If the referees do crack down on players from either team for wrestling in State of Origin 2, that will be a good thing. Whenever they crack down on wrestling it’s a good thing. The problem is, they don’t crack down on it nearly enough.
When you consider what’s at stake, it was no surprise Queensland coach Kevin Walters got angry – or at least as upset as the generally affable Walters can get – at his pre-match media conference on Tuesday.
State of Origin 2 coverage
» Match report: Maroons win to force series decider
» Five talking points from Queensland’s last-gasp win
» Check out all the highlights from the thrilling Game 2
» WATCH: Andrew Johns unleashes a furious rant about the Blues’ woeful second half
Earlier, Laurie Daley told reporters that the fans “want to see an open game of footy”.
“They don’t want to see two teams just trying to slow it down and wrestle their way through it,” the NSW coach said.
“I think rugby league showed what it’s capable of doing in Game 1 and that’s to play a game of football where both teams get every opportunity to showcase their skills.”
Walters responded with this: “I’m a bit disappointed with Laurie and the NSW players with all that. I mean, last time we were here for an Origin game the penalty count was 12-4. At halftime it was 11-1 to NSW.
“I just don’t think it’s in the right spirit of the game to try to use the referees to influence the game in some way.”
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Daley could say he took the moral high ground by calling for both teams to play open football and avoid the wrestle, but since when did coaches care what the fans wanted to see?
If slowing the game to a crawl was the best chance the Blues had of winning, then that is surely what their coach would have them try to do.
But what does this indirect exchange between the coaches say about Game 2 at ANZ Stadium tonight?
Pretty simple, really: the Maroons want to slow it down and the Blues want to speed it up – and because of that, the referees are going to have a huge influence on the result.
NSW clearly won the forward battle in Origin 1. Even allowing for the changes Queensland made to their team in the wake of a 28-4 loss at home, it’s going to be very difficult for them to stop the Blues from gaining an edge up front again.
So if the Blues gain momentum through the forwards and the Maroons decide to push the envelope in trying to slow them down, then it’s up to the referees to decide what they’re going to do.
Can you see them allowing Queensland to repeatedly get away with negating a fair and reasonable advantage NSW have established, by using excessive wrestling tactics?
No. If the Maroons are going to win, they will have to match the Blues in the forward department from the very first minute, and when you look at the rival forward line-ups that is a huge challenge.
Queensland are going to rely on a slower, more slippery surface in Sydney to help them achieve that and NSW have got to make it a priority to keep getting quick play-the-balls.
If the Blues are successful in doing that and the Maroons decide to take obvious risks by delaying the play-the-ball that could lead to penalties, then we’ll see where the referees stand.
Should either team go too far in trying to slow down the play-the-ball, they should be penalised.
Even with Queensland fielding a stronger team for this match than they did in Origin 1, NSW still have the advantage. They will be a stronger team as well, purely from the confidence they will have gained from their big win in the opening match of the series.