The six-step path back to the podium for the Blues

Ben Pobjie Columnist

By , Ben Pobjie is a Roar Expert

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    Well, State of Origin has wrapped up for another year, so you know what that means: It’s time for me to walk alone into the desert with no provisions but my own tears!

    But before I make that final journey, let me offer a few tips as to how my beloved-yet-despised Blues might turn around their fortunes going forward, and finally knock the last head off this horrific hydra we call Queensland.

    1. Add some variety to Mitchell Pearce’s game
    I know many NSW supporters think Mitchell Pearce should be dropped from the team, but it’s time for us all to face the reality, however unpalatable: Mitchell Pearce is going to play for NSW forever, and there is nothing any of us can do about that. But if he can broaden his game a bit, he just might become the halfback we’re looking for.

    Obviously he already started the process this year: in addition to his normal training routine of eight hours a day kicking a ball at cardboard cutouts of the Queensland back three to ensure he can hit them with laser-like accuracy on every set, he has clearly been working on the tackle-missing and blindly-throwing-passes-into-decoy-runners sides of his game.

    Over the off-season he should work on other areas, like knocking on from dummy half and falling over suddenly for no reason at all, to become a really rounded playmaker.

    2. A comprehensive education for Wade Graham
    I am aware that team management has a responsibility to keep costs down, so I am happy for this program to take whichever form is most cost-effective – either a laminated copy of the rule pertaining to ball-stripping, along with flash cards reading “Keeping pressure on opposition – Good” and “Giving away pointless penalties at decisive moments – Bad”; or some kind of remote-controlled electric collar that can apply a crippling shock to Wade every time he decides to ‘help’.

    3. More protection for Fifita
    Like every great rugby league forward, Andrew Fifita knows the truth of the old saying, “If you run sideways for long enough, eventually the defence will let you run through them”.

    The trouble is that in the last two games, he wasn’t given enough time to crab-walk ineffectually back and forth across the field searching for non-existent gaps.

    It’s vital that next year’s Blues coach – be it Laurie Daley or someone else – set up a game plan that involves the rest of the team forming a defensive screen in front of Fifita so he can run sideways for as long as he wants to, five, ten, fifteen minutes at a time, until that magical hole finally appears and he can gambol joyously through it.

    Will Chambers is tackled

    (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)

    4. Clear up confusion
    It’s time NSW players were given a full and frank briefing on the truth that the coaching team has been reluctant to speak during team preparations.

    The Cameron Smith who will be playing for Queensland in this game is actually the same Cameron Smith who has been playing for the last fifteen years, and he’s going to do the same things he’s been doing for the last fifteen years.

    Only when they know this secret will they maybe start to keep an eye out for that.

    5. Fight the fear
    Daley has always believed too much information can cloud the mind, and he has a point because these are rugby league players, but it’s time we came clean with the Blues, and admitted that offloading actually is legal in rugby league, and there are no criminal sanctions applicable to forwards who fail to run one-out without looking for support every time they get the ball.

    There is no need to be afraid!

    6. Get to know the opposition
    Sun Tzu said “know your enemy”, and it’s true that nothing is more vital in a winning Origin plan than a full understanding of the Queensland team.

    Players should study their opponents, get to know their every idiosyncrasy. For example, in the current Maroons line-up, several players actually prefer it when defenders backpedal and refuse to tackle them while they run straight at them, so in some situations it might be beneficial to not do that.

    7. Never, ever let the players know they’ve won
    What has become obvious over the years is that the worst thing you can do to a NSW player is allow him to be aware he’s won a game. If NSW is to ever win a series again, every single game the team wins must be followed by an elaborate subterfuge to convince the team that they actually lost.

    If all that’s carried out successfully, I feel confident that the future looks bright ahead. I hope you enjoy it – I’ll be in the desert.

    Ben Pobjie
    Ben Pobjie

    Ben Pobjie is a writer & comedian writing on The Age, New Matilda and The Roar, whose promising rugby career was tragically cut short the day he stopped playing rugby and had a pizza instead. The most he has ever cried was the day Balmain lost the 1989 grand final. Today he enjoys watching Wallabies, Swans, baggy greens, and Storms.

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