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Why NSW lost Game 1 and how to fix it

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Roar Rookie
5th November, 2020
59
1496 Reads

I woke up with a decision to make: write a timely Game 1 article that will actually be read by people or let my fury fade away slightly in the hopes of writing something other than just mad ramblings.

I started writing this somewhere in between and got progressively angrier the more I wrote.

There are numerous problems with the Blues’ performance and (excuse my fury) while the Maroons played better in the second half, New South Wales lost the game more than Queensland won it.

With that being said, if you’re a Blues fan, take a ride of anger and sadness with me while I look at what the Blues got wrong and the changes they should make for the next game. If you’re a Queenslander you can laugh at me while you read. There’s something for everyone here, folks.

The kicking game and halves’ lack of direction
Though these are two separate issues, it would be weird not to combine them as they are inextricably linked. Let’s be real, Nathan Cleary and Luke Keary were horrible.

It seemed like every one of their kicks either made no distance and if they did they went down the Maroons throats. I honestly couldn’t even tell Cleary was playing and the only reason I knew Keary was playing was because of the mistakes he made. I think the Sydney Morning Herald’s rating of 5 and 5.5 for Keary and Cleary respectively are charitable.

Every kick was rushed, barely getting it off before being crunched by the defence — not due to great QLD line speed — but a lack of clear NSW leadership. It looked like Keary didn’t want to step on Cleary’s toes, having been the halfback for NSW last two series wins.

Cleary, in the big games at least, seems far too often happy to take the back seat to his Halves partner. There is no better evidence than the grand final in which the forty game veteran Jerome Luai outplayed him.

My solution? Maybe, just maybe, the Dally-M player of the year should be in his position. Crazy, I know. Put Dan Wighton at five-eighth. Make it known that Cleary is the leader and main ball player. Let Wighton attack and get the ball in his hands often. Allow him to play what’s in front of him. I think the more ball Wighton gets the better. This solution leads me to another of the Blues issues I saw in Game 1

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Josh Papalii of the Maroons is tackled

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Left-side defence
I don’t mean to sound like Paul Kent screaming about Cam Smith’s retirement or lack there of. Boyd Cordner has been a warrior for years and has consistently been one of the NRL’s best second-rowers, captaining both state and country. However, he just is not the player he used to be.

While he was strong in his runs, he looked like he was stuck in mud in defence. Not to mention he copped yet another head knock, adding to the truly worrying tally he has picked up. I doubt he will be dropped due to being captain, but if the decision was based solely on his performance (not to mention his health) he should be.

Next to Cordner, we have Keary whose effort, while valiant, is not enough. His size makes it impossible for him to be anything but a defensive liability and his offence was did not make up for it. Keary demands both the second row and centre to be perfect defensively to cover his holes. When that second-rower isn’t what he used to be and the centre isn’t a centre, you leak missed tackles like a broken tap, just as they did.

How does New South Wales fix it? Unfortunately, it looks like Murray might be injured for Game 2, so putting him on the edge is pointless. I would start Crichton at second row after being one of our strongest in the 45 minutes he played with 80 metres and 30 tackles. Next to him at five-eighth would be Wighton. Wighton had an off game last night missing an astounding eight tackles. He’s shown he can defend better at centre than he did but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s a five-eighth. The NRL’s best this season. Put him in his position.

Next to him would be Penrith’s Stephen Crichton. While young, he’s shown he can hang with the best of them, dangerous every time he has the ball and strong in defence. Most importantly, he actually is a centre.

With Keary dropped, Daniel Tupou goes with him. He was fine, only starting to play really well after his game altering mistake which led to a Queensland try that I can’t forgive him for. If you read my last article then you would know I never wanted him in the team after his 2015 performance. So, with his combination with Keary gone, Nick Cotric slots into the wing. You can’t tell me that a Angus Crichton-Wighton-Crichton-Cotric edge doesn’t sound better than Cordner-Keary-Wighton-Tupou. I think it makes the Blues a better team.

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Lack of Aggression
One thing I thought was really lacking from the Blues forwards especially was aggression. Perhaps it was just the lacklustre energy surrounding the game due to it being at the end of the season and in weird Adelaide day-light, but the Blues were missing something. I think it was exactly what David Klemmer provides.

I know Klemmer isn’t in the Squad so its mute, but he is what we were missing. This isn’t to say that Daniel Saifiti and Junior Paulo were bad. I thought they both played really well, yet they were quiet. Klemmer is in your face. He lets it be known that he’s running at you and, it seems at least, that he really wants to deal some damage to his target.

Maybe Saifiti and Paulo can bring that with a change in mindset in Game 2, but I just don’t think that’s their personality. Seeing Klemmer isn’t in the squad, there is only one change I can think to make; bring Reagan Campbell-Gillard into the team. He would start with Paulo pushed to the bench. I think Campbell-Gillard is the kind of hard running, aggressive front rower that is made for State of Origin. He was a stand-out for parramatta this season and has earned his spot.

Payne Haas lacks impact off the bench and I can see Junior Paulo’s adept footwork, power and offloads would be hard for Queensland to deal with off the bench. A Saifiti/Campbell-Gillard duo is one that provides the blues with some mongrel and is exactly what they were missing, not to mention I think Paulo is a better impact player than Haas is.

The last Thirty Seconds of the Game
This probably isn’t the time to do it and I will write something solely focused rule changes later but what the hell was the refereeing at the end of the game?

The issue is clear. Kaufusi commits a professional foul, knowing it is it was advantageous to his team with only 15 seconds left. He is then allowed to take an age to walk off the field.

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Then with seven or so seconds left, James Tedesco is tackled and five Maroons just pile on, committing a penalty (which wasn’t given) that should have been a professional foul and wasting more time. Not to mention that Teddy still managed to play the ball in time and Sutton decided the game was over anyway.

A truly mind melting finish to a game that already had me weeping peering at the TV through my fingers.

Damien Cook of the Blues celebrates after scoring a try

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

There are a few changes I would make. Firstly, a player must jog off the field quickly when sent to the sin bin. You can put a timer on it. ten seconds, whatever it may be. If he fails to do so, send him off. In regards to time wasting and professional fouls, there are two options I can think of. One, 30 seconds is added to the clock if a professional foul is committed in the last minute. Ten seconds left when a professional foul is committed? Now there is forty.

It would deter teams from giving away such penalties and actually gives the team the penalty was committed against an advantage. The second option is that the team the penalty is committed against gets to complete their set of six even after the siren has sounded. Purposeful ruck infringement on the second tackle with five seconds left? Doesn’t matter. Finish the set. I think either do pretty much the same thing and would stop occasions like the end of Game 1.

My NSW 17 for Game 2
1. Tedesco
2. Cotric
3. Crichton
4. Gutherson
5. Addo-Carr
6. Wighton
7. Cleary
8. Saifiti
9. Cook
10. Campbell-Gillard
11. Crichton
12. Frizell
13. Trbojevic
14. Papenhuyzen (if Healthy) or Walker
15. Paulo
16. Yeo
17. Murray (if Healthy he starts and Angus Crichton on the bench) or Haas

I doubt most if any changes will be made apart from injury-forced one’s but I’m an angry New South Welshmen and I think this would be the best side the Blues could field. Let me know what changes you would make, what you thought of the game, tell me I’m a fool or just scream Queenslander in the comments below.