by Warren Boland
In the history of State of Origin, the halves have been the key positions and even more now.
From Wally Lewis and Allan Langer to Peter Sterling, Brett Kenny and Steve Mortimer crossing over to the era of Brad Fittler, Andrew Johns, Darren Lockyer, Jonathon Thurston and Cooper Cronk, there is a common theme of great halves and series victory.
Here is a link to a story I contributed to ABC News Online:
By the way, in terms of halves and their record, it’s worth remembering that in 2014 when NSW won their only series in eleven years taking Origin 1 in Brisbane 12-8 and Origin 2 in Sydney 6-4, Cooper Cronk broke his arm in the first ten minutes of the first game and missed the second. Daly Cherry-Evans took his place in both games.
BEYOND THE HALVES
It is not only about the players wearing numbers six and seven. There are many other factors to consider as to who will win Origin One:
-the absence of Matt Scott and Greg Inglis through injury
-the non-selection of Billy Slater
-the ages of Nate Myles and Sam Thaiday – both 32 years old next month, and Jacob Lillyman, 33, not that age is affecting Cameron Smith, 34 next month, and Cooper Cronk, 33.
-the inexperience in Origin and jangling nerves of Queensland debutants Dylan Napa and Anthony Milford, and New South Wales’ Nathan Peats and Jake Trbojevic making their first appearance.
-the return to Origin of Jarryd Hayne who was the spearhead of the Blues win in 2014
-the powerful form of Andrew Fifita and Boyd Cordner, not to overlook the impact of Matt Gillett in attack and defence
-the selection of the competitive Nathan Peats instead of still skilful 33-year-old Robbie Farah and the representative retirement of the 35-year-old warrior captain Paul Gallen who also was an inspiration for the Blues in 2014.
LET THE CLASHES COMMENCE
Some of the duels I am looking forward to :
-the clash of young bulls Dylan Napa and David Klemmer while Nate Myles drops his horns into Andrew Fifita. The amiable build-up should be left in the dressing room as the cauldron bubbles to toil and trouble at kick-off.
-the impact off the bench of Michael Morgan for the Maroons and Jack Bird, Wade Graham and Jake Trbojevic off the bench for NSW.
-the combination of Blues five-eighth James Maloney with Jarryd Hayne at left centre and James Tedesco from fullback
-the combination of Maroon half Cooper Cronk with fullback Darius Boyd
-the biggest test yet of rising star Milford
In the last three years the first games of the series have been tough, defensive, low scoring affairs. This could be due to nerves or combinations not yet perfected.
In 2014, New South Wales won 12-8 in Brisbane. In 2015 Queensland won 11-10 in Sydney and last year Queensland won 6-4.
Notwithstanding controversies over tries and disputed calls by referees and the bunker, rightly or wrongly, the loser will immediately face demands for change.
If Queensland loses Origin One, even by a narrow margin, expect immediate calls for the reinstatement of Billy Slater and for fresh blood in the forwards like Coen Hess and Jarrod Wallace.
Scrutiny of Jonathon Thurston’s rotator cuff before Origin 2 could escalate to levels not seen since Wally Lewis broke his arm before the 1990 Kangaroo tour.
If New South Wales puts in a good performance only to lose by just one or two points, the cries for sackings may be muted.
However a loss of anything over ten points by the Blues will be met with outraged demands for wholesale sackings.
Names like Paul Vaughan, Shannon Boyd, James Tamou, Trent Merrin, Matt Moylan and Dylan Walker will be whirling around like confetti.