarryd Hayne NSW Blues State of Origin NRL Rugby League 2017

    (AAP Image/Dan Peled)

    6. Clever passes and variation which open up channels either side of the ruck and trough the centre. Keep the Blues’ inside men chasing, turning and guessing. Gradually this will present opportunities both in close and out wide.

    7. Accepting responsibility for every outcome and not losing focus. As much as the task is to disrupt the Blues, the Maroons have to guard against distraction and drama themselves.

    Without Matt Scott, Greg Inglis and Corey Parker, and with many of the team running on ageing legs, Queensland cannot afford to bunker down and try and match New South Wales in a power and momentum game across the park.

    If they can successfully put at least one Blues player off their game early – whether it be via a fumble, a show of poor discipline, or an amplified sense of pressure before a home crowd – that vulnerability will spread.

    As Hurrell showed last night, distraction and ill temper can be cancerous, overpowering the focus of teammates rapidly.

    Robert Burgin
    Robert Burgin

    Robert Burgin is a sports writer of 20 years with a particular appetite for Rugby League's exotic and bizarre tales. Find him on Twitter @RobBurginWriter.