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Five talking points heading into Origin 3

Eddie Otto Roar Guru

By Eddie Otto, Eddie Otto is a Roar Guru

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    The Blues will be out for a rare series sweep but more pressure lies on the home side at Suncorp Stadium tonight.

    1. Cherry-Evans takes centre stage
    The stakes are highest for recalled Queensland halfback Daly Cherry-Evans. At 29 years of age, Cherry-Evans needs a Queensland victory to put a mortgage on the halfback spot for next year’s series, or he risks being cast aside for good.

    On pure talent and class, he is Queensland’s best halfback, however he has had a mixed few years, with continual snubs, a mediocre season at Manly, as well as tirades directed at him from former teammate Anthony Watmough.

    With the likes of Kayln Ponga and Ash Taylor on the horizon, Cherry-Evans needs to put in a commanding performance to convince the Queensland public that he is capable of lifting his game to the next level.

    2. Farewell Billy the Kid
    Billy Slater will play his final game for Queensland and, fittingly, captain his state for the first time.

    Slater will go down as an all-time great, having revolutionised the way the fullback role is played, with his all-action displays in attack and defence lifting the bar.

    While it’s perhaps easier to maintain form as a 34-year-old in the halves or at hooker, it’s more remarkable for a fullback to be near the peak of his powers, which Slater remains.

    His impact coming into both series in Game 2 in 2017 and 2018 was immediate, and it’s a credit to his mental determination and professionalism that he has returned in such great form, despite missing nearly two years of footy with serious shoulder injuries.

    Billy Slater runs the ball for the Maroons in State of Origin

    Billy Slater (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

    3. Walters looks like a man feeling the strain
    It’s a big game for Kevin Walters too, who has been under pressure this series and looked emotionally drained when he lashed out at the social media criticism of his team.

    He has had a tough year, after quitting his assistant role at the Broncos, and dealing with a number of team disruptions with the Maroons, including the shock retirement of Cameron Smith.

    While losing his first series in his third year in charge could hardly be considered a disaster, getting swept at home would not go down well.

    4. Clean sweep a rare chance for Blues
    Last time the Blues won a series was back in 2014, and they found themselves in the same situation 2-0, heading to Queensland with talk that the Maroons’ era of dominance was over.

    They were subsequently belted 32-8 at Suncorp Stadium, then lost the next three series.

    It’s not imperative the Blues win Game 3, as clean sweeps are hard to come by, with just two achieved in the last 21 years, despite the domination of Queensland. However it is a golden opportunity to really put a dagger into a fragile Maroons set up.

    This NSW team has plenty of young players bound to get better, and winning in Queensland would be a major psychological blow ahead of next year’s series.

    5. Cleary looks to make his mark
    Nathan Cleary is probably going to be the Blues’ halfback for many years to come. He has done well this series, however has been far from a standout.

    The treatment Queensland dished out to Ben Hunt, dropping their halfback after two games, and also the way Mitchell Pearce has become the whipping boy for NSW shows the scrutiny halfbacks come under when their team doesn’t win. The fact that NSW are up 2-0 has helped Cleary ease into a role he has not truly commanded in either game to date.

    But with the series wrapped up, he will be looking to have more impact in attack in Game 3 and share more responsibilities with James Maloney.

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    The Crowd Says (5)

    • July 11th 2018 @ 11:32am
      Paul said | July 11th 2018 @ 11:32am | ! Report

      I don’t know that I agree with Cleary probably being the NSW half for years to come, Eddie. I’d like to, given the form he displayed late last year and early this year, but I rated him a 5/6 in game one and a 6 in game 2, which is not what you want from one of your key playmakers.

      Lots of people have talked about him “easing into the role”, but the guys who were really great didn’t ease in, they grabbed their opportunity with two hands and basically took over the running of the team. Sterling, Mortimer, Langer, these guys all took charge and as you say, this is what Cleary needs to do this game, especially if Qld threatens to get on top.

      • July 11th 2018 @ 2:47pm
        Eddie Otto said | July 11th 2018 @ 2:47pm | ! Report

        Fair points Paul. However its much easier to grow into a winning side. My point mainly was if NSW were 2-0 down right now he would be getting some of the Mitchell Pearce treatment. Like you said I thought he was quiet for periods in both games. However given the Blues are 2-0 up it allows players space and time to grow into their roles without the intense scrutiny that coms with losing.

    • Roar Rookie

      July 11th 2018 @ 12:26pm
      catcat said | July 11th 2018 @ 12:26pm | ! Report

      Walters looks like a man feeling the strain

      He certainly does, the bloke has no poker face whatsoever

    • July 11th 2018 @ 2:49pm
      Eddie Otto said | July 11th 2018 @ 2:49pm | ! Report

      catcat I like Walters he just seems like a really nice guy. However nice guys do not always make the best coaches. He is feeling the strain its obvious in his demeanour – , and this is his first series loss. I thought he has made some bizarre selections calls in both series whether or not he was overruled by the selectors or not I’m not sure.

    • July 11th 2018 @ 3:55pm
      Forty Twenty said | July 11th 2018 @ 3:55pm | ! Report

      I agree with Walters 100% about social media but it’s probably best not to attack the cowardly key board warriors as it just makes them worse. Andrew Webster thinks it’s just a matter of time before someone is taken to court over their abusive nonsense and the sooner it happens the better.

      My opinion on Nathan Cleary has been largely inflicted on me by the experts but in the back of my mind I haven’t quite understood the hype if that’s the word. DCE in his early years was a certified match winner and I could see how he was hyped up. Cleary’s poise and maturity is a great asset and I hope for NSW that he does become the long term half.

      The other player who used to be described as bound for SOO by better judges than me is Jack Wighton and I just couldn’t see it myself for a long time. Recently however I saw more of the player they were talking about.

      I recall Luke Lewis playing on the wing and getting described as a SOO type player and although it wasn’t so apparent to me that’s what he was.

      It borders on amusing that the losing coach in SOO cops a lot of grief from the punters. Walters is suffering from a GOAT shortage and no amount of chalk on a black board and frothing at the mouth can change that.

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