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.
Rugby league in Australia has officially come to an end this year. Following a tumultuous year that has been 2020, a State of Origin series was the best way to end a challenging season for everyone involved in the NRL.
As Queensland goes nuts today for regaining the State of Origin trophy, here are my takeaways from the 2020 series.
Cameron Munster is irreplaceable
Whether it be for the Melbourne Storm or the Maroons, no-one can replace Cameron Munster. He stepped up when Queensland needed him in the second half of Game 1 and was missed after failing his head impact assessment in Game 2. Come the decider at a packed Suncorp Stadium, Munster cranked his game into fifth and sixth gear. Every single time he had the ball you could feel Queensland were on the attack. This is arguably Munster’s best game of his rugby league career to date.
Where was Papenhuyzen?
Ryan Papenhuyzen should’ve been on the bench at Suncorp. You cannot leave out an NRL championship-winning fullback for the whole series and expect to get away with it. The minute James Tedesco went off and Isaiah Yeo came on as right centre it was evident that New South Wales would be exposed on their right edge. To go into an Origin decider with four forwards on the bench is a massive gamble. Clint Gutherson has won only one NRL finals game, while Papenhuyzen has turned up in the big games for the Storm over the past two seasons. NSW only missed Tedesco in the decider because Papenhuyzen’s attacking threat wasn’t even on the bench.
The media need to stop beating up the Maroons
I’ve seen media outlets write off the Maroons before many Origin series, but it’s never been as bad as it was this year. Perhaps the lack of success by Queensland-based clubs in the NRL was a factor. Either way, this Queensland side thrived on the fact that they were entirely written off, let alone the underdogs. And now that they’ve won the series, boy are they lapping it up on social media. And why wouldn’t they, considering the flak they received from outside the bubble.
In some ways the media beat-up of the Maroons reminds me of a particular Test series in 2014. Former England skipper Michael Vaughan called the Sri Lankan bowlers a glorified county attack as the Lankans prepared for a two-Test series against England in the British Isles. Sri Lanka would end up winning 1-0, and Vaughan ate his words. In conclusion, stop writing offsides before the game has started, or else you’ll live to regret it.
Playing players out of position doesn’t help your cause, Freddy
New South Wales selected two specialist centres in their squad. Neither Zac Lomax nor Stephen Crichton played a minute of Origin 2020, left out for five-eighth Jack Wighton and fullback Clint Gutherson to play as left and right centre. This would be one of the selection blunders by Brad Fittler that would cost the Blues the series.
With James Maloney stuck in Europe, there was only one man who could lead NSW to victory at five-eighth, yet instead he was playing left-centre for the majority of the series. On what basis is Dally M winner Jack Wighton ignored in his specialist position? Wighton was instrumental towards the Raiders knocking out the Sharks and Roosters in the 2020 NRL finals series but played only a handful of minutes at five-eighth following Cody Walker’s injury in State of Origin 2020.
Harry Grant will become a superstar
As a Melbourne Storm fan I’m frothing over the choices the Storm have at dummy-half. Grant’s season at the Wests Tigers proved that loan deals should happen more often in the NRL to allow players to develop. In the decider Grant was the impact player Queensland needed. Alongside Munster, the Storm dummy-half didn’t hesitate to take on the Blues defence, running rings around the Blues with his running and kicking game before scoring a try on debut.
Grant’s temperament in the Origin decider proves that he’s ready for the big games. After seeing that performance from the commentary box at Suncorp Stadium, Cameron Smith may as well hang up the boots and start getting involved in coaching, because now it’s Harry Grant’s time to shine.