Maroons rebuild starts on Thursday Roar Guru

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    Maroon fans are doing it tough at the moment, in anticipation of a new winning era – the re-engineering commences this Thursday.

    The 2018 Origin series is lost, and search parties are out trying to fill the sinkhole left by Johnathan Thurston, Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and, next year, Billy Slater.

    It is to be seen if Greg Inglis and Matt Scott will put their hands up for Queensland again.

    If there were a cap on Origin salaries, then Kevin Walters has just lost $5 million. In NRL terms that is more than half your team in value.

    NSW have a population advantage of 2.9 million, and arguably could produce a B-team that would be equal to the team who plays the Maroons on Wednesday night to attempt an undefeated series.

    We have seen enough to suggest that all is not lost for the Sunshine State, and they will have a very young and exciting team next year.

    They are not lacking in talent, only combinations and experience.

    Kalyn Ponga coming in for fullback great Slater is a more than an acceptable start, and if he finishes his season at the Knights as well as he started, then he will make it very difficult to hand the famed Kangaroos No.1 jersey to James Tedesco.

    With the retirement of Slater, the national selectors cannot complain about the calibre of alternatives – they cannot lose!

    It is much easier for the Maroon selectors and Ponga promises to make the same huge impression that his predecessor did; in fact, his figures are more impressive than Slater at the same age.

    Kalyn Ponga

    Kalyn Ponga (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

    David Fifita will be just 19 come next year’s series, and he has only played 97 minutes of NRL, but he will be a ten-year Origin player, and he is that good that he may well start next year on the bench.

    Fifita is of Indigenous Australian and Tongan descent and is as good a schoolboy rugby league player as we have seen in modern times.

    Selectors are typically hesitant to blood their young players at the highest level, but they showed by selecting Ponga in Game 2 that they will invest early if they show enough at NRL level. Ponga did just that and Fifita could easily follow his path.

    Ashley Taylor, 23, is as promising as they come, but co-selector Darryn Lockyer sees “holes in his game” and wants to wait.

    One hole Taylor does not have is his short tactical-kicking game, which is as good as Ricky Stuart and Andrew Johns.

    He has the amazing skill to seemingly always squeeze the ball between ankles and win another seven tackles or a try, something lacking for the Maroons in Game 2 when the game was there to be won.

    He also is a genuine organising halfback, who would complement the running game of Cam Munster. He would also combine well with Daly Cherry-Evans, but one of them moving to pivot won’t happen.

    Ash Taylor

    Photo by Jason O’Brien/Getty Images

    The DCE ‘experiment’ in Game 3 will be interesting, but long term, his best chance appears to be as a utility off the bench.

    Both Munster and DCE are immense talents but logically they are not the long-term answer as they are too similar.

    What coach Walters does at halfback will define exactly how quickly the Maroons win back the interstate trophy. Assuming Munster is the long-term 6, the choice is between Michael Morgan, Cherry-Evans and Taylor as his partner.

    Getting this correct will not only define Queensland’s future, but also will impact if Walters is re-signed beyond next year, as his former Broncos boss Wayne Bennett is also off contract and he may well be in the market for a job.

    Morgan is the likely Queensland captain after Inglis, so it would be unlikely that he is not in the starting 13 somewhere.

    Jai Arrow has been their best forward and he finally wins a starting berth in Game 3. The only surprise is that it took so long! He is not the big middle-forward to succeed Scott, but he has a huge motor and is outstanding with and without the ball.

    Other promising forwards include Junior Kangaroo Jaydn Su’A and Broncos teammate Joe Ofahengaue.

    Certain selections for the 2019 Origin renewal who will not play this Wednesday night are Matt Gillett and Morgan, who may surprise and run out as a centre next year if DCE goes well in Game 3, or it is agreed it’s Taylor time.

    Replacing Cam Smith remains the greatest challenge. In Game 3, the Maroons are expected to cover his hooking position by utilising two players– tackling machine Andrew McCullough, who will start, and then Ben Hunt coming on to create dummy-half runs and hopefully points.

    This strategy will take up an extra interchange just to stay competitive with the Blues’ Damien Cook, who will be an easy selection decision as the next Kangaroo No.9.

    Enjoy Game 3, for Billy Slater walking off at fulltime will be the end of a generational player and an amazing era.

    Thanks for the memories, Billy.

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    The Crowd Says (79)

    • July 9th 2018 @ 8:16am
      Paul said | July 9th 2018 @ 8:16am | ! Report

      The next decade looks to be exciting for both States when you look at the calibre of young players running around the game. NSW has already blooded a lot this year and most look like they could be there for a good 8 or 10 years. Qld clearly has some outstanding talent as you’ve rightly pointed out which might take a year or two to get right, but once it does, there should be some memorable SOO battles.

      Best of luck to Billy in his last SOO game, hopefully it will be a beauty.

      • Roar Guru

        July 10th 2018 @ 4:23pm
        Matt H said | July 10th 2018 @ 4:23pm | ! Report

        Well said Paul, after 10 years or so, the series was getting stale. QLD had once in a generation players but we knew what we were going to get, both from them and from Gallen/Pearce/Farah.

        We now get the chance to see two younger side produce their own legacies over the next 5 years.

    • Roar Guru

      July 9th 2018 @ 8:58am said | July 9th 2018 @ 8:58am | ! Report

      Hi Paul,
      I expect the Blues forwards to change a bit also. Not sure how many more Origins Cordner has left in his dicky legs and I expect Payne Haas to put his hand up early next year.

      • July 9th 2018 @ 1:18pm
        Paul said | July 9th 2018 @ 1:18pm | ! Report

        hi Scott,

        agree Cordner might want to think about having an SOO spell, but there are 8 or 10 guys that could and should form the basis of a pretty useful pack for at least the next 4 or 5 years, assuming their not injured, etc. Guys like Cook, for example, should only get better from his series this year.

        • Roar Guru

          July 9th 2018 @ 3:20pm
 said | July 9th 2018 @ 3:20pm | ! Report

          I dont think Cook can get better and he doesnt have to. he has jumped straight over Cam Smith in Super Coach who is a SC Immortal.
          NSW will always have a good pack as they have so many to choose from. When guys like Merrin dont get a look in thats a good indication of the depth.

          • July 9th 2018 @ 5:58pm
            Paul said | July 9th 2018 @ 5:58pm | ! Report

            Game 3 last year showed me what a great hooker can and should do. Smith took almost complete control of this game from minute 1 and never let up. He knew his stamp had to be on just about everything and it was. This is where I think Cook can go to another level – knowing when it’s his turn to really take over and when it’s the turn of the Maloneys and Clearys (hopefully), to be the dominant game managers

    • July 9th 2018 @ 9:11am
      peeko said | July 9th 2018 @ 9:11am | ! Report

      write more articles please

      • Roar Guru

        July 9th 2018 @ 10:47am said | July 9th 2018 @ 10:47am | ! Report

        Hi peeko,
        Who is your future Maroon spine?

        • July 9th 2018 @ 11:35am
          Peeko said | July 9th 2018 @ 11:35am | ! Report

          Love your work Scott
          I would think Ponga, Munster, Morgan and not sure about 9

          • Roar Guru

            July 9th 2018 @ 11:40am
   said | July 9th 2018 @ 11:40am | ! Report

            My knock on a munster – morgan combo is a last tackle option specialist who can drop the ball on a dime and/or get another 7 tackles.
            This is why Taylor is my man, they needed him big time in G2.

            • July 9th 2018 @ 11:56am
              peeko said | July 9th 2018 @ 11:56am | ! Report

              good point, there is probably a chance that one of them could play in the centres

              • Roar Guru

                July 10th 2018 @ 10:02am
       said | July 10th 2018 @ 10:02am | ! Report

                Morgan has already played centre at Origin level; he actually has the perfect build for a centre and is strong with genuine pace.

              • Roar Guru

                July 10th 2018 @ 4:27pm
                Matt H said | July 10th 2018 @ 4:27pm | ! Report

                Morgan at right centre, utilising his evasive skills and flick pass is attractive. He might also put in a decent kick, unlike Chambers.

                Long term, the spine might yet end up with Munster at the back, Ponga at number 6 and Taylor at 7. We need to discover a new hooker but for now McCullough is the best we have. Hunt can’t go 80 minutes at hooker.

                Short term I think it might be Ponga, Munster, DCE with Morgan at centre, with McCullough at 9 and Hunt on the bench.

            • July 10th 2018 @ 9:35am
              Larry1950 said | July 10th 2018 @ 9:35am | ! Report

              Sorry Scott but Taylor’s game against the Broncos showed he’s still a fair way off origin level game management. The hype was there pre-game with a bit on the line & he was abysmal. Think he’s going to get there eventually but Morgan, when not hampered by a groin injury, has him covered. Big body in defence also helps.
              I’d go Hunt at 9 until someone else stands up, McCullough has lost any zip he had & there are plenty of tacklers around of similar mood.

              • Roar Guru

                July 10th 2018 @ 10:06am
       said | July 10th 2018 @ 10:06am | ! Report

                Correct mate, he had a season low last week although he had no help from his forwards. Its there, his coaches and his minders just need to bring out his best and keep it there.
                I think he will make it.

    • July 9th 2018 @ 9:21am
      jimmmy said | July 9th 2018 @ 9:21am | ! Report

      Good article Scott. I agee with most of what you say, As far as a future half back goes ( although certainly not in the next couple of years ) I have a lot of time for Brody Croft with the caveat that he is an atrocious read in defence. It truly is a glaring weakness that he needs to overcome . You can miss quiet a few tackles as a half (see JT and Locky ) but you must make contact . You can’t miss read the attackers . JT and Locky always made contact even if it wasn’t always effective .
      Croft needs to cement a starting first grade spot first of course but I see enormous potential in him if he can learn to defend. Otherwise I don’t see any long term QLD 7 running around atm

      • Roar Guru

        July 9th 2018 @ 10:54am said | July 9th 2018 @ 10:54am | ! Report

        Crofty has had some great coaches so he can find that improvement, not to mention Cronk when he was at the Storm. If anybody to improve him it is Craig Bellamy.
        That said, he is a better defender than Blues Maloney who has set new records in my system for missed tackles and poor Tackle Effectiveness %.
        Young halfs can improve quickiy under the right coaches.
        In 2015 a very young Jarome Luai only avg 1.8 missed tackles compared to his team mate Nathan Cleary at 2.3. Cleary actually missed 5 tackles prior to his Junior Aust debut.

        • July 9th 2018 @ 11:06am
          Graham said | July 9th 2018 @ 11:06am | ! Report

          Taylor is already there apart from his mistake rate. His tries, assists, line breaks, lb break assists already compare favourably to Lockyer, johns and Thurston and he already a good organizer
          His defensive misreads aren’t that frequent but 2.5 errors and a pen every game is way too high.
          If he can halve his mistake rate he will be a once in a generation half back in front of ponga who is a once in a generation full back

          • Roar Guru

            July 9th 2018 @ 11:22am
   said | July 9th 2018 @ 11:22am | ! Report

            No doubt Taylor has the god given silky skills. He looks to me like he has just eaten half dozen pizzas, and maybe fitness is also a contribution to his defence, which largely is attitude and technique.

            • July 9th 2018 @ 11:37am
              Graham said | July 9th 2018 @ 11:37am | ! Report

              As much as I’d like to see titans do well he needs to be picked up by a big club to perfect his game.

              • Roar Guru

                July 9th 2018 @ 11:42am
       said | July 9th 2018 @ 11:42am | ! Report

                To be fair, he has improved his game at the Titans, but he now must go that next step.

      • July 9th 2018 @ 11:15am
        Snoop Bloggy blog said | July 9th 2018 @ 11:15am | ! Report

        I can’t see Croft playing Origin but he does have some great attributes. Ponga would excel in the halves because he’s like a stronger faster version of Quade Cooper. His ball playing abilities are already slicker and more natural than nearly all the halves in the comp. The way he moves and his subtlety close to the ruck remind me of JT but he’s much quicker. He’s got a great short and long kicking game, something we sorely lacked in games 1 and 2. He floats passes and brings runners onto the ball with precision. His talents are a little wasted at the back. We have Munster, Morgan, Ponga, Hunt, Taylor and DCE so surely we can get a combination out of that. Maloney’s close to the finish line and who will step into his void for the blues? Cleary’s a good player but he’s had minimal impact on the games especially for a half. The future looks far brighter for the Maroons to me.

        • July 9th 2018 @ 1:17pm
          jimmmy said | July 9th 2018 @ 1:17pm | ! Report

          Yeah but fullbacks often play second receiver these days, do you really want Ponga to get the ball one off the ruck. He will not be the organising half QLD needs . He is an out and out fullback for mine . Maybe when he is older and slower he can do a Locky but for now he replaces Billly at the back . That doesn’t mean he can’t be a ball player for QLD. The modern fullback doesn’t just sit back and wait for it to come to them.

          • Roar Guru

            July 9th 2018 @ 3:40pm
   said | July 9th 2018 @ 3:40pm | ! Report

            Spot on.

          • Roar Guru

            July 10th 2018 @ 4:29pm
            Matt H said | July 10th 2018 @ 4:29pm | ! Report

            Fair call, but I would like Munster’s kamikaze style runs from fullback.

        • Roar Guru

          July 9th 2018 @ 3:39pm
 said | July 9th 2018 @ 3:39pm | ! Report

          I have seen everyone of Ponga’s games since he game into U20s and despite his class and what he did in Origin 2, he is a fullback and ONLY a fullback.
          I have seen him several times playing 6 with Brandon Smith as the hooker, and he simply is not the same player as when a 1.

          • July 9th 2018 @ 3:54pm
            Snoop Bloggy blog said | July 9th 2018 @ 3:54pm | ! Report

            You’re probably right and it’s a bit of wishful thinking. I just like the time he has with the ball and fullback restricts that a bit.

    • Roar Guru

      July 9th 2018 @ 9:22am
      Adam said | July 9th 2018 @ 9:22am | ! Report

      Have to agree that Ash Taylor has some flaws in his game. If anything he has a tendency to try a little bit too hard. Like yesterday when they got a penalty and there was no fullback he kicked in behind the defensive line. I wasn’t necessarily adverse to the idea if his team was doing well, but they were tired and being well beaten at the time. It was time to get some decent distance into touch and take a set to get some better field position.

      • Roar Guru

        July 9th 2018 @ 10:59am said | July 9th 2018 @ 10:59am | ! Report

        Agree 100% mate, and that is what Lockyer probably had concerns over.
        Note that he gets little help from his forwards and to be at the top for Try Assists two years straight in a low rated team is a massive contribution.

    • Roar Guru

      July 9th 2018 @ 9:39am
      Nat said | July 9th 2018 @ 9:39am | ! Report

      Always respect your analysis Scott.
      This was just one of those sliding doors years for Qld and while I, as a Qlder, never want to lose, NSW produced a good team and backed it up when it mattered. If Qld field their best possible team in G1 with a decent prep then G2 could have been it different story with a rookie team under that sort of pressure. But for a few conversations and G3 would heap that same pressure leading into Suncorp. That said, NSW could argue similar points many times over the last few years.

      The days of 4,5,6,7… series wins is over. Like the Saints/Souths of the last generation, we were fortunate enough to witness an extra ordinary team come together as 22yo, grow and stay healthy for a long period. Qld will be more settled next year and NSW will be more mature as well. Whether it’s DCE, Morgan, Hunt or Taylor at #7, they are all quality. McCullough was as effective as Cook in G2. Chambers had a series to forget but unlikely to happen twice but with Gagai/Morgan and Holmes/Oates, the right side will be ok.

      One matchup I’m particularly interested in is how Gagai matches up against Jet in this last one. GI kept him pretty quiet but the bloke only needs half a meter and Gagai did have a couple of poor misses on JAC and Jet is much stronger. A little selfish (now this series is done) I hope Jet has a good one for his/Broncos season confidence.

      • Roar Guru

        July 9th 2018 @ 11:07am said | July 9th 2018 @ 11:07am | ! Report

        Thanks Nat,
        Any side that does not consider the talent of Milford has a lot going for them.
        DCE is a special player but he needs the right people around him to bring his skill out. I expect Billy Slater to play a 2nd 5/8th role and do all the talking which may help DCE and bring out his best. This spine can work on Wed, but long term I would never settle of this 6 and 7 together especially when Ponga comes in next year.
        I admire McCullough immensely for what he brings to a team, but the modern day hooker must have a running game which is why I was against Peats for NSW last year.

        • Roar Guru

          July 9th 2018 @ 1:57pm
          Nat said | July 9th 2018 @ 1:57pm | ! Report

          Ha, yeah my bad and he’s even in my team. The biggest issue is not talent but finding those right combinations. DCE may just be that mature component that Lockyer was when JT came through (without comparing them). Morgan has shown he can lead a team effectively and has learned from the best.

          • Roar Guru

            July 9th 2018 @ 3:34pm
   said | July 9th 2018 @ 3:34pm | ! Report

            I am a big Morgan fan but he is not your pure General and if Munster is going to be the 6, then I would want an expert last tackle exponent with a superb long and short tactical kicking game.

            • Roar Guru

              July 9th 2018 @ 5:23pm
              Nat said | July 9th 2018 @ 5:23pm | ! Report

              See I’m not 100% sold on Munster at 5/8. I see him as a center which he has been running as for sometime just with an organised Cronk and Slater running around him. I believe Morgan showed plenty at #7 last year. Top 5 in total kicks and KM + 40/20s, 18 forced drop outs. Lead the way in TA and scored plenty himself. I’d argue he has better game management then Munster and if he finds that type of form again, it opens up a myriad of options for that 5/8 role. Options are good but they do need to be found and settled ASAP.

        • July 9th 2018 @ 2:38pm
          Jewboy said | July 9th 2018 @ 2:38pm | ! Report

          The Storm are grooming a young hooker called Brandon Smith….coincidently….who is a good hard all round aggressive and also has a good running and kicking game.
          He played for the Cowboys under 20 side before going to the storm.
          I don’t know if he is elegible to play for Qld. but if he is he would be one to keep an eye on for the future.
          Anyone who had Cameron Smith as his mentor would come with good credentials

          • Roar Guru

            July 9th 2018 @ 3:31pm
   said | July 9th 2018 @ 3:31pm | ! Report

            You are a good judge.
            I will be surprised if he does not represent NZ against the Kangaroos this year.