Reflections on State of Origin Game 2, 2005

Edward L'Orange Roar Guru

By Edward L'Orange, Edward L'Orange is a Roar Guru

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    With the footy season over for another year, I found myself forced to reflect on what could only be called a disappointing year for NSW.

    Not that the state rivalry needs to be endlessly rehashed – I look forward to cheering on the Queensland stars in green and gold. But without a NSW team in the grand final for two of the last three years, and Queensland again getting the hat-trick of State of Origin victories, I find myself thinking back to better times.

    For me, times did not get much better for NSW than the 2005 Origin series. Particularly Game 2 of that series was remarkable, and I was very happy to search and find the entire game on YouTube.

    A must-win for NSW, this game has gone down as one of Andrew Johns’ greatest displays on the field. Coming back from injury, and having played only nine games in the previous two seasons, Johns guided the Blues to a 32-22 point win with brilliant long passes, sharp attacking runs, and a simply terrifying kicking game.

    Rewatching the game, it was bizarre, and wonderful, to see a team with the spine of Cam Smith, Darren Lockyer, Johnathan Thurston and Billy Slater get schooled by a team in blue.

    But I also found it interesting to take away a few reflections from this game: about certain players, about the time, but also about our modern game over 12 years later. Of course, one game alone can only say so much, particularly an Origin game, but for what it’s worth, here are 20 unrelated musings taken from Game 2, State of Origin 2005.

    Billy Slater has always been a remarkably skilful and incredibly quick player, arguably the best fullback of the modern era. But he has also always had an aspect of shenanigans to his game. A couple of examples from this game? How about a sneaky rake over the sideline in the ninth minute, which he got away with, or a sly kick of the ball after a penalty in the 38th, which he did not.

    Billy Slater runs the ball for the Maroons in State of Origin

    (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

    Matt King was a very very good player who had a hell of a game that night. Tall, fast, and strong, he even managed to run down Billy Slater in full flight.

    Cameron Smith developed a brilliantly cunning kicking game very early in his career, particularly the early to space.

    This game has to be the last time Slater, or any indeed fullback, ever left a ball near the goalpost. For those who have forgotten, in the 14th minute, Andrew Johns took a kick from the 35 towards the goalpost. It hit, of course, and resulted in a rebound which was picked up by Anthony Minichiello. Slater didn’t even get a hand on him.

    Forward passes actually used to exist.

    The game is faster now, but not that much faster. I was expecting to see big lumbering hits and slow play the balls, but I was surprised to see the pace of this game. It is to be expected that the game is faster today. After all, we are often told the speed of our game is crucial and measures have taken accordingly to ensure its quickness. But it is certainly not that much faster.

    The commentators used try to justify the ref’s decisions, rather than openly criticise them for any mistakes.

    Hands on the ball and wrestling tactics to slow the play-the-ball were very much evident in 2005. It makes me think that blaming Craig Bellamy and that “successful” Melbourne Storm team of the late 2000s is a bit unfounded.

    Blokes are more muscular now, and look fitter. I suppose this is to be expected with advances in fitness and sports science.

    Andrew Johns’ long pass is a bit forgotten in light of his kicking. Passing the ball long to tire the forwards was a good technique, and I wonder why it is no longer used as much.

    I’d forgotten about the hilarious Brad Thorn situation. A Kiwi plays origin for Queensland, quits league to play rugby for New Zealand and then he came back and plays for Queensland again. Go figure.

    The players did not dive, or try to cheat anywhere near as much. I was seeing players offside or in the play-the-ball area, and the attacking team didn’t try to fall over them, or even throw the ball at them. I was shocked.

    There is significantly more diversity in Origin these days.

    Cameron Smith and Darren Lockyer were all brains and tactics, leading games with cunning and nous. Johnathan Thurston and Billy Slater were all speed and guts. All dynamos who have an instinctive feel for the game that would make many NRL players weep.

    Luke Rooney was a good player, who I had completely forgotten. I wonder what other good players will slip out of the general consciousness over time? Michael Jennings comes to mind.

    Forwards have a larger part to play in the game today, and skill sets between forwards and backs are more even.

    There were not as many penalties around the play-the-ball in 2005. I saw a number of instances at which I thought “that’s a penalty”. They weren’t. And not only were they not, no one seems to have expected them to be, suggesting it was not just Origin.

    Ray Warren made basic mistakes even back then, to the point that he called Andrew Johns ‘Mathew’ with no correction. I don’t think it’s just age.

    Thurston was always tough as nails. He was a bit nippier back in 2005, but even after being utterly smashed in the 66th minute, he just got up and got on with it. What a competitor.

    Finally, having watched the quality of this game, I think both teams, given the same conditioning and support, would beat their 2017 counterparts.

    NSW team
    Anthony Minichiello, Matt King, Mark Gasnier, Matt Cooper, Luke Rooney, Braith Anasta, Andrew Johns, Steve Simpson, Danny Buderus (c), Jason Ryles, Nathan Hindmarsh, Craig Fitzgibbon, Ben Kennedy.

    Interchange: Craig Wing, Steve Menzies, Luke Bailey, Andrew Ryan, Coach: Ricky Stuart

    Queensland team
    Billy Slater, Ty Williams, Shaun Berrigan, Paul Bowman, Matt Sing, Darren Lockyer (c), Johnathan Thurston, Brad Thorn, Cameron Smith, Petero Civoniceva, Michael Crocker, Carl Webb, Chris Flannery.

    Interchange: Ben Ross, Dane Carlaw, Casey McGuire, Matt Bowen. Coach: Michael Hagan

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    The Crowd Says (8)

    • October 20th 2017 @ 4:13pm
      Madrid John said | October 20th 2017 @ 4:13pm | ! Report

      Great article Edward. Nice to hear that the current game isn’t all doom and gloom. I enjoyed your objective perspective.

      Not sure that I’d agree that those teams would win against the current teams. Though the 95 version of QLD had a stronger forward pack, I’d take the current back line.

      In terms of NSW, I am not a Mitch Pearce basher, I think he was just unlucky that his career over-lapped with Thurston, Cronk and Co. However, any team with Andrew Johns would be have to be on a very short list for all time best Blues.

      • Roar Guru

        October 20th 2017 @ 4:25pm
        Edward L'Orange said | October 20th 2017 @ 4:25pm | ! Report

        Thanks John, I agree the current Qld backline is probably stronger, but not by that much. I think the forward pack makes the difference and makes the 05 team better. Matt Sing was a very good player, and of course Lockyer, Thurston, Slater are almost without peers.

    • October 20th 2017 @ 4:56pm
      RandyM said | October 20th 2017 @ 4:56pm | ! Report

      Johns at his peak is still the best player I’ve seen but I will concede that Lockyer, Thurston and Smith all had better careers than Johns.

      Slater was pretty erratic in his first few seasons and grubbed with the best of them. 2005 was the series he scored that amazing try wasn’t it? I know a lot of queenslanders who preferred Karmichael Hunt and even Clinton Schikofske back then.

      Love that NSW back row.

    • Roar Guru

      October 20th 2017 @ 6:22pm
      The Barry said | October 20th 2017 @ 6:22pm | ! Report

      I was in the blatchys blues for that game. It was an outstanding performance by Johns. One of the best all time individual games I’ve ever seen.

    • October 20th 2017 @ 9:02pm
      Greg Ambrose said | October 20th 2017 @ 9:02pm | ! Report

      Gasnier almost bombed a try by trying to beat Slater who went close to taking him over the sideline. The safer and easier option was to draw Slater and pass to Cooper earlier. Sterlo said he loved how Gasnier took on Slater. Surprising comment to me.

      A lot of talk now about selecting players out of position and it was interesting to see NSW do well with Menzies in the centres and Gasnier shifted to the wing due to injury to Rooney I think.

      Johns passes were so good and accurate either way.

      I remember at the time Gus had big raps on Gasnier and Anasta. Gasnier was the best centre I seem to recall at the time but I reckon the arrival of Inglis really buggered up a few players including Gasnier because he was too fast and strong for all of them. The best runner of the ball that I’ve seen in his early days.

      Anasta was probably the Mitchell Pearce of that era. Gus kept on saying that his best years were ahead of him but he peaked fairly early and just didn’t improve. I reckon it is just a lack of the extra natural talent that Fittler, Johns and JT possess. Not many have it.

    • October 21st 2017 @ 1:07am
      mailman said | October 21st 2017 @ 1:07am | ! Report

      The Blues are in need of a super sub in the mould of Menzies! What a fantastic freak he was- faster than most bigger guys and with a barnstorming run that could break through defences at crucial moments- and the guy seemed to play on for ever, ridiculous longevity and a joy to watch.

      • Roar Guru

        October 21st 2017 @ 10:47am
        Edward L'Orange said | October 21st 2017 @ 10:47am | ! Report

        He was brilliant. Craig Wing was very useful for them too. I think his effectiveness started the more recent mania about needing a utility, which notoriously led to Kurt Gidley captaining from the bench.

      • October 22nd 2017 @ 7:51am
        Greg Ambrose said | October 22nd 2017 @ 7:51am | ! Report

        I’d like to see a highlights package of Menzies big hits in defence. Because he was so good in attack I believe this aspect of his game went under the radar. I can remember Sterlo stop talking as a commentator and draw breath as a young Menzies demolished a North Sydney prop. Might have been Tony Hearn .

        Because he did it without fanfare it often went by without comment. Matty Johns said one time that it was Menzies who caused the most grief as a defender.

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