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Kevin Walters is bereft of a poker face

David Lord Columnist

By David Lord, David Lord is a Roar Expert

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    When Queensland coach Kevin Walters announced his season-opening Origin squad, he was in tears over the shock omission of Billy Slater.

    Yesterday he looked like a rabbit in the headlights explaining why six had been dropped after the 28-4 Origin 1 defeat.

    But one of his comments – “I think this is a better team” – was hardly a ringing endorsement of the selector’s decisions, and Walters is a selector.

    The biggest shock was six dropped – Corey Oates, Justin O’Neill, Sam Thaiday, Nate Myles, Jacob Lillyman and Aidan Guerra, with Anthony Milford injured.

    Suck carnage hasn’t been seen during Queensland’s record 10 series successes in 11 seasons.

    We keep reading and hearing how NSW gutted the Maroons 28-4 in the Origin opener, but that wasn’t the case.

    Queensland looked set for five more tries, but were denied by phenomenal defence, especially from James Tedesco and Josh Dugan.

    In past Origins those five tries would have been scored, and with conversions the Maroons would have won.

    So yesterday was history-making for the Queensland selectors of Gene Miles in the chair, Darren Lockyer and Walters.

    The pick and stick formula Queensland has so loyally stuck to was given a major flick, and only form players got the nod.

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

    (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

    Back comes Slater a game late, and with Johnathan Thurston fit again, Queensland will have four of their five world-class superstars in Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk, Slater and Thurston back on deck. They are only missing Greg Inglis.

    That high-quality quartet is capable of beating an unchanged NSW at ANZ Stadium – all by themselves.

    The new boys on the Queensland block – Valentine Holmes, Coen Hess, Tim Glasby, and Jarrod Wallace if he survives the judiciary on a shoulder charge – will gain a year’s experience in the next week from the big four.

    It will be priceless.

    Tradition has it experience counts for everything in Origin, until NSW blew that theory to smithereens at Suncorp.

    NSW won that game by busting Queensland up the middle with Andrew Fifita in devastating form.

    But the NSW starting pack had only 33 appearances between them. Queensland boasted 97, yet were blasted off the park.

    At ANZ next week, NSW will have a pack with 39 caps and Queensland will be dramatically reduced to 73, which could translate to a genuine rugby league lesson from the Blues.

    In the backs, Queensland had 64 Origin appearances at Suncorp, but will have 126 at ANZ with Slater and Thurston back in business.

    That’s an awesome advantage.

    Team-wise at Suncorp, including the bench, NSW had 108 appearances to Queensland’s 216.

    Queensland Maroons' Johnathan Thurston and Billy Slater hold the Holden State of Origin shield as they celebrate their win

    (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

    But Queensland lost 28-4.

    At ANZ, NSW will have 125 Origins to their credit, Queensland with all those changes will still have 206.

    There’s an omen there for NSW as they field their first unchanged Origin 1 and Origin 2 sides since 1996.

    Back then, NSW won the series 3-0.

    Let’s see if history can repeat itself.

    The squads
    NSW – James Tedesco, Brett Morris, Josh Dugan, Jarryd Hayne, Blake Ferguson, James Maloney, Mitchell Pearce, Aaron Woods, Nathan Peats, Andrew Fifita, Boyd Cordner (c), Josh Jackson, Tyson Frizell – David Klemmer, Wade Graham, Jake Trbojevic and Jack Bird.

    Queensland – Billy Slater, Darius Boyd, Will Chambers, Dane Gagai, Valentie Holmes, Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk, Dylan Napa, Cameron Smith, Josh Papalii, Gavin Cooper, Matt Gillett, Josh McGuire – Michael Morgan, Coen Hess, Jarrod Wallace, and Tim Glasby.

    David Lord
    David Lord

    David Lord was deeply involved in two of the biggest sporting stories - World Series Cricket in 1977 and professional rugby in 1983. After managing Jeff Thomson and Viv Richards during WSC, in 1983 David signed 208 of the best rugby players from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and France to play an international pro circuit. The concept didn?t get off the ground, but it did force the IRB to get cracking and bring in the World Rugby Cup, now one of the world?s great sporting spectacles

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    The Crowd Says (8)

    • Roar Guru

      June 13th 2017 @ 8:47am
      Edward Kelly said | June 13th 2017 @ 8:47am | ! Report

      Game one was Miles and Lockyer’s team, Game 2 is Walters team. Certainly looks a better team.

      • Columnist

        June 13th 2017 @ 9:05am
        David Lord said | June 13th 2017 @ 9:05am | ! Report

        EK, you could well be right, which doesn’t say much for Gene Miles and Darren Lockyer..

        But if Origin 2 was Kevin’s team, why did he look so startled, like a rabbit in the headlights?

        • Roar Guru

          June 13th 2017 @ 11:55am
          Edward Kelly said | June 13th 2017 @ 11:55am | ! Report

          I think he was expecting a lot of backlash about loyalty etc and he didn’t want to let the cat out of the bag that the selectors stuffed up bug time in game 1.

          Interestingly Miles said in an interview I saw that Walters made all the calls (good and bad) this time around, so what happened last time? Seems the selectors are feeling the pressure of losing.

        • June 13th 2017 @ 4:45pm
          Broadly Speaking said | June 13th 2017 @ 4:45pm | ! Report

          Could it be the very same reasons used to highlight points about both playing groups.

          Kevin Walters doesn’t have a poker face that has been shaped by years of public speaking, media conferencing or pages and pixels of press like a Wayne Bennett. How many NRL media events has Walters fronted as the sole head coach, taking responsibility for his own decisions as well as diplomatically explaining other decisions? Maybe I should take off my shoes and pants so I can to count up to 20.5.

          I know its tough enough delivering bad news, but having to be the one to explain every one of the bombshells that shook the foundations Qld has set over the years would be nerve wracking enough, but it could be a living hell for someone who wears his heart on his sleeve and passionate about Qld success!

          Maybe in some people’s eyes non verbal communication in the media lessons his abilities to coach, inspire a team or make tough decisions, but I reckon he has more than enough respect within the Maroons camp to motivate every single player to lift and those players left out would know Kevvie feels their pain.

          Maybe Kevvie wanted to make changes last year to prepare for the exit of so many key players over the next few years and he has always been outnumbered at the selection table. Maybe Kevvie had the guts to tell fellow selectors if his job is on the line due to losses on his resume, then at least give him players he wants now to be able to die by his own hand, even more-so if Kevvie wanted Slater and others in the squad in Origin One.

          Changes will be forced on Walters with Thurston, Cronk and possibly Myles, Thaiday, Lillyman and maybe Guerra ending Origin careers after a Lang Park swansong with Smith, Slater and Scott (who may have been the difference in the middle in Origin One) and Cooper being year to year propositions, experience has to be thrown at Qld players NOW to see what sticks for the years to come.

          If Walters looks like spooked Bronco on screen, but he is a Titan in the dressing room and drives his cattle like a leathery, dirty, foul mouthed Cowboy, then we will see HIS results in a few weeks, and possibly the next 10 years….

      • June 13th 2017 @ 3:18pm
        steve said | June 13th 2017 @ 3:18pm | ! Report

        I reckon you have that back to front. You only have to listen to Kevvie talk to know that game 1 team was the one he wanted.

      • June 14th 2017 @ 8:57am
        tomer said | June 14th 2017 @ 8:57am | ! Report

        What a silly culture in Rugby League to allow anybody else but the coach to select the team. This would be unthinkable in Football. It really makes no sense whatsoever.

    • June 13th 2017 @ 2:47pm
      AGordon said | June 13th 2017 @ 2:47pm | ! Report

      So David 4 players, Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk, Jonathan Thurston and Billy Slater can beat NSW all by themselves, eh? I’ve told you a million times, don’t exaggerate?

    • Roar Guru

      June 13th 2017 @ 8:47pm
      sheek said | June 13th 2017 @ 8:47pm | ! Report

      Hi David,

      I’ve never read & heard so much nonsense as following NSW’s win in SOO1.

      Yes, Queensland proved they were just like anyone else when the wheels fell off. Why did anyone ever think they were different?

      Anyone can moralise all they like while they’re winning about “pick & stick”.

      As Mike Tyson famously said, & he was far from being a mental giant, “everyone has a plan until they get hit in the mouth”.

      Similarly, everyone can moralise while they’re winning. But as soon as they lose, everyone starts accusing each other.

      The silliest people are those who believed that Queenslanders were somehow different, or smarter.

      In some ways Queensland have been lucky. They have never had the same resources to waste as NSW, so naturally, they have been more careful in nurturing their talent.

      But they’ve done it out of necessity, not because they’re geniuses.

      But here’s my tip for SOO2. Silly NSW folk with their dumb comments have given Qld so much ammunition to motivate them that they will win the second game.

      Never bet against great champions & Qld now have too many of them.

      Thus, both teams will be returning to Lang Park for the decider.

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