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Down in the Blues: Send off or not? Madge's muddles - Origin I wash up

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Roar Guru
6th June, 2024
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1247 Reads

The NSW Blues endured a rinsing, and there’s a fair bit to wade through from the Origin One wash out.

It’s a rocky start for the Michael Maguire era and the head coach himself has a few questions to answer, as does his spine and Mr. Klein.

Bad, but was it a send-off?

The game changed dramatically seven minutes into the match when Joseph Suaalii was sent from the field for a high shot on Queensland fullback Reece Walsh. The tackle itself was bad. It looked bad live, and it still was concerning when we slowed things down, but a send off? That’s an overzealous call from Ashley Klein and the bunker.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 05: Joseph-Aukuso Sua'ali'i of the Blues is sent off by referee Ashley Klein during game one of the 2024 Men's State of Origin Series between New South Wales Blues and Queensland Maroons at Accor Stadium on June 05, 2024 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Joseph Suaalii is sent off by referee Ashley Klein. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

We can all acknowledge it was high, but, there’s a number of factors to consider.

Suaalii’s feet remain on the ground when contact is made. This is one of the key things the bunker assesses when determining reckless or careless. So let’s mark that in the careless section.

Whilst players do need to account for a height difference, the mismatch here is, excuse the pun, a tall order to overcome. Walsh stands at 177cm, Suaalii at 196cm – a 19cm difference. To take a note out of the great Taskmaster assistant Alex Horne’s book – that’s roughly the size of one domestic cat, five and a half black board erasers or 1900 sheets of paper. That’s quite literally a stack of difference. And Suaalii DID try to account for it. There’s both a bend in the back and the arms wrapping.

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Perhaps the most notable point here is, Walsh slipped. Whilst he typically moves with the grace of a Michael Jackson and Fred Astaire love child, he was a little more like a french waiter on this particular play. He slips a pass outside, but also slips before contact, dropping his height even more.

And lastly, it’s Origin. There will be niggle, there will be bucketloads of aggression and some questionable contact from time to time. I’m not saying off with their heads…ok bad analogy, but you get my point.

10 in the bin and on-report would have been sufficient.

Daly Cherry-Evans of the Maroons makes a break during game one of the 2024 Men's State of Origin Series between New South Wales Blues and Queensland Maroons at Accor Stadium on June 05, 2024 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)Daly Cherry-Evans breaks away in Origin One (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)[/caption]
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Kicking wise it was also a largely average night for Nicho. He did nearly kick a 40/20 and set up a try for Zac Lomax (who was outstanding on debut), but his general play kicking was unfortunately simply a series of meek up and unders and a few fluffed kicks right down the throat of the Hammer. By the second half, Lomax had come in field looking to provide something that resembled a torpedo bomb, whilst Blues fans cried for the boot of Matt Burton.

Based on his game one display, Mitch Moses or Burton will be slotting into the halves for game two. Jarome Luai is well and truly safe, he was one of the only players who consistently looked dangerous for the Blues and played with plenty of speed and his trademark creative flair.

So what went right and where too from here?

For the Blues, not a lot. Stephen Crichton was excellent. Zac Lomax ran for more than 200 metres and scored a try, Spencer Leniu was damaging in his two stints, Liam Martin was reliable as ever and defensively Reece Robson was sound.

Haumole Olakau’atu largely lacked impact, often being caught flat footed, and whilst an improvement on his 2023 Origin series, James Tedesco still looked past his prime both sides of the ball. McInnes, whilst being the little engine that could, ultimately is just that, perhaps a little too small for Origin if the choice is made to also have Yeo and Trbojevic in the team. The bench needs more punch from some genuine line benders and offloaders (my world for an offload! Just eight from the NSW forwards and none that were particularly significant).

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You’d have to imagine Dylan Edwards comes in for game two, Matt Burton snags a bench utility spot and Mitchell Moses starts at halfback at the least.

For Queensland, Billy Slaters selection of Cobbo, who IS big and strong enough to play in the second row, proved to be a master stroke and we will likely see the same 17 named for game two in Melbourne on June 26.

It’s a must win match for the Blues and Michael Maguire is now under serious pressure. The absence of his key man in Nathan Cleary is a tough one to contend with, but as Brad Arthur recently found out, things aren’t always fair when a talisman goes missing.

Let me know your thoughts Roarers!

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