They were given next to no chance of winning a game this series, but somehow, Queensland have once again earned bragging rights in the traditional interstate showdown.
State of Origin is over for another year and the usual post-mortems have begun. For Queensland the future looks bright – now having won the last three series and blooded a new group of stars in the Origin arena.
Since NSW’s single series win in 2014, contests have been relatively tight. But which individual players have starred and who has struggled?
Player performance is often a highly subjective judgement, and looking back over such a long period tends to run the risk of bias.
One of the commonly used tools is individual player ratings produced on the night of every Origin match. Sure, they are subjective but provide what is the best available measure of player performance.
So to help get an objective view, player ratings from the hopefully unbiased NRL.com website were used. All individual player ratings for the last four series were compiled. No ratings for Game 1, 2014 could be found so the ratings from those extremely neutral papers Daily Telegraph and the Courier Mail were used for that game.
Fortunately they were identical, so no averaging was required. The player rankings for each game were averaged and a high and low score were used to get a sense of player consistency. Then players were ranked on average player rating in the table below.
The big picture
The first and most obvious thing is the presence of Cameron Munster at the top of the table, courtesy of a single high-scoring game. Barring that anomaly, the usual suspects are high in the ranking, with Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Johnathan Thurston well placed in the top 10.
It’s also obvious that it is hard for bench players to rate highly, with the majority of the bottom ten primarily bench players, with Justin O’Neill and possibly Aidan Guerra the exceptions.
When you delve a little deeper there are some clear pointers to the reasons Queensland continue to dominate.
1. Like-for-like replacements. Losing Justin Hodges? Substitute Will Chambers and you get a similar player rating. Greg Inglis injured? Here’s Dane Gagai who rates more highly over the last four years.
Matt Scott out for the year? Dylan Napa outpoints him. While these newer players have big boots to fill, those who come in appear to do a marvellous job.
2. Current players in good form. Look at the top 13. Of those only Corey Parker, Justin Hodges and the recently retired Johnathan Thurston are not eligible for selection in 2018. So ten of the top 13 form players of the last four years are eligible for next year’s series.
3. Play well, or don’t play. The much talked-about Queensland loyalty is evidenced by the fact only 35 players were used over four years. However, if you consistently underperform you won’t be picked.
Chris McQueen and Dave Taylor appeared twice, made little impact and disappeared. Daly Cherry-Evans topped out with an eight but even that wasn’t enough. Justin O’Neill’s top score of 6.5 and low of four showed a player who never had a brilliant performance, at least not in the eyes of NRL.com.
How long will players like Tim Glasby, Coen Hess and Jarrod Wallace get to show their worth? The exception is Michael Morgan who owns the bench utility role for the foreseeable future. Rating high off the bench is hard, but Morgan will continue to be picked regardless.
The talking point: the forward clean out
This year saw the dropping of four of Queensland’s stalwarts in Sam Thiaday, Nate Myles, Aidan Guerra and Jacob Lillyman after Game 1. At the time there was an impression that time had come for three of the four and that maybe Lillyman was hard done by. This becomes more apparent when you examine their trends in the player ratings over the last four years.
For the purposes of comparison, the player ratings for each game have been charted and a trendline established, with Matt Gillett, one of the survivors of the big purge used a comparison.
It is evident that Gillett’s form has gone up over time, while Thiaday, Guerra and particularly Myles have plummeted.
Lillyman’s form has remained constant, however, and the impression that he was a little stiff has been supported by the data.
So who starred? Corey Parker, Dane Gagai and Cameron Smith have been the consistent performers.
Who stank, stumbled or struggled? Chris McQueen, Dave Taylor and new boys Ben Hunt and Tim Glasby. Will we see them in Maroon again?
Overall, the Queensland players averaged a 6.6/10 over 6.1 games, with a low of five and a high of 10. Unsurprisingly, they have been winners in three of the last four series. Don’t expect the numbers to be so complementary tomorrow when we look at the NSW ratings.