I haven’t been this excited about an Origin game since the 1990s. At Suncorp Stadium, an ageing – yet brilliant – triumvirate of Storm legends must try and pull off the greatest escape in Origin history, without their old comrade from the north, Johnathan Thurston.
The southern invaders must once more attempt to sack the most parochial and hostile of castles: Lang Park. There is no question their side has the talent. But do they have the brains, leadership and nerve?
If Queensland win, it will be one of the all-time great comebacks – like Rocky Balboa against Ivan Drago. If New South Wales win it will finally kill off this superb Queensland dynasty, once and for all.
I’m dying to see what happens.
Let’s look at the stats to see what clues they give us.
More Origin 3 coverage:
» Game 3 match report: Maroons keep their dynasty alive after smashing the Blues
» Five talking points from Origin Game 3
» WATCH: Highlights from Origin Game 3
» How it happened: Re-live Game 3 with our Origin live scores, blog and highlights
Where was State of Origin 2 won?
Between the ears. The Blues went into halftime up 16-6 and, in front of a home crowd, they should have closed it out and claimed the series. Instead, they stopped dead in the water and somehow the Maroons conjured a victory, with Thurston slotting the winning conversion under immense pressure.
Basically, while clearly the stronger team, NSW lacked the leadership and focus to finish Queensland off. And you must finish Queensland off or they’ll weave their strange magic and come out on top.
Age and minutes in the legs = NSW – just
After there being a huge gulf in New South Wales favour in Game 1, Queensland have closed the gap right up.
|James Tedesco||24||75.6||Billy Slater||34||77.7|
|Blake Ferguson||27||79.1||Valentine Holmes||21||80|
|Josh Dugan||27||73.7||Will Chambers||29||78.5|
|Jarryd Hayne||29||72.2||Michael Morgan||25||80.7|
|Brett Morris||30||80||Dane Gagai||26||80|
|James Maloney||31||80||Cameron Munster||22||77.1|
|Mitchell Pearce||28||80.2||Cooper Cronk||33||78|
|Aaron Woods||26||56.1||Dylan Napa||24||47.1|
|Nathan Peats||26||78.4||Cameron Smith||34||80|
|Andrew Fifita||28||54.3||Jarrod Wallace||25||59.6|
|Josh Jackson||26||76.7||Gavin Cooper||31||80.5|
|Boyd Cordner||25||78.8||Matt Gillett||28||75.6|
|Tyson Frizell||25||62.7||Josh McGuire||27||63.1|
|David Klemmer||23||57.6||Ben Hunt||27||74.3|
|Wade Graham||26||77.1||Josh Papalii||25||80.1|
|Jake Trbojevic||23||75.3||Coen Hess||20||59.5|
|Jack Bird||22||80||Tim Glasby||28||42.6|
While the NSW forwards still have a bit more match conditioning than their opponents from north of the border, it is only three minutes per pig on average.
In regards to the age profile, Queensland is slightly older on average – but only just. However, the Maroons have three players under the age of 23 (Hess – 20, Holmes – 21, and Munster – 22). NSW have only Jack Bird (22). Conversely, the Maroons have four players 30 and over (Smith, Slater, Cronk, Cooper).
The Blues have only Maloney and Morris. So while the average ages are similar, the Blues’ median age is far closer to the average, whereas the Maroons average is made up of golden oldies teamed up with very young players. Can those older players still hold their ground if the Blues pack gets back to its rampaging best?
Runs and metres = New South Wales
These stats will be vital to who wins and the Blues are clearly on top here.
|James Tedesco||16.9||172.5||Billy Slater||15||126|
|Blake Ferguson||15.3||142.8||Valentine Holmes||16.9||180.1|
|Josh Dugan||16.3||160.4||Will Chambers||13.4||118.7|
|Jarryd Hayne||12.7||104.9||Michael Morgan||10.5||76.5|
|Brett Morris||11.9||104.3||Dane Gagai||13.4||126.5|
|James Maloney||9.6||72.4||Cameron Munster||13.4||113.1|
|Mitchell Pearce||10.6||65.2||Cooper Cronk||8.9||61|
|Aaron Woods||17||158.5||Dylan Napa||12||104.9|
|Nathan Peats||4.4||33.9||Cameron Smith||8.5||56.5|
|Andrew Fifita||16.8||152.8||Jarrod Wallace||15.7||145.5|
|Josh Jackson||11.9||103.1||Gavin Cooper||9.7||85.9|
|Boyd Cordner||16.1||154.2||Matt Gillett||11.3||95.7|
|Tyson Frizell||10.3||101.9||Josh McGuire||17.1||154.5|
|David Klemmer||16||152.1||Ben Hunt||8.9||58.1|
|Wade Graham||13.4||120.6||Josh Papalii||14.5||145.3|
|Jake Trbojevic||14.5||137.5||Coen Hess||11.5||110.7|
|Jack Bird||13.8||117.9||Tim Glasby||10.1||91.5|
NSW looks nearly 200 metres better than Queensland, off the back off 17 more runs. The Blues forwards average 14 more metres each than their counterparts. Those extra metres are only on the back of one extra run per forward on average. So, basically, the NSW forwards do more damage.
Further, for NSW only Nathan Peats averages less than 100 metres a game. Queensland have Smith, Cooper, Gillett and Glasby who all have sub-100 averages.
While the massive disparity from Game 1 has closed up, the Blues pack is clearly better on average. This is possibly the key stat for predicting the result in NSW’s favour.
Tackles and missed tackles = NSW – just
There are issues for both sides here but, again, NSW look to have a slight advantage.
|NSW||Tackles||Missed Tackles||Missed tackle to tackle ratio||QLD||Tackles||Missed Tackles||Missed tackle to tackle ratio|
|James Tedesco||3.3||1.4||42.4%||Billy Slater||5.8||2.3||39.7%|
|Blake Ferguson||4.5||1.9||42.2%||Valentine Holmes||2.8||1.1||39.3%|
|Josh Dugan||3.6||1.4||38.9%||Will Chambers||16.8||2.6||15.5%|
|Jarryd Hayne||8.3||1.4||16.9%||Michael Morgan||13.3||3||22.5%|
|Brett Morris||6||0.8||13.3%||Dane Gagai||12.6||3.2||25.4%|
|James Maloney||13.6||5.9||43.4%||Cameron Munster||19||2.6||13.7%|
|Mitchell Pearce||21.4||2.6||12.1%||Cooper Cronk||14.2||1.2||8.4%|
|Aaron Woods||26.4||1.2||4.5%||Dylan Napa||22.9||3.3||14.4%|
|Nathan Peats||41.9||2.3||5.5%||Cameron Smith||41.1||2.1||5.1%|
|Andrew Fifita||27.9||1.6||5.7%||Jarrod Wallace||33.7||1.9||5.6%|
|Josh Jackson||33.8||1.9||5.6%||Gavin Cooper||31.7||2||6.3%|
|Boyd Cordner||31||2||6.4%||Matt Gillett||37.4||3.7||9.9%|
|Tyson Frizell||27.5||1.4||5.1%||Josh McGuire||35.9||2.2||6.1%|
|David Klemmer||22.7||1.6||7%||Ben Hunt||22.9||3.9||17%|
|Wade Graham||27||3.1||11.5%||Josh Papalii||25.4||1.3||5.1%|
|Jake Trbojevic||36.7||1||2.7%||Coen Hess||22.3||1.3||5.8%|
|Jack Bird||12.3||3.4||27.6%||Tim Glasby||25.5||1.3||5.8%|
Queensland have four more missed tackles in them than NSW. However, the Maroons have a higher tackling capacity, making 35 more tackles overall.
The Queensland forwards miss slightly more tackles than their opposing pack. However the NSW backs have a higher tackle to missed tackle ratio than the Queensland backs. Partially this comes down to the weak points to be targeted.
Queensland will focus on the NSW backs. Dugan, Bird, Ferguson, Hayne and especially Maloney will have traffic coming at them. Wade Graham sometimes makes bad reads, as his missed tackle ratio suggests. He missed six tackles in Origin 2. Have a look at Jake Trbojevic’s ratio – he averages nearly 37 tackles a match for just one miss. That is remarkable. There is a strong argument that he should be in the 13 jersey now.
NSW will again target Dylan Napa. He missed seven tackles last time around. Further, I don’t believe Michael Morgan will play in the centres. He missed eight tackles in Origin 1. My gut feeling is that he will be the bench utility and Ben Hunt will play halfback, with Cam Munster in the centres. It makes more strategic sense and works better defensively.
Again, if NSW’s forwards get going properly I’m not sure that Queensland will be able to hold them.
Attacking and scoring = New South Wales – just
Once more New South Wales are slightly ahead in a category.
|NSW||Tackle breaks||Line break assists||Line breaks||Try Assists||Tries||QLD||Tackle breaks||Line break assists||Line breaks||Try Assists||Tries|
|James Tedesco||7.9||0.6||0.5||0.4||0.1||Billy Slater||4.6||0.8||0.6||0.9||0.5|
|Blake Ferguson||3.1||0.1||0.7||0.1||0.6||Valentine Holmes||4.1||0.4||0.5||0.3||0.2|
|Josh Dugan||6.8||0.3||0.6||0||0.3||Will Chambers||1.4||0.6||0.3||0.4||0.2|
|Jarryd Hayne||1.5||0.4||0.7||0.4||0.6||Michael Morgan||3.1||0.4||0.5||0.8||0.5|
|Brett Morris||3.4||0.1||0.4||0.1||0.3||Dane Gagai||5.9||0.2||0.4||0.3||0.1|
|James Maloney||1.4||0.4||0.4||0.4||0.3||Cameron Munster||4||1||0.5||0.6||0|
|Mitchell Pearce||2.1||0.6||0.4||0.7||0.4||Cooper Cronk||1||0.7||0.1||0.7||0.4|
|Aaron Woods||0.9||0.1||0||0||0||Dylan Napa||1||0||0||0||0|
|Nathan Peats||0.6||0.5||0||0.5||0||Cameron Smith||0.9||0.6||0.1||0.5||0.1|
|Andrew Fifita||4.1||0.1||0.1||0.1||0.1||Jarrod Wallace||1.3||0.1||0.1||0||0|
|Josh Jackson||1.1||0.1||0.2||0.1||0.1||Gavin Cooper||1.3||0.1||0.2||0||0.1|
|Boyd Cordner||1.6||0||0.3||0||0.3||Matt Gillett||2.1||0.1||0.3||0.1||0.3|
|Tyson Frizell||2.4||0.1||0.2||0||0.1||Josh McGuire||1.3||0||0||0||0|
|David Klemmer||1.6||0||0||0||0||Ben Hunt||2.6||0.4||0.3||0.6||0.2|
|Wade Graham||2.6||0.5||0.6||0.4||0.3||Josh Papalii||3.1||0.4||0.4||0.3||0.2|
|Jake Trbojevic||0.9||0.2||0.3||0||0.3||Coen Hess||2.9||0||0.5||0||0.7|
|Jack Bird||4.1||0.4||0.2||0.4||0.1||Tim Glasby||0.9||0.1||0.3||0.1||0.1|
The Blues have a slight advantage in tackle breaks, with 4.4 more. They also have half an extra line break in them. This only amounts to 0.3 more tries than the Maroons, and the Queenslanders have the better try assisting stats – and that’s with Johnathan Thurston out.
However, those numbers include the stats of debutants Cam Munster and Ben Hunt. Can they actually produce on debut in a pressure packed decider?
Have a look at Tedesco’s 7.9 tackle breaks a game. How good is he?! And Dugan averages 6.8 to boot. Add Fifita and Bird’s 4.1 and there is danger across the park. Gagai with 5.9 tackle busts is the Maroons’ hardest man to put down, with Papalii’s 3.1 tackle breaks being the best for the Queensland forwards.
Miscreants and fumblers = Queensland
Queensland clearly have the edge here.
|James Tedesco||0.5||1.4||Billy Slater||0.3||1.1|
|Blake Ferguson||0.2||1.1||Valentine Holmes||0||0.9|
|Josh Dugan||0.5||0.6||Will Chambers||1.1||1|
|Jarryd Hayne||0.4||0.9||Michael Morgan||0.5||1.2|
|Brett Morris||0.3||0.9||Dane Gagai||0.3||0.8|
|James Maloney||1.8||1.4||Cameron Munster||0.5||0.6|
|Mitchell Pearce||0.6||0.9||Cooper Cronk||0.5||0.5|
|Aaron Woods||0.3||0.4||Dylan Napa||0.2||0.2|
|Nathan Peats||0.8||0.6||Cameron Smith||0.7||0.4|
|Andrew Fifita||0.9||0.9||Jarrod Wallace||0.9||0.1|
|Josh Jackson||0.9||0.7||Gavin Cooper||0.5||0.8|
|Boyd Cordner||0.2||0.7||Matt Gillett||0.3||0.9|
|Tyson Frizell||0.5||0.3||Josh McGuire||0.5||0.3|
|David Klemmer||1||0.6||Ben Hunt||0.3||0.9|
|Wade Graham||0.6||0.7||Josh Papalii||0.1||0.2|
|Jake Trbojevic||0.7||0.3||Coen Hess||0.6||0.8|
|Jack Bird||0.6||1.6||Tim Glasby||0.4||0.1|
Again, these stats say that, on average, the Blues will give Queensland six extra possessions in the game through errors and penalties conceded. As we know, the referees swallow the whistle in big matches, so the penalty count should be more like 5-4, rather than 11-8.
However, the New South Wales side has 12 players who are a 50 per cent or better chance of conceding a penalty on average. Queensland has just nine.
Further, Maloney, Fifita, Peats and Jackson concede a penalty every game on average. Only Chambers and Wallace are comparable for the Maroons.
Then there is the key stat: errors. New South Wales average three more errors a game. They feature some players who are susceptible to brain explosions too: Fifita, Bird, Graham, Klemmer, Hayne and Ferguson. For Queensland only Napa has any real form in that regard.
Cordner will need to keep his charges focused and on message.
Experience = Even
This stat is now almost dead level.
|NSW||Origin Games||QLD||Origin Games|
|James Tedesco||3||Billy Slater||29|
|Blake Ferguson||6||Valentine Holmes||1|
|Josh Dugan||11||Will Chambers||6|
|Jarryd Hayne||22||Michael Morgan||7|
|Brett Morris||13||Dane Gagai||6|
|James Maloney||9||Cameron Munster||0|
|Mitchell Pearce||17||Cooper Cronk||21|
|Aaron Woods||13||Dylan Napa||2|
|Nathan Peats||2||Cameron Smith||41|
|Andrew Fifita||9||Jarrod Wallace||1|
|Josh Jackson||7||Gavin Cooper||3|
|Boyd Cordner||8||Matt Gillett||17|
|Tyson Frizell||4||Josh McGuire||7|
|David Klemmer||8||Ben Hunt||0|
|Wade Graham||4||Josh Papalii||8|
|Jake Trbojevic||2||Coen Hess||1|
|Jack Bird||4||Tim Glasby||1|
With Thurston gone, and two debutants coming in, the Maroons now only boast nine more games experience over NSW. Those nine games reside with captain Cam Smith.
The Blues backs are now considerably more experienced than their opponents. While the averages say that the Queensland forwards are more experienced, that figure is completely warped by Smith’s 41 personal games. A brief examination shows that the NSW pack is actually more experienced at Origin level.
Queensland have eight players with three or less Origin games under their belt. NSW have just three.
Leadership = Queensland
I said before Origin 1 that Cordner as captain was a big call. At just 25, with six Origin games under his belt – and only half a season as captain of his club side – how was he going to go against the brutal and focused leadership of Smith, Cronk, Boyd and Thurston?
Origin 1 went swimmingly for Cordner. However, Origin 2 showed this risk to be valid. In the second half, NSW stopped dead. Their focus disappeared, as did their gameplan.
You didn’t have to ask Messers Smith, Slater, Cronk and Thurston twice if they wanted to take control. They weaved their Jedi mind control and the Force wasn’t strong enough yet in young Cordner to resist. Some would argue that he should still have been bullseyeing womp rats in his T-16 back home.
Can Cordner now get his charges to rise up against the Queensland empire – on their turf, in front of a rabid home crowd?
He does have something going for him this time: there has been a disturbance in the Queensland leadership Force. Thurston will not be there.
In 2014, when Cronk got injured at the beginning of Game 1 and New South Wales won the first two matches to win their first series in nine years, it was assumed that Cronk was the most vital cog in the Queensland machine. However, when Thurston missed Game 1 this year and the Maroons lost, it was assumed that he was the most important piece of the leadership puzzle.
It is my contention that for the Queenslanders to truly weave their magic, all four of their leaders need to be there: Smith, Thurston, Cronk and Slater/Boyd.
With Thurston out the Queenslanders shields may be down, allowing the Blues to strike the killer blow.
It’s very simple: if the NSW pack can get on top and stay there for the whole game – which they should – they win. Regardless of the venue and screaming Queenslanders.
However, if the Blues get spooked – which could easily happen with so many potential loose cannons and a rookie captain – things could go horribly wrong for the New South Welshmen.
I’ve got a gut feeling that – to quote The Who – New South Wales won’t get fooled again.
New South Wales by 10
Some stats of interest
(Note: 1997 stats not included due to split competition)