Remember last week when I wrote about how great it was that New South Wales was panicking?
Wow, I sure would look stupid now, if anyone thought I was being sarcastic! But as it turns out, my utterly earnest endorsement of Brad Fittler’s team changes was spot-on. As I predicted, NSW won Game 2 easily thanks to the efforts of the Magnificent Seven brought in by Fittler to replace the useless spuds who let him down in Game 1.
Maloney, J. Trbojevic, T. Ferguson, B. Wighton, J. Saifiti, D. Finucane, D. Graham, W. They all did their state proud, and proved Fittler right when he said, after Game 1, “Piss off you losers, I’m going to bring in some proper players instead.”
But let’s not give all the credit to the new players. As media professionals, we have a duty to also recognise the enormous contribution made to the Blues’ cause by us.
Yes, that’s right. We brave souls of the sporting press won that game, every bit as much as the players on the field, the coaches on the sideline, or the Queenslanders haplessly grasping at thin air.
For it was we fearless interrogators of power and privilege who provided the spark that lit the Blue firecracker in Perth, by telling the New South Wales camp how utterly shambolic it was.
What coach would not pray for the kind of criticism Brad Fittler was subjected to in the last week? What team would not love to be able to plaster its dressing room walls with the kind of motivational fodder provided by almost every media outlet in the land leading up to the second game?
New South Wales was a mess. The series was already gone. The selections smacked of uncontrollable panic (you’re welcome). Blues players, when it comes to the crunch, simply don’t care enough. Queensland know how to do Origin and we don’t and that’s all there is to it.
All this and more was thrown at NSW, and that was just in one Phil Gould column. The commentariat was agreed: it might not be impossible, but it was going to be fiendishly difficult for NSW to grind out a victory and keep the series alive.
And of course this was perfectly correct: NSW didn’t grind out a victory. Instead, they positively obliterated the Queenslanders.
In purely statistical terms, only Game 3 of the 2000 series has seen the Blues deliver a bigger thumping. But that was a victory lap against an already defeated and demoralised opponent. Game 2, 2019, was a gobsmacking reversal against a cocky foe riding high on the back of a superb win in Game 1: there may have never been a more stunning Blue triumph.
And do you really think they could’ve done it without us by their side, carping and complaining and condemning every step of the way? Do you really think the sheer verve and passion displayed by those boys on the sodden western turf would’ve been possible had it not been fuelled by the desire to prove the naysayers wrong?
Pshaw I say. Fie and pshaw. Everyone knows that football teams gain strength from critics, that they forge closer bonds under siege and hurl themselves harder at the contest when they know they’re sticking it to the haters. Just look at how well the Matildas did in the World Cup after everyone questioned their ability to progress deep into the tournament. And how quickly they bombed out once everyone started to believe in them.
Likewise the New South Wales team, having stumbled badly in Game 1 with the media believing they were in prime position to win, breathed fire and saw their enemies scatter before them once it was generally accepted that they’d fallen to pieces.
Which leaves us in the media with a very important duty leading up to the series decider: talk the Blues down at every opportunity. Let’s not change course just when our strategy is bearing fruit. If we want to see the Maroons vanquished, we are going to have to keep slamming Freddy and his charges. There is no other way.
I’ll start: after the euphoria of Game 2, there is no way NSW will be able to fight off the inevitable rush of complacency. With their heads in the clouds, they will be overrun in Game 3, humiliated on their home dungheap.
The fact that Cleary is injured and will be replaced by perennial series-loser Mitchell Pearce just makes their defeat all the more inevitable. It’s sad how badly they are about to let their opportunity slip. Ah well, always next year.
Wink wink. OK, now get to it, Blues.