NSW have little chance of winning Game 3

Mary Konstantopoulos Columnist

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    In the lead up to the State of Origin decider, the call to action is always the same – most media outlets demand content about Origin and most rugby league fans want to read it.

    We all know that Australians (particularly in New South Wales and Queensland) are obsessed with State of Origin so it makes sense to feature as much Origin content as possible.

    This obsession is backed up by more than just relentless Origin chat in the lead up to each game.

    In 2016, each Origin match featured in the top five ranked sporting programs with a combined audience of more than 7.2 million people. I expect the same sort of figures this year.

    It’s quite incredible that three games played between two states manage to capture the attention of the public for almost 10 weeks each season (and that people are so interested that club football takes a back seat during this period).

    But the truth is, I don’t want to write about State of Origin. I don’t even want to talk about Origin anymore. Why? Because the Blues’ performance in Game 2 broke me.

    Watching the Blues lose that game in the final three minutes courtesy of a Dane Gagai try hurt me so much that I didn’t read any Origin coverage for a week and a half afterward. I didn’t even tune in to the team announcements last week, because I have given up.

    I’ve convinced myself that the outcome is a foregone conclusion and as a result I’m not excited about this game at all. This is in stark contrast to three weeks ago, when I went into the game more excited than I had ever been for an Origin match.

    The truth is, I cannot see New South Wales winning – particularly after what I saw in Game 2.

    It’s so hard to pinpoint where exactly it went wrong for New South Wales this series.

    The win in Game 1 was emphatic. There were articles written about the end of the Queensland dynasty and about how Cameron Smith’s best football was behind him.

    Andrew Fifita caused chaos for the Maroons every single time he touched the ball. Jarryd Hayne returned to representative football as a hero. The names Paul Gallen and Robbie Farah were nothing but a distant memory.

    Even with significant changes made to the Maroons squad for Game 2, with the inclusion of players like Billy Slater, Johnathan Thurston, Valentine Holmes, Jarrod Wallace and Coen Hess, Blues fans still went into the game confident.

    And for 40 minutes that confidence was rewarded.

    (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)

    The Maroons were scrambling just trying to weather the Blues attack. The Blues made 100 more metres than the Maroons in the first half. They had made three more line breaks, much fewer tackles and led the Maroons 16-6. The Maroons looked gassed.

    Then the second half. I don’t know what happened, other than that it all went horribly wrong. Wade Graham and Hayne made several costly errors. The minute Tyson Frizell left the field, Thurston stopped being targeted (despite having just one working shoulder). Josh McGuire. Will Chambers. Dane Gagai. Dylan Napa. These men were as determined to win this game for Queensland as the Blues were to lose it.

    And lose it they did. When Gagai scored that final try to equalise it had been a matter of not if, but when.

    Thurston, despite being ruled out for Game 3, ended his Origin career with a fairytale, slotting the sideline conversion with a bung shoulder and a stadium full of blue-clad fans baying for his blood.

    Boyd Cordner looked absolutely broken after the game. You could tell he had been crying before he fronted the media at the press conference.

    The truth is, New South Wales bottled it. They squandered their opportunity and the chance to claim the series in Game 2 disappeared before a collective state’s eyes.

    I’ve heard plenty of commentary over the last couple of weeks about the culture of losing and how difficult it is for a team that has been losing for a sustained period to mentally pick themselves up.

    I query, after the loss in Game 2, how New South Wales will be able to mentally prepare themselves for this game. What will it take for New South Wales to believe they can win?

    The odds are stacked against this team.

    The game will be played in front of a hostile crowd. The Blues are public enemy number one. This could potentially be Cooper Cronk’s last State of Origin game. Cordner could still potentially miss this match. The Blues have not scored a point since the 28th minute of Game 2 and have not won a series since 2014.

    The one positive that I take out of this year’s series is that New South Wales have almost named an identical team for each game this year. The team named is the future of our state and I have every confidence that a series win is not far away.

    In the case of this year’s State of Origin series – I believe that the battle has been won. Cameron Smith will lift that shield for the 11th time in 12 years and there is very little the Blues can do about it.

    If you’re a Blues fan looking for State of Origin victory – focus on the Women’s Interstate Challenge which takes place on July 23. The Blues have a very real chance of going back to back for the first time in this game’s history.

    As for me, I’ll be tossing up between the Women’s World Cup and the Blues on Wednesday night. I’m not sure my heart can take another result like Game 2.

    Mary Konstantopoulos
    Mary Konstantopoulos

    Mary Konstantopoulos is a lawyer, sports advocate and proud owner and founder of the Ladies Who empire, including Ladies who League, Ladies who Legspin, Ladies who Lineout and Ladies who Leap. You can find her podcast on iTunes and find her on Twitter @mary__kaye and @ladieswholeague.

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    The Crowd Says (76)

    • July 11th 2017 @ 9:47am
      Chui said | July 11th 2017 @ 9:47am | ! Report

      Simple explanation….The spine.

      Qld spine steps up regularly

      NSW spine goes missing regularly.

      • Roar Guru

        July 11th 2017 @ 5:41pm
        Mango Jack said | July 11th 2017 @ 5:41pm | ! Report

        Yep, and until that changes NSW will not win a series. Simple.

    • July 11th 2017 @ 10:01am
      Dragons Forever said | July 11th 2017 @ 10:01am | ! Report

      NSW will win 10+. Quite confident actually

      • Roar Guru

        July 11th 2017 @ 5:43pm
        Mango Jack said | July 11th 2017 @ 5:43pm | ! Report

        Based on what? NSW were so inept in the second half of game 2, their lack of leadership was stunning. They must be mentally lacerated by that experience and Qld will tear them up. Qld by 40.

        • July 12th 2017 @ 12:47am
          Roger Ramjet said | July 12th 2017 @ 12:47am | ! Report

          Always going to be a game 3 decider so we have one

    • July 11th 2017 @ 10:13am
      Big Willy TBU said | July 11th 2017 @ 10:13am | ! Report

      So sad for you Mary having no hope that the Blues can win – you are hopeless.
      As a supporter of our great game for over 50 years I’ve concluded that there is no such thing as a certainty in any match.
      Slater, Smith, Thurston and Cronk are genius footballers and their smarts on the field set them apart.
      But they have no Thurston and if the QLD forwards don’t dominate and lay the platform for them we are in with with a fighting chance.
      NSW by a point with Wade Graham MoM – he owes.

      • Columnist

        July 11th 2017 @ 11:29am
        Mary Konstantopoulos said | July 11th 2017 @ 11:29am | ! Report

        I’m sad too Big Willy! It’s the first time I’ve ever gone into a game and not thought that my team was capable of winning.

        I wish I could share your optimism.

        Or perhaps my article is just an attempt to put the jinx on Queensland.

      • Columnist

        July 12th 2017 @ 10:05pm
        Mary Konstantopoulos said | July 12th 2017 @ 10:05pm | ! Report

        I may have been hopeless, Big Willy, but I was also right.

        • July 13th 2017 @ 9:40pm
          Big Will TBU said | July 13th 2017 @ 9:40pm | ! Report

          Full credit to you Mary – your wisdom has shown us the foolishness of our ways. I’m exhausted after that terrible game last night and I don’t wish to ever speak of it again. We’ll never do any good until Smith and Slater are gone – it’s not their skills as much as their football brains. Just freakish – talk about calm under pressure. Bennett notably said once that it’s a simple game and those two just do the simple things with such elegance that mere mortals will never succeed against them. For that reason I’d say that a Storm premiership is a sure thing in 2017.

          • July 14th 2017 @ 8:33pm
            Art Vanderlay said | July 14th 2017 @ 8:33pm | ! Report

            Credit to you too big wt. Most of the other decriers have melted away.

    • July 11th 2017 @ 10:19am
      RM said | July 11th 2017 @ 10:19am | ! Report

      As a Queenslander, I actually think NSW are still a huge shout of winning this series. No Boyd and (more importantly) no Thurstan is absolutely massive.

      Also, this isn’t really a jibe at this article as it has been a constant theme across the game as a whole since Origin II – but I think there is a lot of lazy analysis going on from pundits and fans alike about the “Blues were dominant for the whole series until the 50th (or 60th according to some) minute of Game II”.

      It simply isn’t true. They were the better team in Game I, absolutely no question, but they were not “dominant” for the entire 80 minutes. In fact for much of the first half it was a very close game, and even into the second half Qld had plenty of good field position and good opportunities to get right back into the game but could not capitalise. Similarly in Game II, Qld actually started the match a little stronger than NSW and it was an even contest for about 15 minutes before the Blues really started getting on a roll for about a 20 minute period where they ran in 3 tries. Even then, Qld wrestled the momentum back for the final 5 minutes of the half and came within centimetres of scoring twice in consecutive plays. In the second half, NSW were on top until McGuire and Napa came back on and immediately evened it up again in the middle, before finally wrenching the upper hand for their spine to do their thing.

      Long story short, I agree that NSW were the better team in Game I but the game was closer than the scoreline suggested. And I reject outright the premise they were the better team in Game II. Basically, it is a close series between two well matched sides, a 1-1 scoreline after two matches is entirely appropriate and as such NSW is still in with a big chance to win the decider.

      • July 11th 2017 @ 12:09pm
        Raugeee said | July 11th 2017 @ 12:09pm | ! Report

        Game 1 reminded me of a game of yahtzee, NSW came out and rolled 4 of a kind, yahtzee, large straight, yahtzee. Everything clicked and they steamrolled QLD. I reckon what Mary is saying here is that NSW seem to think that will happen again. Game 1 NSW were at their ultimate best and QLD were at their worst. Daley even said that after the game. Listening to the media releases from the Blues camp, the players don’t appear to have their minds on the job. There’s talk of targeting McGuire, quotes like “We only have to turn up, as we did in Game 1, and we will get the result” – this is why people everywhere say NSW don’t get Origin.

        A lot are trying to compare this game with Game 3 1997. Is anybody noting the fact Andrew Johns was in the 1997 side? Since he has left, 2005, NSW have been lucky to win one series. There is no comparison between the 2 eras. NSW had convincingly won Game 2 in Sydney that year, they had a better side, a better coach, and they prevailed by a single point.

        I am with Mary. NSW will not have the right mind set. Ordinary players, who looked like champions in Game 1, Graham, Woods, Pearce will return to their mediocrity. QLD by 8.

        • July 11th 2017 @ 2:39pm
          Raugeee said | July 11th 2017 @ 2:39pm | ! Report

          Er… correction 1996 Game 3

      • Roar Guru

        July 11th 2017 @ 12:41pm
        Emcie said | July 11th 2017 @ 12:41pm | ! Report

        I agree mate, but i think that it’s this NSW teams ability to score back to back points quickly that makes them seem more dominant then they are. In Game 1 they scored 16 points in 8 minutes in the second half and in game 2 all their points were scored in a 13 minute period in the first half. Its hardly dominant but it certainly pressures QLD to try and find some quick points, which they didn’t handle at all in game 1 and in their panic they gave NSW cheap posession in their own 20 twice but they stayed much more composed in Game 2 and got the result. On the other hand in the last half of Game 2 NSW started to panic a bit in attack when they couldn’t score points and errors started creeping into their game despite being in front on the scoreboard. I reckon if QLD can keep the scoreline close and don’t allow NSW to get a big lead by scoring back to back points quickly they’ve got this, unless of course they just decide to put on another 50 point demolition

      • Roar Guru

        July 11th 2017 @ 12:43pm
        The Barry said | July 11th 2017 @ 12:43pm | ! Report

        Hi RM

        I’m a NSW fan and I agree with this. For all of NSW’s dominance on the scoreboard in Game one, Queensland exposed NSW’s left edge defence three times in the first half and through the game got over the line or within a metre five times (Boyd’s kick for Oates, Gagai pulled down a metre short, Gagai tackled over the sideline, Guerra getting over the line with the ball stripped and Gillet stopped in his tracks a metre out).

        I don’t think the Game one scoreline did NSW any favours coming into Game two. Nor did their hot start to Game two. I can only guess but I suspect that on some level that may have impacted Hayne’s decision to run himself with Morris unmarked outside him.

        NSW might have been two plus tries ahead for 60 minutes of Game two but they weren’t dominant. They shut up shop with five minutes to go in the first half and Queensland had three try scoring opportunities in that last five minutes. It felt like NSW were hanging on and I said to a mate I was watching the game with that Qld were going into halftime with the momentum.

        Second half – NSW’s left edge was exposed again and again and NSW kept shooting themselves in the foot with silly plays and sillier penalties. Qld kept playing hard while NSW looked like they were playing for the siren.

        The best thing they can do is forget about being dominant and focus on getting the job done.

        NSW left edge is still keeping me awake at night for Game three.

        • Roar Guru

          July 11th 2017 @ 12:58pm
          eagleJack said | July 11th 2017 @ 12:58pm | ! Report

          Far more question marks over QLD heading into this game. Glasby, Wallace aren’t great players and showed that. Munster at 6 is a risk. Morgan has never played in the centres at NRL level.

          I didn’t think we would win Game II. QLD were hurting. Thurston’s presence alone is worth about 10 points.

          It’s funny what complacency can do. You can say you are ready for the game, and want to wrap it up, but you know that if you lose there is always the 3rd game.

          NSW now go in hurting with plenty to prove.

          Heading into Game II Kevvie was a worried man. Very stressed. The players were aware of that from Day 1. They were focussed immediately.

          Yesterday Gillett said how this camp is far more relaxed. Kevvie is joking again. A stark difference to Game II.

          Read into that what you will.

          But NSW will be ready.

          • Roar Guru

            July 11th 2017 @ 1:49pm
            The Barry said | July 11th 2017 @ 1:49pm | ! Report

            I hope you’re right mate.

            I think Munster will be ok. He has a pretty simple game and he and Morgan can switch as required.

            Question marks over Glasby but they only need 20 mins or so out of him. I think Wallace went ok in game two.

            But NSW left edge has been poor all series. I called it before and after game one and was called a hater. The name calling has stopped now but the Blues defence is still wafer thin.

            My other concern is who steps up to win us the game if it’s tight in the last 10.

        • July 12th 2017 @ 2:02am
          RM said | July 12th 2017 @ 2:02am | ! Report

          Yep. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter if you score three tries in a rush in 15 minutes, or three tries spread out across the whole 80. I think scoring quickly helped lull the Blues into a bit of complacency in Game II, and then when Qld fought back and scored their second try, a bit of panic set in when suddenly the Blues realised they weren’t as far out of sight as they thought they were.

    • July 11th 2017 @ 10:26am
      kk said | July 11th 2017 @ 10:26am | ! Report

      The Blues are two (2) M’s short of a winning team. Moylan and Merrin. Q by 8.

      • July 11th 2017 @ 12:11pm
        Raugeee said | July 11th 2017 @ 12:11pm | ! Report

        Moylan should definitely be there, somewhere.

        • July 11th 2017 @ 7:52pm
          Bee bee said | July 11th 2017 @ 7:52pm | ! Report

          Agree. Gagai would never be considered for NSW because he plays for a struggling club. But he continues to thrive at Origin level.

          Moylan has the same look about him, but his team is struggling. So NSW seems to apply this equation. Garbage team = stinky player. Head to the dump once in a while NSW. People throw out some great stuff.

        • July 12th 2017 @ 12:45am
          Roger Ramjet said | July 12th 2017 @ 12:45am | ! Report

          He will be there in spirit watching from home

      • July 11th 2017 @ 12:24pm
        StAdam said | July 11th 2017 @ 12:24pm | ! Report

        Cordner, Fifita, Friz, Jackson, Trbojevic, Graham, Klemmer > Merrin.

        Agree in regards to Moylan though – wouldn’t have minded the same halves pairing as Game 3 2016. (Maloney and Moylan)

      • Roar Guru

        July 11th 2017 @ 1:47pm
        eagleJack said | July 11th 2017 @ 1:47pm | ! Report

        Not happy Max. Much preferred it when you predicted a NSW win!

        I’ll be loading up on QLD. And cheering on NSW from the stands.

        Win win.

        • July 11th 2017 @ 4:33pm
          kk said | July 11th 2017 @ 4:33pm | ! Report

          I predicted Q 2-1 when Jimmy Smith first broke the ice o O3 about 2 weeks ago.

          Parlayed winnings into free beer for a year and change on Q in O3-

    • Roar Guru

      July 11th 2017 @ 10:53am
      Nat said | July 11th 2017 @ 10:53am | ! Report

      You’ve touched a nerve there Mary. You just said Sandman 3x into the mirror to expose the blues fans worst nightmare. I will be there but a Galen/Bird-less blues outfit takes a lot of venom out of the crowd. Although the Fifita/Maguire battle should add some spice. Let’s see who looses their mind first.

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