Penrith is strongly favoured by bookmakers to defeat Queensland in this year’s State of Origin series.
The series, which was previously known as New South Wales vs Queensland, has been renamed this year to more accurately reflect the composition of the Blues squad. Penrith is also now one of the only places left in New South Wales where no Queensland player (past or present) was born, and the NRL was reportedly advised by lawyers to rename the series accordingly.
A source close to the Penrith camp spoke of how the home of the Panthers is proud to be the last fortress carrying the flag for the Blue state. One club insider said:
“Mate, we’re the last bastion that has held out against the Queensland selection tide. Other parts of NSW have fallen like dominos over the years. I remember the dim distant past when Queensland stopped at the Barwon and Macintyre Rivers. Then it started, the northern tablelands fell first with Billy Moore (born Tenterfield) donning Maroon”
“Then they come down to the mid-north coast to claim Bartrim (Wayne Bartrim – born Hat Head) and GI (Greg Inglis – born Bowraville). The Central Tablelands fell last year with big Tino’s selection (Tino Fa’asuamaleaui – born Orange). They closed in on Sydney and before too long, the North Shore crossed over when “Schlossy’s shoe” (Julian O’Neill – born Hornsby) joined the Cane Toads. We then watched on helplessly as Mat Rogers (born Sutherland shire) surrendered the southern suburbs, followed by southwest Sydney a decade ago when Izzy got an XXXX jersey (Israel Folau – born Minto).”
“And believe me, they’ve got close to the ‘Riff in the past, like when they come over the mountains to take Robbie “O Save Us” (Robbie O’Davis – born Kurrajong). But we held them out. Other parts of Sydney weren’t so lucky with Welch-ey (Christian Welch), Slammin’ Sam (Sam Thaiday) and Mick Crocker (all born in Sydney) rolling over. I tell you, we’ve been under assault. On one side, we’ve got a mouse plague threatening to come over the range, and on the other, we’ve got Queensland selectors coming from every direction. But Penrith is tough and resilient!”
Just how precarious things have become was evident when videos recently appeared on the internet showing young Blues half Jarome Luai from Penrith answering “Queensland” when asked to choose between the states.
It corroborated suspicions that the promising Western Sydney product had suffered ‘Origin confusion’ growing up, and was unsure whether he identified as Maroon or Blue. It’s understood the trouble started when a QRL operative posing as his geography teacher told young Jerome that St Mary’s was part of Queensland. It was only a hard-core re-education program run by Phil Gould that was able to unwind the confusing voices inside the young half’s head.
That is not to ignore a few strike backs that the Blues camp has managed over the years including coups to claim Peter Sterling (born Toowoomba) and Luke Keary (born Ipswich). But those successes have been few and far between, leading NSW to instead turn its attention to raiding small poorly defended Pacific Islands like New Zealand (James “Aussie Jim” Tamou), Tonga (John Hopoate) and Fiji (Akuila Uate).
Penrith will need to remain alert at all times if it is to guard NSW’s proud Origin pedigree. Already, NSW Origin officials have identified the need to protect the allegiance of Penrith-born Rooster and future superstar Joseph Suaalii. Credible reports have emerged of QRL officers pouring over decade-old grainy footage of the Suaalii family at Seaworld on the Gold Coast.
A young Joseph appears to be tossing a Steeden in the air but a spokesperson for the family is adamant the video was taken on a short family holiday, and that Joseph has never been in Queensland for more than a one week holiday. Blues officials hope it is not one week too long.