The modern NRL coach speaks a lot about effort in post match interviews.
When the NSW and Queensland coaches were asked for a reason to explain their respective losses, they pointed to a shortfall by their players in ‘the effort areas.’
If a player represents their state in what is arguably the most intense contest in the world of rugby league, it is safe to assume that players are going to give a reasonable effort for the 80-minute duration.
How much effort is put in by each individual is the subject of intense scrutiny.
Modern sports science and high level video analysis enables coaching staff to drill down on a player and retrieve hard data to determine whether the effort was sufficient to justify continued selection.
Following widespread speculation on the reasons why Latrell Mitchell was omitted from the NSW Blues team for Origin 2 by coach Fittler, the NRL media team released a series of video clips highlighting areas where the Roosters centre could have done more in Origin 1.
It was no surprise that the Blues’ 38-6 demolition of the Maroons in Perth was backed up by the numbers in the Telstra Tracker. The technology showed that overall the NSW players averaged a higher intensity for ball-in-play time.
The tracker’s data driven player of the match was Mitchell’s replacement at left centre, Jack Wighton. Centre and middle forwards were the positions where the Blues showed superiority in terms of work rate.
Queensland coach Kevin Walters has made three changes to the team that was humbled in Origin 2. While Kalyn Ponga’s injury will force a reshuffle, two forwards, Dylan Napa and Jarrod Wallace, have been dropped.
After Fittler made a number of changes for the Perth game, Walters was slightly smug in summing up the Queensland ‘pick and stick’ philosophy pointing out that loyalty has always been Queensland’s greatest asset to the media.
‘We’ve been very loyal. I have a great belief in this team and the only changes we’ve had have been forced,” Walters said.
To be fair to Kevvie one of the changes was to facilitate the return from injury of Joe Ofengahue who played a part in the Maroons victory in Game 1.
Queensland’s proud Origin record is on the line and despite the coach whisperer inspired rhetoric from Walters about looking forward to the game and being excited about the opportunity, he would understandably be feeling the pressure of potentially losing a series for the second year in a row.
In response to the selection changes Walters said to media “We’ve got to make tough calls sometimes, we weren’t up to scratch in Game 2.”
The cliché about a week being a lifetime in sport applies to NSW coach Freddy Fittler as he continues to bask in the knowledge that his team selections for Game 2 were spot on.
This time it’s the NSW coach who remained loyal to players that did the job in Perth to the point of not recalling David Klemmer to his squad. How much NSW miss Klemmer’s aggression and strong hit ups remains to be seen. As one of many who criticised Freddy for his selections in Game 2, I’m going to keep shtum on this one.
It may not be an issue, with Tariq Sims still to be cleared of suspension at the time of writing.
With Nathan Cleary a possible omission due to injury Fittler has the ideal replacement with Wade Graham who was just marvellous in Perth. If Cleary plays, Freddy has a solid halves pairing that are used to working together and the knowledge he can unleash the talented Graham onto the Maroons defence at any time.
With Ponga out injured Walters is keeping his cards close to his chest as to the exact line up that will take the field in Sydney. While Ponga’s impact for the Maroons this series has been largely restricted to the second half of Game 1 in Brisbane, it is the potential he brings in attack they will miss.
I’m sure the Blues won’t be unhappy that Kalyn is not roaming out on the edge at ANZ Stadium.
The question is whether Kevvie breaks up his halves pairing that were successful in Brisbane by sending Munster back to fullback. There are three other possibilities for the number one jumper.
Debutant Corey Norman and the Cowboys Michael Morgan, both playing in the halves currently at club level, or Moses Mbye who was shifted to centre from fullback recently at Wests Tigers.
If it was up to this wannabe conservative coach I would plump for the move that causes the least disruption. Mbye to fullback, Norman to start on the bench as a way of easing him into the Origin arena and Munster and Morgan to retain the positions they have played for the last two matches.
In the lead up to the decider, the Maroons will look to reproduce that famous Queensland spirit and comradeship. They may again shout out Queenslander! as they walk down the tunnel at ANZ Stadium. Freddy might instruct his squad to practice positive mindfulness so as they bring the right emotions into the game.
On Wednesday July 10 2019 in Sydney, the key to victory is likely to have a harder scientific edge, devoid of emotion or bias. Lifting the State of Origin shield at the end of the game will be the team that tops the effort and intensity numbers recorded in the ‘tracker.’