Reading the weekend Brisbane papers
almost made me believe the Maroons actually lost the opening State of Origin
game by 40 points, and not by one. The demands for wholesale team changes,
strategy changes, and some not too subtle attacks on the selection and coaching
methods, have dominated in the parochial Courier Mail and Sunday Mail.

The Blues coach, Graham Murray, who would
be reading it all, must be wondering about the final score as well, but loving
every line of the coverage.

The biggest shot in the post-Origin war has
been fired by the Broncos coach, and former Maroons coach, Wayne Bennett. His
Saturday column in the Courier Mail is worth a read because, as ever, Bennett got right to the point. His main point was that the selectors had
got it wrong, and he was especially critical of the selection of Broncos Brent
Tait and Sam Thaiday who lacked match fitness.

The Maroons coach and selectors have been
getting plenty of “advice” from just about everywhere. How’s this for a sample?

Paul “Fatty” Vautin believes Darren Lockyer
needs to get on his bike and back to fullback; Trevor Gillmiester says the
Maroons need more “aggro”; Gorden Tallis
said former Maroons star Tonie Carroll must be brought back; someone else is
demanding Karmichael Hunt be recalled, and the suspended Mick Crocker wants a
Storm team-mate! And the list just goes on, and on!

And there is another message – the
influence of Wayne Bennett over Origin selection, and strategy, is not what it
used to be. The coaching and management of the Maroons is now run by a group
aligned with the “FOGs” – Former Origin Greats – some of whom are not Bennett
acolytes.

Meanwhile, the Blues have an embarrassment
of riches when it comes to team selection for the second match in just over two
weeks’ time. The players injured in the lead up to the first game will probably
all be available – but the only debate seems to be whether the Blues need to
bring back Craig Gower or stick with Brett Finch.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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