[game of the year 2013]State of Origin 2021: NSW Blues vs QLD Maroons, result, game two, Brad Fittler, Nathan Cleary, Jarom

Tag: 2021-07-09 13:00

  A near-perfect opening two games of this year’s Origin series has unearthed a Blues team that should strike serious fear into the Maroons.

  And the bad news for Queenslanders is, this is only the beginning for New South Wales.

  For so long, Queensland was the dominant state… eight years to be precise. The future was bright, depth was aplenty and their combinations were getting stronger and stronger.

  NSW’s luck began to change in 2014 — or so it seemed — when Trent Hodkinson crossed for a 70th minute try in game two, to seal the series.

  Game 2SOOJun 27 7:50pm AESTFTQLDQLD0NSW26MATCH CENTRE*Odds are current as of 29th June 2021, 6:40am AESTVIEW ALL SCORES

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  But then the Blues were smashed in game three. Then Queensland ran away with three consecutive series’ afterwards until Brad Fittler and his quirkiness took over.

  Fittler had a vision. Fresh faces, picking on form — not incumbency — and hopefully bringing through the next generation. It worked in 2018 and 2019 but last year Queensland pulled off the ultimate upset and it was back to the drawing board.

  A problem of NSW’s over the last few years has been finding the team-wide winning combination. Not one that can scrape through with a series-win but one that can begin a dominance like Queensland’s from 2006 to 2013.

  Smashing the Maroons 50-6 backed up by a comprehensive 26-nil win — both on enemy soil — may be enough to suggest the Blues have just begun their best-ever period.

  Turbo makes FOUR tackles in a row | 00:39

  THE BRIGHT FUTURE

  The average age of the NSW side (25) isn’t much lower than Queensland’s (26) — and it’s worth noting the Maroons’ average age is much younger if Kalyn Ponga, Harry Grant and AJ Brimson are fit and take their place in the side.

  However, what works in the Blues’ favour is that their fresh-faced babies have done enough in this series to cement their spot in the side for years to come… pending injury and of course club form.

  As for Queensland, well, after game’s one and two, no one is safe. Not the young guys and not the seasoned guys either.

  Nathan Cleary has locked down the No.7 jersey and is only 23-years old. His halves partner Jarome Luai stepped into the Origin pressure cooker and enjoyed every moment. He’s 24-years old. Together they steered the Blues to a defiant series win.

  There were question marks over 22-year-old Brian To’o and whether his short, nuggety frame is a safe option on the wing, but the Panthers star did spectacularly as the youngest member of NSW’s backline and second youngest in the team.

  Josh Addo-Carr has been doing his job out on the wing since 2018 and still has another five years, at least, in him, while Latrell Mitchell can take out a mortgage on his spot in the centres after a stunning display.

  There’s some guys in their late 20s to early 30s sprinkled throughout the squad, namely skipper James Tedesco and resident No.9 Damien Cook, but the beauty of the Blues is they are spoiled with choice.

  Luai harasses, taunts & ragdolls Maroons | 01:01

  MORE ORIGIN NEWS

  3 BIG HITS: QLD’s edge gamble backfires as Cleary finally shuts down Origin hoodoo

  HOOPS’ NSW RATINGS: Latrell buries demons as Blues’ unsung hero emerges

  ‘CALL OFF THE THIRD’: QLD great’s sad concession accidentally caught on mic

  ‘BARELY A CONTEST’: Fans ravage miserable Maroons after Origin humiliation

  THE DEPTH

  Underline and highlight it because it’s NSW’s trump card that Queensland simply cannot match.

  When Kalyn Ponga and AJ Brimson pulled out of Origin II, Maroons coach Paul Green made the shock call to select an 18-year-old, seven-game rookie in Reece Walsh.

  Sure, Walsh was seriously impressive in those seven games. Impressive enough that a lot of fans welcomed the selection, but beneath all the hype, Walsh’s selection exposed a big issue — lack of depth.

  Green had no one else to turn to. Cameron Munster has spent some time at fullback, but moving last year’s man of the series wouldn’t have been a logical option… even though he’s fizzled in the halves for the Maroons this year.

  Other than that, there’s Corey Norman, Moses Mbye, Corey Allan, Corey Thompson, Phillip Sami and Kurt Mann who can all play fullback if needed. Thompson and Allan have been out injured and the rest haven’t been playing up to the standard that would warrant putting them in the conversation.

  It’s a very different situation south of the border. Ryan Papenhuyzen was destined to be named in the No.14 jersey until a concussion ruled him out of contention. No Papenhuyzen, no worries! Come on down reigning Dally M medallist Jack Wighton.

  Should Cleary or Luai suffer a bout of bad luck ahead of game three, Blues coach Brad Fittler could turn to Wighton, or perhaps South Sydney’s star duo Cody Walker and Adam Reynolds. Maybe even Parramatta’s in-form playmaker Mitchell Moses.

  And don’t get us started on the options at fullback. One day Tedesco will vacate the No.1 jersey and when that day happens the likes of Tom Trbojevic, Papenhuyzen and Mitchell will all put their hand up for it. Throw in Eels skipper Clint Gutherson and Fittler has a smorgasbord of quality players to choose from.

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  Eat my dust – Mitchell TORCHES Maroons | 00:52

  THE COMBINATIONS

  One of the biggest drivers behind Queensland’s eight-year dominance is the luxury of picking and sticking. Cameron Smith wore the Maroons No.9 jersey from the first year of that historical reign in 2006 right through to the final year in 2013 — with the exception of one game in 2010 which he missed through injury.

  Johnathan Thurston and Darren Lockyer played together in the halves, during that period, from 2006 right through to 2011 — with the exception of 2008. After Lockyer bowed out, the very capable Cooper Cronk stepped in and held his spot until retiring from representative footy in 2018. Throw in legendary fullback Billy Slater who owned the No.1 jersey for five of those eight years and there you have a consistent spine made up of players that know exactly what their roles are.

  Add in other regular members during that period like Greg Inglis and Darius Boyd too and the Maroons were humming along brilliantly.

  This is a blueprint the Blues can finally going off. When Fittler took over as coach in 2018 he made sweeping changes. Out with the old and in with the new. It ended Queensland’s three-series’ run. But he’s had to make tweaks to that line-up along the way — particularly in the halves. James Maloney jetted off overseas, Cody Walker and Luke Keary were tried and tested, Mitchell Pearce even got a recall.

  James Tedesco and Damien Cook have been the stalwarts in the Blues’ spine. Fittler put his faith in Cleary back in 2018 as the future of NSW, he just needed to find that right combination.

  It’s been found. The Cleary-Luai combination is a no-brainer. They have been playing together since they were teenagers and have dominated the NRL over the last two seasons.

  Their knowledge of each other’s game is exactly the type of knowledge that made Queensland so lethal for eight years.

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  NSW team and their ages

  1. James Tedesco (28)

  2. Brian To’o (22)

  3. Latrell Mitchell (24)

  4. Tom Trbojevic (24)

  5. Josh Addo-Carr (25)

  6. Jarome Luai (24)

  7. Nathan Cleary (23)

  8. Daniel Saifiti (25)

  9. Damien Cook (30)

  10. Junior Paulo (27)

  11. Cameron Murray (23)

  12. Tariq Sims (31)

  13. Isaah Yeo (26)

  14. Jack Wighton (28)

  15. Angus Crichton (25)

  16. Payne Haas (21)

  17. Liam Martin (24)

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