Prior to the 2nd State of Origin, the analogy with 2008 was drawn as a warning for what was to be expected up at Suncorp Stadium. Unfortunately, it happened again.
The parallels with 2008 appeared to have been set in motion with a NSW victory in Game 1, the first time NSW had won the opener since 2008.
The prospect of a Queensland ambush and a super-fast start (just like Game 2, 2008) were highlighted as ‘givens’, particularly in light of the odd performance served up by the Maroons in that first match.
There was really no other script, and it was therefore somewhat surprising that NSW began the game without a matching intensity. It lost them the match, allowing the Maroons to dictate the flow of play.
Sure, NSW had a disrupted preparation, and were not well served by poor refereeing which ended the match as a contest after 20 minutes. But history will show that history rhymed very well with 2008, and for similar reason.
But will it continue to do so in Game 3?
Referees are a popular(?) bunch
Just like the preamble to Game 2 a few weeks back, the media has been swamped with jawboning about referees to the point where former greats are milling around the periphery joining the fray.
Surely, media content focusing solely on the game of rugby league would probably be a better approach. It is a showpiece event, after all.
It’s difficult to know what to expect from the referees given how susceptible to Jedi mind tricks many referees seem to be.
All anyone really wants is an adequate standard of refereeing that removes officials from the flow of the game. This didn’t happen in Game 2, and let’s hope Game 3 is not a reprise – in either direction. Keep a good 10 metres and hands off the ball in the ruck and the referees go a long way toward ensuring a captivating match.
Round 18 of the NRL seems to suggest that markers standing side-by-side is now ‘OK’, so I presume both teams will be doing that tomorrow night. In that sense, nothing will have changed from the first two matches. As long as they don’t affect the next attacking play, I don’t care either. But if they do …
And it also appears that the sin bin radar has gone berserk if Josh Reynolds’ try-denying tackle without the ball on the weekend is any guide.
Like Origin 2, the Blues’ preparations have been interrupted by injury and form.
Losing Paul Gallen will have an effect, no doubt. But will it be a let-down for the Blues, or will they react similarly to the Sharks when Gallen has been unavailable?
The Sharks have shown that, far from being a negative, losing Gallen can be made into a distinct positive. By sharing the workload and allowing others to assume greater responsibility, they have managed to remain competitive and potent.
As mentioned previously, Gallen was probably misused to some extent in both matches so far. Instead of playing 80 minutes and making 250 metres in Game 1, for instance, more incisive ball-runners such as James Tamou could have bettered his own tally of seven hit ups, and Andrew Fifita could also have spent more time on the field. Damaging runners like these two with offloads at pace make one hell of a difference.
It’s a moot point now, but a better option would have been to start and finish with Gallen, with Fifita playing the middle 40 minutes separated by half-time.
The replacement for Gallen is a masterstroke. Boyd Cordner is young, fast, aggressive, and if Willie Mason calls him an animal, then it’s good enough for me too. His workrate is phenomenal, and I suspect he will slot into Origin in a very similar way to Fifita.
One area of concern for NSW remains the right wing. Given the considerable problems experienced on that side of the field over multiple series, it would have made far more sense to choose from a selection of right wingers, as opposed to a left winger who had recently scored a brace of tries that not only were almost scored already, but which also required a right hand fend at various points.
This sounds strange, but it’s not. Players are assigned to one side of the field these days as a matter of course, and changing isn’t easy, especially in a game of such importance where split second decisions need to be made. I am somewhat wary of what may happen here …
Game 3, 2008 – Queensland 16-10
Once again, the eerie similarities take shape.
After giving NSW a hiding in Game 2, Queensland maintained the exact same squad for the deciding match, as they have done for this week.
NSW, on the other hand, made seven changes. Tomorrow’s game is only half that, but the direction is still there.
It took the Maroons until the 67th minute in 2008 to subdue the Blues in a tight and brutal game that had brawls and an incident that would result in Nate Myles being subsequently suspended for six matches.
Queensland is sure to begin aggressively again, and given the poor discipline shown by the Blues in the first two matches, they will set the niggle-o-meter to Defcon 5 as well. Justin Hodges’ one goes to Defcon 6 in true Spinal Tap style.
Subduing is all it will take, like 2008. They don’t need a Game 2 margin all over again.
Without doubt, NSW are up against it given another sub-optimal preparation. All we can do is tune in, hold on tight, and hope the series moves away from the 2008 script.