As a New South Welshman I am sick of this! No, not losing, but the absurd team selections, tactics and negativity that has become institutionalised in the Blues’ Origin team.
My most recent league article spoke of the definition of insanity and how the process of continuing to do the same thing over and over and somehow expecting a different result is, in essence, what the Blues have done for the past decade.
With a coach only a few years into his tenure, it is clear that the issue is broader and more institutionalised that it may appear on the outside.
In my piece I alluded to various factors that have mystified many over the course of the last ten years in terms of selection and strategy.
The massive points differential between Queensland and New South Wales over the last ten years (572-417), a paltry average score achieved by the Blues (13.9) and some rather bizarre selections throughout the period have all come home to roost after a rather predictable Game 1 in Sydney on Wednesday night.
Many Roar enthusiasts were in agreement in regards to the inefficiencies of the Blues and the loyal (insane) selections that have been taking place over the last few years.
Wednesday night exposed many of the issues that have been present through recent series and without a change in either team selections, the selectors themselves or the coaches’ strategy it appears the Blues are heading for another humiliating victory at the hands of the great Queensland team.
Four points does not beat Queensland. The level of risk within New South Wales’ play is appalling. Laurie Daley spoke during the lead up to the game and suggested that if the Blues’ were able to score 14 points they would win the game. Well done Laurie, you were one hundred per cent correct. The only problem was that you were dealing with the biggest ‘if’ of all time.
The Blues average points per game over the last ten series suggests that without something a little more potent in attack, on a wet night and a traditionally slippery surface, 14 points was well beyond this rather limited attacking team.
Those 14 points may have come more easily if a little more effort and enthusiasm had come from our starting front rowers. Woods and Tamou were absolutely appalling in the opening 20. Every time Woods gets the ball he heads for the bleachers and the inane support from the loving New South Wales crowd seems to suggest that he has become something of a cult, Merv Hughes-like, figure due to his rather unique hair and beard. The only difference being that Merv could actually bowl and take wickets.
Third man in flops, turning their backs to the defensive line and struggling to cling to Queensland forwards as they dented our line were features of both our ‘big men’s’ first 20 minutes. The loyalty shown to these two is ridiculous. Woods is just completely overrated, whereas Tamou might just be riding off the back of a great North Queensland team, Johnathan Thurston and more specifically Matt Scott.
The impact of Klemmer was noticeable and his efforts for the Bulldogs in playing the first 50 to 60 minutes over the previous month or so was an undeniable attempt to show the selectors that he could indeed start the game and make a difference from the beginning.
The two liabilities in the forward pack were further shown up by the enormous amount of metres and defence that Josh Jackson and Paul Gallen took on. The leg drive of Gallen and the defence of Jackson were outstanding.
Sure, they provide little in attack, yet they are selected to do their jobs and play their game which is exactly what they did on Wednesday. Thank God for Boyd Cordner, who was outstanding and the best player on the field by the length of the straight. Otherwise the New South Wales forward/running options might have been almost non-existent.
Farah was solid without being brilliant yet I still think he brings too many mental scars as well as a stifling pause from dummy half that hampers the Blues’ attack. In saying that, I have written previously about the negativity of the backline and the lack of speed that can create scoring opportunities against even the best defenders.
As a Dogs’ fan I love Josh Morris as a club footballer, yet he has not been worthy of an attacking spot in the Blues’ backline for the last four years. It mystifies me how he is selected due to a curious belief that he handles Inglis well.
Inglis has starred in many Origin games over the last ten years and, yes, Morris has kept him in check at times, but does an ageing centre such as he keep young guns like Leilua and Roberts out of a side desperate to score points?
Michael Jennings’ Origin record is so poor that it is hard to believe that he actually has faith in his ability to win at Origin level. One of the most dominant centres in the game needs to learn that in a defensively dominated game such as Wednesday night he needs to be more creative. Attempting to beat his opponent one on one on every occasion at the expense of letting the ball go to his winger does not cut the mustard at Origin level.
Matt Moylan was energetic yet run off his feet by the speed, Reynolds kicked poorly at times (or Boyd clearly has a sixth sense) and Maloney’s impersonation of a speed bump was consistent with previous years. Perhaps all of them would have benefitted from a few more games under their belts over the last few years rather than the selectors persistence with Pearce and others who have since been proven to be failures.
The experiment of starting Bird off the bench was curious to many and I couldn’t fathom the logic. The bench rotation was odd. As the Blues’ lost leg drive and energy, Dylan Walker was held back until the final nine minutes; forced to play out of position and seemingly expected to produce a victory. This only deepens the initial mystery around his selection.
Being there live made me realise how misguided so many New South Wales fans are. Berating the referees and screaming blue murder at decisions might make them feel better, yet it merely veils the reality of poor selections and tactics that are holding this team back.
It is time for Cartwright, Leilua, Roberts, Vaughn, Peachey and others to take the responsibility. The Blues’ can keep some seniority in Gallen, Farah and Bird, but it is time to change, otherwise the rebuilding phase might stretch the misery out for another year or two yet.
It is time a New South Wales Team took the field and attacked the Queenslanders, full of youth, speed and aggression. If they lose the game, we can all take responsibility and say, “yes you were right, they were too young and too inexperienced, froze on the big stage.”
Yes, the game will have been lost, but could someone explain to me how this is any different to the game we just played? These guys have been losing for ten years! 21 of the last 31 games in fact. I’d much rather lose with youth and a mind for the future than lose with scarred, broken men representing the selectors’ absurd sense of loyalty.