This article follows on from my recent article ‘The Australian coaches dream team‘ and this time I have selected a team made up of some of the great players who have coached either New South Wales or Queensland since State of Origin began in 1980.
The Queensland Maroons have pulled off a memorable upset in Origin 1, downing the NSW Blues with a second-half comeback to win the series opener 18-14.
There were some standout performances from the men in Maroon, who had been largely written off pre-game.
Here’s how each of the 17 Queensland players rated.
1. AJ Brimson: 8/10
There were concerns when Kalyn Ponga was ruled out for the series, but Maroons supporters need not have worried. Brimson slotted into fullback on debut like a seasoned Origin pro. Solid in defence and under the high ball, dangerous in attack, and chipped in with the tide-turning try thanks to some good support play. Belongs at this level.
2. Xavier Coates: 6
Coates was another debutant to grab a try in his first Origin. Made a couple of errors and was lucky to get bailed out by a Dane Gagai try-saver after he slipped in defence in the first half, but was otherwise solid. His evident joy in playing for the Maroons was heartwarming.
3. Dane Gagai: 9
Another Origin, another standout performance from Gagai. He was a rock in defence, and did all the hard work in creating Coates’ try. Superb from the veteran.
18. Kurt Capewell: 9
The pick of the debutants. Troubled Clint Gutherson all night, and his fend, break and chip to set up Brimson’s try was remarkable. The Blues did find some joy attacking to his edge, but that’s the only thing preventing him from getting a ten. And to think this bloke wasn’t even picked in the 17 last week.
5. Phillip Sami: 6
The one Queensland back who didn’t really have his way. Made a careless error under the high ball and NSW scored two of their tries down his edge – although the problems there admittedly started further infield. Made nearly 150 running metres though.
6. Cameron Munster: 8
Quiet first half, brilliant second half. Munster’s accurate kicking helped pin NSW deep in their own territory after the break, and he constantly tested the defence with ball in hand. Grabbed an opportunistic try as well, which proved to be the winner.
7. Daly Cherry-Evans: 9
Who’d have thought after his shank of a kick for goal right in front in the first half that Cherry-Evans would win the game for Queensland from the tee? His two sideline conversions – from a spot where Nathan Cleary just missed an attempt of his own – were crucial.
Add to that some superb game management in the second half, 35 tackles made and just one missed (for a halfback!), lots of probing runs, and you have a deserving player of the match.
8. Christian Welch: 7
Didn’t play a lot of minutes and his stats sheet isn’t great, but Welch still made a strong impact. Forced the offload which led to Munster’s try with a big, rush-up hit on Daniel Tupou. Was taken off with a head knock, and the Maroons will be hoping he’s fit for Game 2.
9. Jake Friend: 6
Friend’s service wasn’t too crisp to start off, and he made a couple of careless errors, but he improved as the game went on. Made a few nice darts up the middle, and stuck a mammoth 54 tackles.
10. Josh Papalii: 8
One does not simply tackle Josh Papalii one-on-one. The big prop bent the line every time he touched the ball, drawing in plenty of defenders. Threw a forward pass, but didn’t miss a tackle.
11. Felise Kaufusi: 7
A strong showing from the second-rower. Made good metres with ball in hand, and only missed one tackle.
12. Coen Hess: 4
Probably the one Maroon in danger of losing his place in the side next week. He made his tackles, but offered no impact running the ball. Benched after the half-hour and didn’t return.
13. Tino Faasuamaleaui: 7
Made more running metres than any other Queensland forward. Came up with a defensive error for the Blues’ second try, but it was still a solid showing on debut.
14. Ben Hunt: 7
Put in a really strong half-hour stint from the bench, which included a nice little bust in the lead-up to Coates’ try. Queensland improved when he was on the park.
15. Lindsay Collins: 7
Strong running the ball, his impact was key in the Maroons turning the game around.
16. Jai Arrow: 7
Built for Origin. Went at nearly ten metres per run, and while he missed a few tackles, he also put some big hits on the Blues.
17. Jaydn Su’A: 6
Like Arrow, Su’A made about ten metres every time he ran the ball. Was fairly accurate in defence, but he also came up with a couple of errors.