Last night’s State of Origin match has produced a new term that is likely to become a key part of the second century of the game – the Maroons were “Bellamied”.
Not since Wally Lewis dominated State of Origin in the 1980s has one person had such a profound impact on the game that the Blues (and Melbourne Storm) coach, Craig Bellamy, had on last night’s comprehensive NSW Blues 18-10 victory.
As I commented yesterday, the short-price on the Maroons to win (not to mention the lazy $700,000 some hapless punter plonked on them) failed to take account of the fact the Blues have a new coach, who just happens to be the best coach in the NRL premiership. There’s no doubt the Blues win was largely due to Bellamy’s tactical genius. It helped of course that he is the club coach for close to half the Maroons team, meaning he knows as much about their game as they do, and probably even more.
His Storm stars in the Maroons backline were shut down by the skilful Blues defence from the first minute of the game. Add some brilliance from the Blues new half back, Peter Wallace (who now plays with the Brisbane Broncos), and the Maroons were never really in the hunt.
The nation’s most parochial newspaper, The Gold Coast Bulletin, has an entirely different slant on the result – today’s coverage demands that the three Queensland selectors and coach write out a thousand times that the Gold Coast Titans’ Scott Prince must be in the Queensland team for game two in Brisbane next month.
As a spectacle it was a good advertisement for rugby league. Lots of skill on show, definitely no biff, and a referee who was virtually unseen – the way it ought to be
The attendance – 67,000 – will be regarded by the ARL as respectable, but it was still close to 20,000 short of capacity. And a sobering thought for those spruiking the game in Sydney – if Lang Park in Brisbane had an 80,000 capacity, it would sell out in a day.
But an Origin series that was supposed to be a “one horse race” (with the Maroons supposedly unbeatable) is very much alive. Unless the Maroons tacticians can find a way to out-Bellamy Bellamy, not even the partisan Lang Park crowd will make much of a difference when the sides meet again on 11 June.