With the deviant Maroons stealing a march on the Blues at the end of game 1 we had a return to the status quo of Origin: QLD claim underdog status right up until kick off and then proceed to tear asunder the heart and soul of every Blues supporter.
As far as spectacle went game 1 was a bit of a fizzer, even for stout QLD’ers such as Ben and Dan. One can only hope then that game 2 contains an array of on field fireworks, especially as its being hosted in the somewhat neutral state of Victoria (We all know that Victorians secretly/openly root for QLD due to the Melbourne/Sydney beef)
NSW have a chance to take it to a decider, and with Cronk sidelined with injury they need to target DCE and try and shut Thurston/Smith out of the game. QLD in turn must contend with a bolstered Blues outfit: Fifita is omitted due to the presence of Gallen whilst the Morris twins reunite with Tupou losing his spot.
The final key component is the duo of Pearce and Hodkinson. Even with Cronk out Thurston and Smith are still the best players in their positions, and the Blues halves will have to out-pass, out-kick and out-think them at every turn.
The silent player in all of this is the MCG itself, a stadium most definitely designed for anything but league. Its shape will affect both how the players, especially the halves, orient themselves in play, and how the fans now removed by the big sideline gaps interact with the action.
Big Three – QLD
Jonathon Thurston: JT will shoulder even more responsibility with Cronk out, but he proved that he is more than capable of pulling rabbits out of hats against the Eels. Expect the Blues to run a lot of traffic his way.
Josh McGuire: McGuire was a barnstorming force in game 1, dragging multiple Blues defenders with him on several occasions. If he continues to play his way he’ll be a future forward leader of the Maroons.
Billy Slater: With the Blues backline receiving a much needed boost expect Slater to have to work extra hard as the last line of defence. GI should pull his finger out and give him a hand.
Big Three – NSW
Paul Gallen: The Blues welcome back their talisman-like forward for game 2. Some argue that the ageing ox is too old but his crunching stats of 240 metres and 37 tackles in a recent Sharks win say otherwise.
Morris twins: Easily capable of turning nothing into something, Brett and Josh will be looking to terrorise the QLD fringes. Josh has had more club games but finds himself out of position as Dugan is fullback.
James Tamou: After a lacklustre start to the year Tamou has been instrumental in building a platform for the Cowboys, and he was similarly impressive for the Blues in game 1. His size is key to wearing out defenders with relentless hit ups.
You Wot Mate?
Look, I understand that in the eyes of many Australians the MCG is considered the mecca of sporting grounds. It’s great for cricket, AFL and, um ok it’s just great for those two things. Rectangle fields do not fit into and oval shaped ground, unless you’re willing to put in temporary stands (which the MCC clearly isn’t). If Melbourne wishes to continue hosting rectangular sports they may wish to invest in another purpose built stadium, perhaps one along Suncorp parameters (Suncorp being arguably the best league stadium available). Two rectangle stadiums would also mean more flexibility for scheduling.
NSW manage to get one back with a sneaky field goal, levelling the series. Fans in the crowd say they enjoyed the match despite not being able to see it. Sydney pronounces Melbourne Origins to be a waste of time, causing Melbourne to say they didn’t even want in the first place. Brisbane smugly watches on.