ORIGIN is a strange beast so let’s be careful not get caught up in the euphoria and hype of yet another Queensland Origin series win and underestimate what NSW is building towards.
Laurie Daley’s Blues may have lost their 10thseries in the past 11years but the warning signs were there on Wednesday night from some of their new faces – Tyson Frizell, Jack Bird and Dylan Walker – for all to see.
If Daley breaks from his pick-and-stick selection policy and takes a gamble on a few talented players such as James Tedesco, Bryce Cartwright, bustling centre Joseph Leilua and even Nathan Peats at hooker, the Blues could launch their redemption plan from game three in Sydney next month.
They have a huge array of forwards in James Tamou, Aaron Woods, David Klemmer and Andrew Fifita around which to build a team that can take the game to Queensland.
To his credit, Daley has been loyal to his players.
But surely now it’s time to take a few selection risks, to build an Origin side around his big forwards and form some dangerous combinations that, like Queensland, can be the nucleus of a champion team.
If you break down the key stats from Wednesday night’s 26-16 game, NSW has far more improvement in it than Queensland – an ageing side that will lose several of its stars in the next few seasons.
Queensland had the best of the possession 53% to 47%.
They had 35 sets to NSW’s 33 but it was the Maroons’ stunning completion rate (32 of 35) at 90%, as opposed to NSW (23 of 33) at 70%, that was the big difference.
Queensland’s kicking game through Cooper Cronk, Johnathan Thurston and Cameron Smith was superior and the Maroons missed less tackles (23-18).
They also finished ahead 7-5 in the penalties and committed only five errors compared to 10 by their rivals.
Those are all areas Daley can improve upon.
But unless he is willing to bite the bullet and cut loose a few players, such as veterans Michael Jennings and Greg Bird, the results won’t change.
As he said himself after the loss, “it’s time to draw a line in the sand”.
Where Queensland has it over NSW is the experience and composure of players such as Cameron Smith, Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk, but they are all in their 30s and won’t be around for much more than a few more years.
They have some great back-ups in Michael Morgan, Anthony Milford, Ben Hunt, Dylan Napa and Valentine Holmes all lining up for Maroon jumpers.
NSW need to use the third game in Sydney to see how players such as Cartwright and Tedesco handle Origin pressure.
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