Written by John Davidson
Photo by News Corp Australia
So NSW have lost the opening game of State of Origin, with the underdog Maroons taking the tight win in Adelaide.
As the old saying goes – never write off Queensland. Anyone who knows anything about Origin history understands that truism.
The Blues were huge favourites because of the depth they possess, the late change in coach for the Maroons, their rival’s injury issues, and coming in after winning the past two series in a row. But the margins are almost always fine in Origin.
NSW lost by four points, 18-14, and really they were only a missed sideline conversion away from tying it up. Had Nathan Cleary nailed the kick after Josh Addo-Carr’s 75th minute try, like Daly Cherry-Evans did for the Cane Toads, it would have been 18-16 and then the Blues had a penalty almost right in front of the sticks late on.
18-18 and we go to golden point. However, Cleary missed the conversion and Queensland held on. Delicate margins.
But some of the outcry and hysterics after the defeat were amazing. The calls for sacking coach Brad Fittler were strong.
Yes, some of the players under-performed. Cleary was below par and Luke Keary didn’t set the world on fire on debut, and now has been replaced by Cody Walker.
The defence from both his centres was not great. Daniel Tupou threw a shocker of an offload that was very costly.
But it’s not like NSW were flogged or completely off the pace. Like they made more mistakes or were bullied up front.
And they lost key forwards in skipper Boyd Cordner and Cameron Murray to serious injury in the first half. This hurt their interchange immensely.
There was really very little between the two sides on Wednesday night.
Rookie Kurt Capewell set up a brilliant, but flukey, vital try for the Maroons. Sometimes that’s just how the cookie crumbles.
The real issue is how the Blues lost when they were 10-0 early.
They made more runs than Queensland, more all run metres, more post contact metres, more line breaks, more line breaks and more kick return metres. Their average play the balls were quicker than their rivals.
NSW made more offloads, forced more drop outs, were more effective in tackles, missed less tackles, made less errors and conceded less penalties.
It was arguably game management from Cleary and Keary that needed to be better, and an improved kicking game, hence Walker coming in.
So should the Blues throw the baby out with the bath water and axe ‘Freddy’? No. A little patience is needed, some perspective. Keep the faith.
Too often NSW has chopped and changed, made rush decisions or changed coaches at the drop of a hat.
With two games left to play, some loyalty is required.