Before the 2021 season kicked off, the Roosters were favourites in many people’s eyes to feature heavily in the finals series once again and maybe even win another premiership.
The memory of that horrible game at ‘C’town’ a few weeks back has faded to nothing after the footy feast going on at present, even in this torrid time for the game’s elite.
Wests and North Queensland offered little that night, but most matches these past couple of weeks have been super entertainment.
The credit for that must go to those magnificent athletes who compete so fiercely in Origin but still generate tremendous enthusiasm and enduring strength, speed and agility to display their undoubted skills and capabilities for their clubs. How do they do it?
It might be more than just the passion to play and the incredible fitness levels almost all of those guys possess.
Firstly, there is a more disciplined aftermath to Origin in this era of truer professionalism. The binge drink that went on for days rather than hours in the past was a ritual. Today it’s passé.
Secondly, the players are better at recovery and their club coaches better at understanding if the individual is up for another match so soon or not. Standing the player down for just one of those weeks of doubling up might make a significant difference – not only to that guy for that week, but for the rest of the season by avoiding injury, which often occurs under fatigue.
Likewise the players, with no grog in their systems, get full value from recovery, allowing the coach to trust them to make a good personal decision to play with their clubmates without training at all between Wednesday night’s epic effort and the weekend. It’s hardly a freshener, but at least those days don’t deplete the rejuvenation process.
But it is the mental aspect – the pride in performance – that blows me away.
Jonathan Thurston has received plenty of raps for his outstanding effort in that huge away win in Canberra. The accolades he readily receives are still not enough to describe just what a wonderful player and leader he has become – so too for plenty of other Origin participants.
Of the matches played last weekend, I saw no duds. I particularly enjoyed Monday night’s match between the Roosters and the Dragons, with Sydney running out the deserved winners.
I was bit disappointed that the red and whites didn’t play the way they did at the end for the whole match. Was that down to their plan or just the Roosters tiring a little?
The next few weeks will tell us more. The Dragons have certainly improved that struggling attack from early season, but maybe not so much against the stronger, more physical teams of the past few rounds – most notably the Bulldogs and Roosters who have big packs and backs!
Melbourne couldn’t muster enough attack to trouble that hard-to-break Broncos D. It was entertaining because of the closeness of the scores, but the lesson there for all is that those possession stats about errors, time and field possession are overrated. Important? Yes, but they are not the whole story.
The Storm didn’t do enough to trouble Brisbane – a credit to the Broncos who were on a tough away assignment. But 11 repeat sets is a lot, and the Storm didn’t really ask any tough questions in attack.
Certainly we could point to Melbourne missing some potent attacking individuals and the coordinator Cooper ‘Cronkite’ Cronk, but they still could have chanced their arm with a bit more enterprising play at times.
Nonetheless a fantastic round of footy.