Played at breakneck speed on a rock-hard surface in Townsville, it was distinctly different to any other Origin we’ve ever witnessed. Not worse, just different.
To that end, NSW coach Brad Fittler completely outsmarted Queensland counterpart Paul Green. It was a refreshing change to the events of November last year when the Blues lost the series 2-1.
In an interview with the Herald in the lead-up to the series, Fittler did a hatchet job on himself.
“There were things about me I didn’t like going into the series last year,” he said. “I just wasn’t as sharp as I like to be. I let the team down.”
Only Fittler knows exactly what he’s talking about but a big part of his regret was selection, picking players out of position and not having a utility on the bench in the decider.
But he and his coaching staff deserve as much credit as his players for this victory, which has them firmly on course to turn around last year’s series defeat.
They literally ran the Maroons off their feet. It’s difficult to recall a time in the match when a single NSW body wasn’t in motion, much like a game of touch or OzTag.
Fittler and his coaching staff picked a quick, mobile pack and almost all of them can use the ball. It featured three locks in Cameron Murray, Jake Trbojevic and Isaah Yeo. In the back line, he had three fullbacks; James Tedesco, Latrell Mitchell and Tom Trbojevic, who dominated the match in the same way Lewis or Johns did in another life.
Fittler sprung a shock positional change just before the match, swapping To’o to the left wing and Josh Addo-Carr over to the right. Pairing Mitchell with To’o was a masterstroke. They each scored two tries.
Those close to Mitchell report he will only get better. His fitness is still nowhere near where it should be after spending a month on the sidelines suspended.
After the match, he said he felt more tired than normal because he’d made so many breaks downfield.
Sure, the Maroons played poorly. Queensland resembled the Broncos. Once the opposition had crossed for a couple of quick tries, they dropped their heads and struggled to get back into the contest. Very un-Queensland.
Five-eighth Cameron Munster, the best player in the world, turned in the worst representative performance of his career. He looked underdone, having spent a month on the sidelines with injury.
If anything, the scoreline on Wednesday night enhances the legend of Wayne Bennett, who elevated Queensland to an upset series win with an inferior team last November.
What Green does to turn it all around for game two at Suncorp Stadium on June 27 is anyone’s guess.
Canberra prop Josh Papalii returns from suspension and his go-go-Gadget offload is a godsend, but there’s not much else.
Green’s kingdom for a fit Kalyn Ponga, although the decision to bring him into camp for game one when he was never really any chance of overcoming his groin injury has likely cost him the chance of playing in game two, according to his Knights coach Adam O’Brien.
In reality, apart from a reshuffle at the back, with AJ Brimson at fullback and Valentine Holmes on a wing, what more can Green and Maroons selectors do?
It seems impossible that they can turn around a loss of that magnitude, even if they get the chance to save the series at their spiritual home of Suncorp Stadium.
But similar things were declared after the Blues trounced the Maroons 34-10 at ANZ Stadium last year, and then they were ambushed. Fittler was outcoached by Bennett on that occasion. If he approaches game two like he did game one, it won’t be happening again.
Goodes, the bad and the ugly
It is just over eight years since Adam Goodes called out a 13-year-old girl at the MCG when she called him an “ape”.
The Swans champion’s career and life turned on that moment, prompting a chorus of boos at stadia around the country and an avalanche of hate from conservative blowhards who prefer their Indigenous sportspeople to do their talking only on the field.
Only this week, though, did we all truly come to understand the toll on Goodes, who was harassed out of the code in 2015.
News leaked out of the AFL that he had rejected the offer to join the AFL Hall of Fame. It lined up with the widely held belief around the AFL that he doesn’t watch or engage in the game any longer. How sad.
It’s hard to fathom: a two-time Brownlow Medallist, a two-time premiership winner, wanting absolutely nothing to do with the code that was so much of his life.
Predictably, a sprinkling of white former players were asked to explain it all for us, social media was predictably putrid, and the AFL cut-and-pasted its apology from the day a documentary about Goodes, The Final Quarter, and gave it another whirl.
“This obsession is just f…ing weird. And my name still in your mouth. Get a f…ing life.” — Liz Cambage rips into Andrew Bogut over his claims they are “really close”.
Veteran winger Brett Morris’ retirement announcement resembled the way he scored most of 176 tries in the NRL: with poise, grace and style. He didn’t go out the way he wanted but finishes as one of the game’s greatest wingers.
Tennis commentator Catherine Whitaker makes a valid point: imagine if was Serena Williams or Novak Djokovic who withdrew from the French Open as Roger Federer did — not because of injury but because he was warming up for Wimbledon.
It’s a big weekend for … Djokovic and Rafael Nadal when the evergreen champions go head to head in a ding-dong semi-final battle at the French Open.
It’s an even bigger weekend for … Karmichael Hunt, 34, who makes his first appearance for the Brisbane Broncos no less than 4,277 days after playing his last one against Canberra at GIO Stadium on Saturday.
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