The deciding game for the 2017 State of Origin series has arrived and New South Wales are poised to end the brutal Maroon’s tyranny in emphatic style. Here are my top 5 points of interest heading into tonight’s game.
- New South Wales have been the dominant side for 130 of the past 160 minutes of Origin football. With 30 minutes left on the clock, 10 points up on the scoreboard and the overwhelmingly Sydney crowd urging them on, I can only imagine the Blues could taste the Tooheys in the sheds post match and took their foot off the pedal, a reprieve which Queensland certainly never allows us. Tonight there is no Thurston, no Boyd and Slater is on half a leg. Cast all that aside because to win tonight, New South Wales needs to be ruthless to the final siren, ignore the scoreboard, the clock and the opposition and focus on competing for every play. Do not expect for one moment that a couple of personnel changes will make the Maroons want to lay down and take it, we need to run just as hard if we’re up by 20 as we would if we were behind by 6.
- Cameron Munster is a fantastic player, but also an unknown entity. So good was this kid deputising for Billy Slater in Melbourne during his extended injury absence that I was amazed he didn’t retain the fullback spot when Slater returned. I’m not surprised that he was selected to make his debut, but I am a little bit shocked that he was handed the keys to Thurston’s position. Still, a prodigy not to be discounted, New South Wales must apply pressure to this kid immediately to the point where he decides to retire from Origin effectively immediately.
- For the first time in roughly a decade, New South Wales came into this series fielding the stronger side, at least on paper. So spoilt for talent across the park are we that any man off the Blue’s bench could comfortably walk into a starting position in the Queensland team, any Queenslander with all his faculties will agree, if you can find one. All this means nothing if New South Wales are not mentally prepared to face a hostile Suncorp Stadium and unburden themselves of recent history. Queensland are accustomed to winning, New South Wales not so much.
- Run straight. Queensland’s middle is about as soft as my own and were exploited early and often in game 1. For some reason we elected to try and go around them in game 2, where the Maroons possess a little more starch, and paid heavily for it. As much as I enjoyed watching Fafita’s side steps and offloads, I really just want him to start his run a couple of steps back, wind up, and crash into Queensland’s defence like a battering ram.
- My money rests on James Tedesco for Man of the Match, and Man of the Series. His defensive capabilities in game 1 allowed New South Wales to close out that game in a way we have struggled to do for years. It’s no surprise that when he was missing for a concussion test in game 2 is when the Blues appeared their shakiest at the back. Get Dugan, Hayne and the wingers involved in returning kicks from our end, Dugan in particular had some strong runs from deep, and allow Teddy to pick his moments around the ruck, and turn up strong when needed on our own line.
Be sure to check back late tonight (or possibly tomorrow) for an ecstatically incoherent spiel about how I knew it was always in the bag, or a decidedly sombre reflection on what we need to do NEXT YEAR. But probably the first one. Go NSW!