Queensland’s loyalty policy is a lie

Christian D'Aloia Roar Guru

By Christian D'Aloia, Christian D'Aloia is a Roar Guru

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    As the dust settles on yet another lost Origin series for the Blues, it seems a change of tactics should be on the cards for NSW if they hope to return to their former interstate glory.

    It seemed a forgone conclusion that Queensland’s brutal decade of dominance had come to a bitter end after they were delivered a 28-4 shellacking in the opening game of the series at Suncorp Stadium.

    For many, myself included, the writing was on the wall for Queensland the moment coach Kevin Walters announced the omission of the in-form and devastating Billy Slater, favouring the incumbent Darius Boyd and Justin O’Neill at fullback and centre respectively.

    After all, Boyd and O’Neill had got the job done in 2016 and were to be faithfully rewarded by the selection panel as per Queensland’s legendary ‘loyalty policy’.

    True to form, Walters would also go on to select a cavalry of Maroon legends who similarly had served Queensland admirably over the last decade, despite rather disheartening club form. Such players included Nate Myles, Sam Thaiday, Aiden Guerra and Jacob Lillyman – all of whom were struggling to lock down starting spots in their respective club sides.

    Throw in a debutant in the front row in Dylan Napa, and there was little doubt that NSW’s young and in-form monster forward pack would dominate the middle of the field through the likes of Andrew Fifita, Aaron Woods, David Klemmer and Jake Trbojevic.

    Nobody, however, could have foreseen the degree to which the NSW forwards – led by Fifita – would dominate their Maroon counterparts, laying the platform for their backs to complete a brilliant victory and surely send the Queensland brains-trust into turmoil.

    The latter appeared to come to fruition before Game 2, with the famous loyalty policy – often credited for a major role in Queensland’s dominance – abandoned without so much as batting an eyelash in pursuit of greener pastures.

    Each of Myles, Thaiday, Guerra and Lillyman were dropped for the far better performing Jarrod Wallace, Coen Hess, Gavin Cooper and Tim Glasby, all of which were strong selections but, on paper, paled in comparison to the might of NSW. To some, it exposed the relative lack of depth in Queensland’s forward stocks when compared to NSW and even their own spine depth.

    Cameron Munster Queensland Maroons State of Origin 2017

    (AAP Image/Darren England)

    Similarly, Slater was recalled to fullback, and O’Neill and Corey Oates were dropped to accommodate Sharks livewire Valentine Holmes.

    The loyalty policy was no more, and as far as anyone south of the Tweed was concerned, so too was Queensland.

    And yet, in true Queensland spirit, the Maroons rallied to overcome a 16-6 deficit and clinch victory from the jaws of defeat when a NSW series win seemed all but certain.

    In the same shade of so many failed NSW campaigns before them, Queensland continued to chop and change their team for Game 3, this time due to injury. An injury to Boyd saw him replaced in the centres by regular utility Michael Morgan, while an injury to legendary five-eighth Johnathan Thurston resulted in debut call ups for the in-form Cameron Munster in the halves and the Broncos’ Ben Hunt on the bench.

    With that, Queensland would cycle through their third different halves pairing for the series, using a total of 26 different players. Their Blue opponents, meanwhile, would name the same 17 for the entire series for the first time since 1996, clearly believing this was the recipe for success in State of Origin.

    Laure Daley NSW Blues State of Origin NRL 2017

    (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    If there is a lesson to be learned for NSW in the light of their embarrassing Game 3 and series defeat, it is that Queensland’s much-heralded tale of loyalty being the catalyst for their dominance is little more than a myth.

    Instead, the answer is far more obvious – Queensland picks on form. The ‘damning’ fact that their team has rarely changed over the years is simply because the team’s nucleus in Slater, Thurston, Cronk and Smith never seem to be out of form. With the vast majority of the supporting cast following suit, it suddenly becomes very easy to be ‘loyal’.

    Sneaky as ever, Queensland fooled NSW into a false sense of security – they had them believe loyalty would cultivate success. As one would have it, apparently the key is multiple once-in-a-generation players and a carefully structured winning culture to boot.

    If you could choose from any and every NRL player in the competition, who would you pick in your rugby league dream team? Let us know with our team picker right here, and be sure to share it with all your league-loving mates.

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    The Crowd Says (23)

    • July 17th 2017 @ 2:51am
      jeff dustby said | July 17th 2017 @ 2:51am | ! Report

      this was written by many others – about 6 weeks ago

    • July 17th 2017 @ 6:56am
      sportstragic said | July 17th 2017 @ 6:56am | ! Report

      Christian, thanks for the article but i dont think you understand loyality. Qld were very loyal this series as they always are. In game 1 they gave the same guys who won the series last year a go. Even though a lot of them cant make their club starting team and the others were well below their best form and many Quuensland fans and journalists wanted new blood in the team. But QLD stuck with them. That is loyality!
      QLD got thrashed 1st game and the out of form players played poorly. Changes obviously had to be made.

      • Roar Guru

        July 17th 2017 @ 7:35am
        The Barry said | July 17th 2017 @ 7:35am | ! Report

        Yeah that’s the Queensland recipe. It was fun to try and tease a bit before game two but not many Queenslanders bit.

        Despite the game one score line, NSW had significant problems exposed by Queensland but nothing was done. Those same problems (and more) were the reason we lost game two. Nothing was done.

        I don’t think we (NSW fans) have any right to be having a crack at Queensland selection policies. We were outgunned at the selection table as well as on the paddock.

      • July 17th 2017 @ 7:35am
        Nico said | July 17th 2017 @ 7:35am | ! Report

        Agreed, QLD showed plenty of loyalty in picking Myles, Guerra and Thaiday despite a lack of club form. Selecting Slater, Holmes and Hess for game 2 was based on form, but there were a few bolters such as Hunt and Glasby whose club form probably didn’t have them banging down the door for selection either – these selections were based on a large part to getting the right team balance (although personally I didn’t think the selection of Hunt was the right balance at the time) – so the QLD selection policy can probably comes down to a mix of loyalty, form and the ‘right’ balance

        • Roar Rookie

          July 17th 2017 @ 10:35am
          Flat White said | July 17th 2017 @ 10:35am | ! Report

          True, but, of the new players that were bought in to the side, how many have been 18th man or part of the emerging squad? I’d suggest all but one or two. Isn’t that showing both faith and loyalty?

    • July 17th 2017 @ 7:58am
      Roberto said | July 17th 2017 @ 7:58am | ! Report

      So you are saying that if an in-form team was picked by Walters from the start, we would now be looking at 3-0 series.
      “NSW’s young and in-form monster forward pack”, what good did that do?….arrogance arrogance arrogance

      • July 17th 2017 @ 10:54pm
        Jeff dustby said | July 17th 2017 @ 10:54pm | ! Report

        Have a look in the mirror

    • July 17th 2017 @ 10:24am
      Matt said | July 17th 2017 @ 10:24am | ! Report

      The loyalty that QLD have comes with a rider. Perform and you’re still in the team, fail and you’re are replaced. This is the reason that players in the past have played well above their club form, it’s because they didn’t want to let down the people that backed them. Meninga laid all the cards on the table to Lockyer, Civonceva and Price before Game 2 in 2006. Perform or Perish. That is why QLD gets it. They know if they fail they don’t get picked. As mentioned above, it sure helps when you have some exceptional players in the team with you, but it doesn’t always guarantee a win and if your performance was a reason for the failure, your seat at the table has gone.

    • Roar Guru

      July 17th 2017 @ 10:24am
      Hoy said | July 17th 2017 @ 10:24am | ! Report

      I actually think the NSW were looking backwards to win the next game… They didn’t vary tactics at all for all three games, but their execution certainly went a bit backwards… First game a half, they used the inside passing to great effect… then QLD worked it out, and… NSW had nothing in response that resembled a plan B. That taken care of, then in Game 3, QLD worked their different tactics, and completely dominated except for maybe 10 minutes after half time.

      NSW should have evolved their game plan a bit… varied it, something… Instead they didn’t and kept trying to play the same plays once they were worked out. It didn’t go that well for them from then on…

    • Roar Guru

      July 17th 2017 @ 11:02am
      Nat said | July 17th 2017 @ 11:02am | ! Report

      Qlds loyalty policy has always been about what a player can bring to a team. Form matters but team dynamics and culture is a very important aspect of selection and therein lies the difference between the two teams. Nate Myles and Sam Thaiday may have seen their best playing days in yesteryear but as forward leaders and inspirations to Napa, MaGuire, Cooper, Glasby and Papali – the results are now in. Even Matt Scott, who has not laced a boot in 2017, was in the Maroon tracksuit in the coaches box. So loyalty, as described by NSW press, is far from dead. The older blokes are given two jobs, one on the field and another off and the results show they done both very well.

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