|The Blues must target the vulnerable Daly Cherry-Evans at the MCG.|
Queensland came out in game one and played like, well, Queensland. Their typical style of grubby tactics was called out by Paul Gallen this week, but it was hard to miss if you watched game one. The knee's, the elbow's and shoulder's, basically all the pointy parts of the human anatomy, including Nate Myles head were thrown into the Blues and it was as if the Farah-led team sat back and let it happen, just as they sat back and let the game fall out of their hands in the final ten minutes.
While Laurie Daley has backed the halves pairing of Hodkinson and Pearce to actually seize the moment, the return of Paul Gallen is the one thing that might actually get the Blues over the line. You see, love him or loathe him, Gallen is a leader. His actions may not always lead to success, but he won't back down. He has shown this week via his comments that he won't be bullied or overawed by the lauded and all-mighty Queensland team.
But Gallen can't do it on his own, and the man who has been missing the most from the Blues line up this year is Greg Bird. A no-nonsense, old-school footballer who plays the game with a grit and determination that many modern players simply don't have. He's the type of player who is filthy after a loss, doesn't give a shit what the opposition thinks and you won't catch him indulging in a smiling bro-shake with his opponent at full-time. A true New South Welsh-man.
With Bird in the team the blues played with a fire last year, they wanted it so badly. This was optimized through Beau Scott's effort in game two that saw him collapse upon returning to the sheds from exhaustion. Jarryd Hayne's incredible efforts in attack, securing the vital points that they weren't able to muster in the years' beforehand. But as they found out in Sydney, the Blues no longer have Hayne to clinch it for them. The ever reliable and consistent Cooper Cronk guided the Maroons to victory when NSW couldn't take what was on offer for them.
Tonight, Cronk is watching from the stands and the man-of-the-moment and the self-titled "next Matty Johns" enters the no. 7 jersey for Queensland. The pressure is surely on the Manly playmaker after been called into the team following the Titans-backflip saga. He has the weight of being Rugby League's ten million dollar man on his shoulders, and his only appearance for Queensland as a starting halfback last year was mediocre at best.
That's who NSW must target tonight if they're going to make an impact on the game. Laurie Daley needs to turn off the Mr. Nice Guy switch on his back and give the Blues instructions to let rip. James Tamou provided a prelude to Gallen's epic media blast of Queensland earlier on in the camp, and it's time he put his money where his mouth is. One of the biggest and most agile forwards in the game, the mammoth Tamou should be sent out with instructions to knock Daly Cherry-Evans off his ivory tower. Why you can be sure Beau Scott won't be far away from Jonathan Thurston and Justin Hodges, as Paul Gallen will seek out Nate Myles and Sam Thaiday, the rough-em-up gang needs help from the rest of the team.
Billy Slater smashed Josh Dugan with a shoulder charge in game one so Dugan needs to return the favor; lead a kick-chase and be the first to meet the fullback with an open-arm. The mean looking Dave-Klemmer appears to have that fire in his belly that resembles a young Mark Geyer He could be a player to come off the bench and tear things up. Michael Jennings is in desperate need of a big game, and should be ready like a bull in a gate to get past Justin Hodges.
It's going to take every member of the NSW team getting over the bloke opposing them to win the game. That goes for the centers and wingers, just as much as the prop forwards. Tim Sheens said yesterday that game two is always the best of the series as "one team wants to win, and one team has to win". That's what the blues have to do tonight, they have to win. Otherwise, it's game over for 2015. It's time for the blues to wind back the clock and play like era's gone by. Queensland must be put off their game, and the Victorians are crying out for some biff. Hell, even the now almost clean-skin sport could do with a dose of argy-bargey.
Cut off the chains Laurie and let them loose, there's a series to save.