Friday, June 23, 2017

Champions Get the Job Done

If anything’s to be taken out of Queensland’s triumphant win on Wednesday night by the New South Wales’ players, it’s that champions know how to get the job done. While NSW produced a 1st half of football that illuminated them as the straight-sets winner of State of Origin 2017, the Maroons did what they do best – put themselves in a position to win when it counted.

For years, Queensland have been patient during tedious games. They know that if they can be in with a shot with 20, 15 or 10 minutes to play, they’ll be able to rely on their experience, combinations and skillset to kill of the Blues.

What sets them apart however, is their will to win. They possess a determination to win every game that New South Wales have seldom been able to grasp.

WINNERS: Cameron Smith & Johnathan Thurston celebrate.

In 2014, the Blues found what Queensland have always had when they clinched their first series in a decade. Observers of game 1 this year may suggest NSW had that will to win; that togetherness; that ability to fight for every inch. But realistically, the Blues rode home on a phenomenal performance by Andrew Fifita and a dominant 80 minutes from their forward pack.   

With Mitchell Pearce seen in the sheds high-fiving his old man and celebrating a positive return to the Origin arena after leaving the field early, it’s easy to pinpoint such a moment as an indication of the Blues’ mentality they have failed to shed over the years.

This is not a Mitchell Pearce lashing, but for all intents and purposes what on earth was he celebrating? It’s a three-game series.

On Wednesday night, Queensland were gone. In the first half they were torn to shreds by a forceful Blues’ pack. While they managed to nullify Fifita’s influence, make no mistake, the Maroons were severely struggling.

Such was their disappointment and exhaustion at half-time, it was said that the mood in the dressing sheds was akin to having someone close pass-away. While Kevin Walters probably isn’t one for a rousing inspirational speech, the Maroons knew they were still close enough at 16-6 down.

Despite the long-held quartet of Smith, Cronk, Thurston and Slater being heralded as future Immortals, they were nowhere near their best during the game.

There appeared to be no fluency in their combinations, no clear guidance around the plays they procured, and no synergy amongst their communication. It could possibly be described as all four’s most-average Origin performances.

However, as champions of the game, they were still able to put their team over the line and in-front on the scoreboard. Yes, there were some beneficial and timely penalties that helped them finally find attacking position, but Queensland took the opportunities when they were there.

NSW went so far-off the beaten track in the 2nd half, you could have called for a search party.

They were able to swing the sword when it counted; hitting NSW where they weren’t expecting it.

The Blues appear to lack the genuine ability to instil the killer instinct, where Queensland are willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done.

If you look back right through the successful Origin teams, one thing you will find is a player in the 17 who is willing to do some dirty work. Someone who doesn’t care if they’re labelled ‘Public Enemy Number 1’ in the other state.

Josh McGuire is that current player for Queensland. Willing to put on cheap-shot after cheap-shot, put his hands and knees all through the ruck, sledge opposition players and just generally run amok. Look no further than his sledge following the game towards Andrew Fifita.

It’s complete arrogance, but you know what? It seems to have worked over the years. Think Sam Thaiday, Nate Myles, Shane Webcke, Carl Webb, and Justin Hodges, even Corey Parker could be thrown into that list.

The Queensland mentality figuratively shits all over the Blues, and it’s the exact reason why they’re looking at 11 series wins from 12 attempts.

Pearce' kicking game was on-point during game 2, but he was targeted by sections of the media after the loss.

While the champions will again rise to the occasion on the hallowed Suncorp Stadium’ turf for what looks to be the farewell of an Origin era, New South Wales must adopt a siege, hate, hunt and kill approach if they’re to have any chance.

Their best hope comes from their best player in game 1 – Andrew Fifita. In an interview after the match probing about what McGuire’s sledge entailed, Fifita was already looking ahead. Speaking calmly, with focus and intent, the game-breaker signalled his devotion for revenge.

"There'll be nothing better than us going up there and taking out the series on Queensland soil," he said.

New South Wales have one of the best packs seen in years and despite dictating the yardage game, there’s no-one in there willing to get their hands dirty. 

It’s why Andrew Johns’ comments about not consistently attacking Johnathan Thurston are spot-on.

Stop playing nice and get the job done.

It’s over to you, New South Wales.