The decider, what a quality game of Rugby League. What it lacked in flair, skill and magic moments, it made up for in grit, determination and brutality.
Every game of this series was brilliant for its own reasons and in the end the better team won. Of the 6 halves contested, on the scoreboard Queensland won 4 and NSW won 2. For NSW it was the first and last halves of the series and they were still a chance right until the death. It all came undone with a poor decision from Robbie Farah.
Looking back upon the series there are a few things that stick out for me.
Josh Dugan – The Real Deal
In my opinion he is the NSW player of the series and he wasn’t selected for the first game. For that reason Luke Lewis should get the internal award, but don’t be fooled Dugan was outstanding. In Game III he performed like a man playing for a year’s supply of Pineapple Breezer’s. Dugan stood up to everything that was thrown at him, dismissing the theory that he is soft. He was absolutely pummelled, belted from every angle, yet was still around to make breaks, save tries and diffusive bombs. At one stage he looked like tsunami survivor, covered in mud, dazed and confused tyring to remember his purpose with strapping tape loosely hanging off him.
Dugan is a quality player – and if he gets himself mentality right, which he seems to be doing – is a player that belongs on the big stage. He wasn’t fazed at Suncorp nor was he in the decider. Jarred Hayne has been outstanding at origin level, but I cannot remember him performing at this level for two games in a row, or a full series for that matter. Dugan did it in the two biggest games of his career while juggling his well publicised off field issues. Kudos to him; he should be a starter in the number 1 jersey next series.
On a side note I’ll tell you who looks really stupid at the moment, Anthony Griffin. Moronically, he decided against signing Dugan because he used profanities on a social media app. If this type of behaviour is a prerequisite of a bad footy player these days, we aren’t going to have enough players for a competition soon.
Should not be the captain of the NSW side, Farah marginally tips him.
Wasn’t it good to see no whinging in the decider? There was none, zero, zip. NSW were on top of the penalty count 8-2 at one stage, barely a word from Smith and I am sure Gallen still would have found time to whinge and whine. Gallen is a very good player and should start in the NSW team, but he is not captain material. NSW showed great courage in Game III as they just got on with the job and played with heart and commitment, unfortunately execution is what let them down. The constant whinging of Gallen often gives his players the perception they are being hard done by, which they are usually not. He can be inspirational without being captain and by keeping his mouth shut, much like Greg Bird, Luke Lewis and Dugan.
In saying that I do not think Robbie Farah is the best player for the job either, unless he becomes more controlled in his play. He is a gifted player, but has a tendency to overplay his hand, which can be detrimental to the team. It might work in club-land, but not on the big stage.
Everybody on that field needs to shoulder the workload, with the big plays coming naturally to the game-breakers. In Game III, Farah’s kick that resulted in Darius Boyd grounding the ball with a fingernail was a poor option on the 4th tackle. NSW were 5 meters out with a back-line set to the left; it was kicked straight into opposition legs. While Farah can make good plays on the field there is usually a poor one not far away.
Farah had the ball in his hands during the final pivotal moments of the decider, similar to Game III 2012. It was a time when NSW needed points and in both situations he came up short. Game III 2012, Farah knocked on from dummy half and then blamed it on everyone but himself. Game III 2013, first tackle of the set with one minute to go, a chip wide to a marked McManus with no room to move, the ball goes out. Queensland wasted thirty seconds celebrating, set the scrum and then hit up TWO slow tackles. NSW would have had time to roll up field and run two or three attacking plays, it was poor vision and a Hail Mary play.
The argument put forward that Farah is the best hooker in the game should be buried for another year. It probably shouldn’t have started as his team are in 12th position on the NRL table, and the people who started this prophesy were his club coach Mick Potter and club ledged Ben Elias.
Cameron Smith – Player Of The Series, Really?
Does anybody have any idea what series the selectors were watching? Smith would admit himself that he was probably lucky to win this award. He was well below par in the first game, solid in the second game, and good in the third game. I tend to feel because Nate Myles won the award last year it evens the scales giving the award back to a ball-player. Smith was solid in defence averaging 45 tackles a game, which could be the reason pipped the others for the award. Those ‘others’ who should have come into contention;
Matt Scott was outstanding in the final two games of the series in the hardest position there is. Absolutely relentless. I feel without him in game three QLD may not have won the series. Over three games he averaged 27 tackles & 14 hits-ups, while running for 404 metres in the series. Second in total metres only to Brent Tate. To me, Scott was the best QLD player over the three games and doesn’t get the credit he deserves. The best front rower in the game, bar none.
Cory Parker was phenomenal in all three games. To the point he forced Mal Meninga to drop veteran Ashley Harrison after Game I. He led the QLD stat book in; runs, offloads, tackle busts, while being in the top three for metres gained and tackles. A breakout series that should have cemented his spot in the Australian World Cup squad. Aside from being named Cory, his only blemish was falling off the tackle that allowed Trent Merrin to get NSW within two points in the final game. He would have been a worthy winner of the award.
Justin Hodges had his best series to date, and third series from ten that he has featured in all three games. He was devastating in Game I and one of Queensland’s best players. He made countless runs from dummy half relieving the pressure on the struggling Queensland side. In Game II he was solid in a winning side. While Game III he was at his best, great defence, wonderful try saving tackles, good niggle, incisive runs and dummy half scoots, while scoring the try to win the series. He made 7 errors in total during the series and was sin-binned in game II, which could have rendered him not worthy of the award.
Mitchel Pearce – Dearie me
Again, he was poor. Mal Meninga must be deciding on whether to buy a Mitchell Pearce jersey or not, as he has been Queensland’s most consistent player over the last 4 series.
Game III was Pearce’s best game for NSW, yet it was riddled with errors and poor decisions. Laurie Daley took a new approach of advising Pearce early on in the season he would pick him the side regardless of form. This was an attempt to relieve the pressure on the young man, which would enable him to play his natural game. In the NRL it worked.
Surely after series past and his performance in Game I, he should have been dropped. We could critique his second and third games, but to be honest, I would just be repeating what everyone already knows. Lets just say the streaker had more of an impact on the game than Pearce, literally. The ability of the Biggest Loser lookalike to de-pant while on the run was nothing short of extraordinary and more impressive than anything Pearce contributed.
However, I don’t blame Pearce, he plays with a lot of heart and you cannot fault his effort. He just doesn’t have the quality to compete at origin level. He knows his game and I am sure he knows it is not good enough, yet he is constantly told he has what it takes to play for his state. Coaches of past NSW sides and Laurie Daley need to wear this one. They pick Pearce to lead the team around the paddock. Halfback is arguably the most important position on the field, and maybe once in his 11 origin games has he played to an appropriate standard.
Laurie said it better than anyone, ‘Execution let us down’ – execution stems from your playmakers.
Daley should have had Adam Reynolds in camp for the whole series, slowly blooding him much like QLD did with Cooper Cronk and are now Daly Cherry-Evans. Daley would have avoided this at the risk of placing extra pressure on Pearce. If you are worried a player will not respond well to pressure in camp, as well as Origin selection pressures in the NRL, how the hell do you think he is going to perform in Origin under the greatest pressure of all?
And to be frank he didn’t, in Game III he kicked when he should have passed, ran when he should have passed and couldn’t buy a good fifth tackle option. To top it off, Pearce missed the tackle on Hodges that resulted in the match-winning try. Missed tackles have haunted Pearce throughout Origin deciders. In 2008 at ANZ Stadium, he a missed tackle on Johnathan Thurston that led to the series-winning try; 2012 a missed tackle again on JT, gifted QLD a try and the lead that NSW never got back. Surely the NSW coaching staff wont make the mistake a picking him again next year.
Laurie Daley during the post match press conference quoted – ‘When things go wrong, he’s (Pearce) the guy who tends to cop it, for whatever reason. He tried hard’.
The reasons for his endless criticism are more evident than ever. Unfortunately for Pearce, trying your heart out sometimes just isn’t good enough.
Game 2 – 5 hit-ups for 36m
Game 3 – 4 hit-ups for 18m
Enough said – Out of his depth.