I’ll be at the game tonight, having a few drinks and watching the hapless Blues attempt to etch out some unsatisfactory sense of pride from another dead rubber. I won’t be overly emotional knowing that the Blues will no doubt be farewelling a few of their long-serving players.
Those players have played well in halves, in games and in patches, yet have fallen short over the longer course, and that could prove decisive in the manner in which the NSW crowd sees them off.
I will be there to see Queensland run the full circumference of ANZ with the trophy yet again. They might be doing it with bland and disappointed faces, an anti-climax that could have been avoided had they been awarded the silverware after Game 2.
The ground announcers will try to pump up the crowd together with thumping music, vertical flamethrowers and the most elongated pre-game known to man.
Channel Nine will simultaneously be pumping up the chances of the Blues and presenting melodramatic tributes and editorials aimed at elevating good players to legend status. It’s a shame most of the kids will be near enough to asleep before the kick-off actually takes place.
People seem to be getting over Origin. Talkback has been flooded recently with people feeling as though the concept has lost some of its vigour and passion. This is probably fair to some extent, yet most of the callers are from south of the Tweed. Funny that.
However, there does seem to be something wrong with our showpiece and highest rating series, and there are some things we could do far better in the future.
A rejuvenated Blues team full of youth and enthusiasm and void of mental scarring could be the biggest boost the series has seen in the last decade. Obviously, form and injury will play a role, yet a Blues squad containing James Tedesco, Jack Bird, Tyson Frizell, Matt Moylan, Bryce Cartwright and Joey Leilua will bring some new found hope for Blues supporters.
Throw in a few bolters like Paul Vaughan, Tom Trbojevic and James Roberts, and the dynamic speed in the team would be a vast contrast to the current squad.
Success with so much youth might not be instant, but the style of play would have to change – not even Laurie Daley could rein in that lot.
Secondly, a concerted effort to keep the sides apart would make an immediate impact. Players at Origin level do everything better. The game is faster and their skills superior to a solid first-grade player. Therefore, it stands to reason that they are also adept at pushing the boundaries when it comes to line speed and particularly blind-side defence.
The sheer desperation to stop tries at all costs has led to some particularly low scoring and poor performances by the Blues in recent times. Daley hasn’t helped with strategy, yet one can’t help but think that referees being more willing to open up the game and give penalties where deserved might also aid in providing a better spectacle.
The blocking that is occurring on high kicks is obvious and noticeable to all bar the on-field officials, as are the continual ruck infringements that experts such as Cameron Smith are still exploiting. No crack at Smith there, just an acknowledgement that he appears to ‘communicate’ with referees a little better than most.
A third element which could add spice to the series is an aggressive pair of starting Blues front rowers. I’m not sure what the approach will be tonight, but David Klemmer proved his longevity before the series in club matches for the Bulldogs, churning out entire first halves at breakneck speed.
While some might love his impact off the bench, the work of Aaron Woods and James Tamou is unacceptable. Throwing some fire at Queensland with big men who actually drive their legs through a tackle, rather than succumb at the point of first contact, would aid the Blues’ cause immensely.
The fourth item here might prove a little controversial. It’s too easy to say, ‘get a new hooker’, because NSW don’t seem to have one. Maybe it will be Nathan Peats, perhaps Michael Ennis will get another run as a premiership-winning rake with the Sharks in 2016. Who knows, the Blues might take the advice of some reasonable judges who feel that Josh Reynolds might be an option.
I’m not a fan of the latter, as Reynolds’ passing game is not quite up to scratch. He has the Origin style and aggro down pat, but a great deal of skill development needs to take place before he is ready.
In fact, passing has been the issue for the NSW hooker, whoever it has been, over the last few series. Steve Walters was the best I ever saw at sweeping passes from the ground as the ball was played. He achieved width in the attack and the speed that the ball travelled to his receivers was outstanding.
Robbie Farah has been a proponent of the running dummy-half, who pops out to check what options are available to him before then either kicking, running or hitting a runner. The runner receives the ball a split second too late on so many occasions, and the Queensland defence eats them up far too easily.
NSW need an urgent, all-points bulletin sent out to search for a crafty 9 to create doubt and opportunity around the ruck. If the Blues were to find one quicksmart, it might just re-energise Origin in 2017.
Finally, if Channel Nine were able to see past their own inflated egos and reputations and call a quality game of football that starts on time, we might all get a little more from the series. My kids are only young, yet despite the fact they are the future of the game, the NRL and Channel Nine seem determined that they see as little of Origin as possible.
The commentators’ roles should be minimised. We don’t need the histrionics and nonsense that occurs before the game. Start your coverage 30 minutes before kick-off, run through the teams, chuck in a few ads, and start the game on time so the fans (remember them?) can view the game at a reasonable time on what is a school night.
This is symptomatic of the excessive commercialism that has been the source of much criticism of Origin in recent times. Maximisation of drinking, gambling and advertising time before the game stretches the game to a late hour. Sons and daughters, zonked out and resting up against Mum and Dad on the buses home as the clock approaches 11pm, are testament to that.
Obviously, none of the above recommendations focus on the Maroons. Simple reason being, it’s not up to them. The Queenslanders turn up each year, well prepared, tactically coached, and dust up the boys south of the border. They can’t really do anymore.
It’s up to you, New South Wales.