Almanac Rugby League – State of Origin Game III Preview: Total dominance or some pride restored?

 

 

 

 

A forgettable 2021 Origin series for the Maroons doesn’t look like getting any better when they meet the NSW Blues for Game III on the Gold Coast tomorrow night. There’s probably more interest in the size and make-up of the crowd (that’s if a crowd is permitted) and the size of the television audience (likely to be low).

 

From a northern perspective, there’s the reality that the Maroons side that takes the field has a very ‘cobbled together’ look about it. Hardly a cause for optimism. Then throw in several changes of personnel and positions, some forced (Fifita) and some self-inflicted (Arrow). When you add those factors to the shellacking in Game I and the disheartening demise in Game II, it adds up to the prospect of a tough night ahead. On the positive side, Capewell and Holmes return to their correct positions, Ponga appears for the first time in the series and Ben Hunt adds a bit of dash at No 9. But can it all gel in time to restore some pride in the form of a (highly unlikely) win or, at least, a more respectable defeat? Methinks not.

 

From a southern perspective, injuries have caused a few changes, most notably in the halves. However, a settled, dynamic back five plus a dominant forward pack, all playing as a well-coordinated unit with confidence, power, speed and flair, suggests that normal services will continue. Perhaps the only question on the night will be how many records for a series can be knocked off by the time the referee blows time after 80 minutes.

 

It might be of more use to consider what we might look for within the game rather than the overall result. Queensland will probably focus on how teenage debutant Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow handles the step up to this level. He’ll have his work cut out marking Tom Trbojevic! Some see Daly Cherry-Evans under pressure with young Sam Walker having a great season for the Roosters. That succession might be a year or two away yet, IMHO. NSW will take a close look at Mitchell Moses and his capacity to perform on the elite stage. He’ll have the bonus of playing behind a dominant pack so it’s all there for him to display his wares. It’s good to see Koroisau get a run in the utility role. He’s the type of livewire who could cause havoc towards the end of each half as the opposing forwards tire.

 

So it’s a bit hard to see anything but doom, gloom and misery continuing for the Maroons. It has been a nightmare series devoid of a single noteworthy highlight. The question then becomes one of how they will respond and go about trying to recover, recalibrate and rebuild for the 2022 series.

 

NSW, by contrast, look set for a purple patch over the next few years. Their biggest enemies will be hubris and complacency (remember 2020?) but in Freddie Fittler I think they have the ‘once bitten twice shy’ antidote to any such worries.

 

One final point: a highlight of the series so far has been the excellent performance of referee Gerard Sutton. More of the same, please.

 

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About Ian Hauser

A relaxed, Noosa-based retiree with a (very) modest sporting CV. A Queenslander through and through, especially when it comes to cricket and rugby league. I enjoy travel, good coffee and cake, reading, and have been known to appreciate a glass or three of wine. As well as being one of Footy Almanac's online editors, I moonlight as an editor for hire - check me out at www.writerightediting.com.au

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