Almanac Rugby League: State of Origin – where now for Queensland?

 

What do you do if you’re the Queensland selectors when they next meet? Facing the prospect of the first ‘Blue-rinse’ in almost 20 years, how will their mythical approach of ‘loyalty’ to current team members compete with a growing reality that it’s time to move on and (wash out my mouth with Solvol!) adopt the 2018 NSW approach and, basically, start all over again?

 

Perhaps the selectors can console themselves that Games 1 and 2 were both a close run thing with the margin between success and failure demonstrably at its historical average of very bloody slim. Either match in the series to date could have gone the other way ‘if’ just one or two little things were reversed. From Game 1, if Crichton’s strip had been detected or if Maloney’s forward pass had been called, it would have been different. In Game 2, if the penalty try had been only a penalty and a sin bin, or if Gagai was not ruled over the sideline. And so on. A better rub of the green and we’ll win with this team. In which case, the selectors can keep the same squad and respond only to injuries and suspensions in the lead-up to Game 3. It’s an arguable case.

 

Should they adopt this approach, my feeling is that they’re kidding themselves. In Game 1, NSW out-played, out-tackled, out-attacked, out-enthused and generally out-did Queensland in almost every facet of the game with the critical exception of missed tackles. The Blues were more motivated, hungry, committed and able to take their opportunities. For them to not win that match would have been a travesty. The final 10 point margin flattered Queensland, in my opinion. Game 2 was undeniably a much tighter contest that both could have and should have gone the other way on the law of probabilities. But, as I said the other day, if you don’t take your opportunities when the big moments present themselves, you can’t expect to win. Queensland didn’t seize their chances and NSW defended as if their lives depended on it – there can only be one winner in that situation.

 

In today’s Courier Mail, Peter Badel debunks the Maroons ‘selection loyalty’ myth. He does a pretty good job of it and contrasts it with the approach taken by Freddie Fittler and co this year – zero loyalty to past failures, 12 debutants and a new, if somewhat offbeat, approach. And, come the moment in that last quarter of Sunday night’s game, they withstood the test that was always going to be the measure of their substance. It was a classic case of one of rugby league’s cardinal principles: defence wins matches.

 

The harsh reality is that the Maroons will do both themselves and their fans a favour if they also see the situation for what it is, not what they’d like it to be, and respond accordingly. Over lunch on Monday, Liam and I talked about the players we would choose for Game 3 with an eye to not only winning that game but also looking to the future when wider changes will be forced on Queensland. Interestingly, we came up with the same Nos. 1-6 as Badel: Slater, Oates, Inglis, Gagai, Holmes and Munster. Badel goes for Cherry-Evans at No. 7, we went for Ash Taylor but strongly considered Cherry-Evans. My new friend Grahame Cronk says he’d stick with Chambers and Hunt.

 

It’s in the forwards, however, that change simply has to happen, harsh as some of the changes may be. From Nos. 8-13, Badel goes Napa, McCullough, McGuire, Hess, Kaufusi and Arrow. This would end Gavin Cooper’s Origin career, a tough call but he’s not going to be there next year when some other young blokes are knocking on the door, so why not now but not without acknowledgement of a fine servant? Wallace is young and will, in all probability, have another chance down the track but he’s not there at the moment. The same thing happened to Matt Scott early in his Origin career and look what happened to him? We went for Napa, McCullough, Glasby, Papalii, Kaufusi and McGuire. We wanted more grunt and mongrel at the start with Papalii along with some greater mobility up front with Glasby. The contrary argument is that Glasby is ‘of an age’ which may contradict our overall youth/future approach. Fair call. Badel’s bench is Ponga, Papalii, Su’a and Ofahengaue; ours is Ponga, Arrow, Hess and Ofahengaue. So you see that, overall, we’re pretty much on the same track – it’s time to do something now, not next year.

 

Two final things. Firstly, talk on a new Blues ‘dynasty’ is a tad premature. Remember the last time this was going to happen? 2014, wasn’t it? It lasted just that one series and, even then, by a 2-1 margin only. It might happen but let’s see a minimum 3 series wins in a row before we start using that sort of language. Secondly, let’s also acknowledge ‘Alfie’ Langer’s sportsmanship and humanity in immediately tending to a clearly smashed Boyd Cordner after a tackle gone badly wrong. Well played, Alfie, ever a champion!

 

Ian Hauser is into historical fiction at the moment – he just wishes NSW’s series win in Origin this week was in that category! Check out his editing services here.

 

 

About Ian Hauser

A happily retired ex-teacher with a (very) modest sporting CV. A Queenslander through and through who looks for those beautiful moments in sport (and life) that capture the spirit rather than the law of the game. Love reading and good wine. I run my own editing service for aspiring writers. Check me out at writerightediting.com.au

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