A long held belief has been that doing something over and over in the same way and expecting a different outcome is the definition of insanity. This might just be apt for one of Australia’s greatest sporting contests.
Since 2006 Queensland’s State of Origin team has accumulated the following record – nine series victories, and twenty match victories out of a possible thirty. A cumulative point score of 572 to 417 (only ever once being outscored in a series, way back in 2007).
Sure, many of the contests have been epic with numerous games decided by a point, yet let’s not forget that New South Wales have also won two ‘dead rubbers’ in that time. This skews the domination even more in the Maroons’ favour.
Without the performance of Jarryd Hayne in 2014 things might look even more bleak as ardent Blues supporters still scratch their heads and wonder how the closeness of the series-won-per-state stat has become increasingly lopsided. There was nothing between these two states for the first twenty five years of Origin.
I, for one, am sick of hearing Greg Inglis’ time in Macksville being used as some sort of explanation or reasoning behind this domination. This simplistic attitude deflects attention away from some of the more serious reasons and statistics that show New South Wales might be doing a little more wrong than some people are prepared to admit.
Bob Fulton has remained a New South Wales selector throughout this time. Along with Bob McCarthy, Geoff Gerard and the appointed coach, Laurie Daley, his insistence on selecting immobile ‘big boppers’ has proven ineffective. Recognition of the limited talent possessed by some of these players (Tony Williams and Jason King are two good examples) perhaps could have led to a rethink of team selection and indeed game style.
A more attacking brand of football might have been the result. The score discrepancy I have referenced above should be clear enough evidence that New South Wales have just not scored enough points. 13.9 points per game will not defeat a team with Johnathon Thurston, Cooper Cronk, Greg Inglis and Cameron Smith very often.
In addition, some bizarre selections over the period have also baffled fans. This has culminated through the week with the strange selection of Dylan Walker. The peculiarity of Jamie Buhrer’s selection in 2012 along with Tony Williams, the not-ready Josh Reynolds in 2013 and others such as Kade Snowden, Tim Mannah and Jason King in 2010 continue the pattern.
It appears that a desperate search for size and power was a fundamental goal. Add to this list Keith Galloway, Justin Poore, Michael Weyman, Tim Grant and Tom Learoyd-Lahrs and you realise just how many blokes have had a go. There’s been a few unwarranted Manly selections in there too I notice Bozo.
Some of these guys did okay, but okay doesn’t beat Queensland and most, despite being good players, were never long term Origin solutions.
While the revolving door of forward selection continued New South Wales foolishly persisted with Mitchell Pearce. Once again, good footballer, yet how many chances does a player get to prove himself?
Not only was his kicking game awful and his effectiveness as a runner mostly negated by Queensland, but the investment in him has led to a failing to nurture and mould a future half capable of leading the Blues to a series victory this year or next.
Will Adam Reynolds now cop criticism if the series is lost? With a couple of series previously under his belt he might just have been ready. Only time will tell.
Thurston lost his first series, yet as a young kid, learned a lot of the lessons and tricks that would help mould him into the great player that he is today. Just remember that only twelve months prior to that series he was still an interchange player with the Bulldogs.
Perhaps New South Wales would have been better served sticking with Maloney a few years back instead of playing the ineffective Hodkinson or selecting a young Adam Reynolds at the peak of South Sydney’s rise rather than going back to the well over and over with an under-performing Pearce.
Injuries and availability have played a role in some of these decisions, I know, yet the ‘blooding’ of young halves has failed to occur.
The hooking position has been one of great conjecture and the Blues have the same dilemma. Once again Robbie Farah gets a run, chosen from an under-performing side with little football behind him this year. Michael Ennis was heralded by Roosters coach Trent Robinson as the better selection. Are either where the selectors should have been looking?
Experience is valuable, yet who is waiting in the wings? Should Isaac De Gois have been given his chance a few years back and been persisted with? Is there a young hooker in the game who might grow into a future Blues stalwart? In defence of the selectors, the New South Wales hooking stocks have been a little empty recently.
Farah, along with teammate Aaron Woods and Blake Ferguson come with significant mental scaring and questions over their performances in club football, which have been uninspiring.
Boyd Cordner’s selection from such an under-achieving Roosters team also looks risky. Josh Morris’ selection in the nineteen man squad reeks of loyalty and past performances rather than selection on form.
Being a Bulldogs fan it hurts me to say, however, Morris plays most weeks on one leg. He is continually persisted with due to defensive qualities and these are without question, however, many pundits have thrown names like James Roberts and Joey Leilua into the conversation.
Those two, along with Josh Mansour (a good and well deserved selection in the view of many) might just throw something at Queensland that they are not expecting.
In saying that, Jennings and Dugan deserve their spots and so present another headache for New South Wales, exactly what spot Dugan should occupy? His defensive reads at centre have been very poor in the past and he needs to be better this year.
There isn’t a perfect New South Wales squad running around in first grade that should be selected instead of the players currently in the squad. The players in this team are effective for their clubs.
However, the questions do remain. Has the search for size and far too much rotation in the front row hampered the Blues chances over the last decade? Has the selectors obsession with size been a failure in both developing players and creating a team that can score enough points?
Lastly, has this team got enough youth, speed and ingenuity to beat a settled and confident Queensland team that will undoubtedly be ready to play?
Wednesday will tell us a lot, not the whole story, but a third of it. I hope to see the Blues play well and win. I am from New South Wales, yet, I can’t help think that we may have once again done a few of the things that we have been doing wrong for the last ten years. And that scares the heck out of me, just like a Queensland backline!
New South Wales Blues team for State of Origin Game 1
1. Matt Moylan, 2. Blake Ferguson, 3. Michael Jennings, 4. Josh Dugan, 5. Josh Mansour, 6. James Maloney, 7. Adam Reynolds, 8. Aaron Woods, 9. Robbie Farah, 10. Paul Gallen, 11. Boyd Cordner, 12. Josh Jackson, 13. Greg Bird
Interchange: 14. Dylan Walker, 15. James Tamou, 16. David Klemmer, 17. Andrew Fifita