So that’s Origin for another year.
I am rarely right when it comes to prognosticating about rugby league matches but the sort of brave optimism I saw on the faces of Blues fans arriving at Suncorp Stadium last night was eerily familiar.
Yes, I had seen it just a few days before on the dials of those who got up early to brave the winter chill at some daft outdoor venue in a green and gold scarf.
Deluded, one and all.
The Blues are still the Washington Generals, though. Germany was ruthless and professional and highly skilled but Queensland is so good to watch you actually don’t want them to blow half-time or full-time.
Billy Slater, Greg Inglis, Johnathan Thurston, Darren Lockyer — it’s almost like plucking the best players from different eras and putting their stats into some virtual reality program to see how they would perform if it was possible.
The Maroons deserve to be lionised in this column, which is being punched out in the early hours of Thursday morning at an otherwise empty Suncorp.
But superlatives don’t flow so well at 1.30am and besides — that would be boring. So let’s talk (again) about where the Blues should go now.
The other night on the radio, Sydney Roosters coach Brian Smith suggested the respective states’ media had something to do with the gulf in their playing abilities.
That is, the Queensland media supports whoever is in their team while the NSW players are placed under intolerable pressure, always change their team as a result, and therefore lose.
Lockyer actually said at the post-match media conference here that the constant changes to the Blues’ line-up had played into Queensland’s hands over the past five seasons.
Now, I don’t know if Andrew Webster, Brad Walter and Ray Hadley are the men who hold the key to NSW winning Origin III but I suspect not.
If Smith’s point holds any water at all, then, it must be in the area of how NSW responds to media pressure that is — Brian claims — absent north of the border.
If they are responding too much to media pressure then: presto — we have a solution to NSW State of Origin woes.
Ignore the blighters! Do the exact opposite of what they tell you!
So while the media-friendly option for Origin III might be to pick a team of under 20s players solely of indigenous and Polynesian backgrounds, with Timana Tahu the captain and only over-age member, maybe the NSWRL should set the tone straight away by sticking two fingers up at the hacks.
Appoint Craig Bellamy for five more years. Guarantee Kurt Gidley the captaincy even if he doesn’t make the team. Ban Tahu. Put Jarryd Hayne back on the wing. Tell Luke O’Donnell to take the early plea for that spear tackle and make him vice-captain for the next game.
Or, er, maybe do something in between those last two lists.
Because it’s clear that NSW is just too complicated a place to have a successful State of Origin side. Too many players to choose from, too many shock jocks commenting on the side, too many people who talk to too many other people involved with the team. So what the Blues need is a team run more like a club side, which is what Queensland has.
A team that’s harder to get dropped from than get into.
Sack the selectors. Give Ricky Stuart the coaching job for two or even three years, off the bat, and let him pick the team. Go back to Gus Gould’s Emerging Blues camps. And here’s one from left field — instead of City-Country — which really allows NSW players to bash each other — give NSW a warm-up game against the Maori or the Cook Islands or someone like that on the same Friday night.
It would take fewer players out of club teams and promote harmony and cohesion.
You might think it a whacky idea but in the late seventies, the Blues went on tour to New Zealand you know — and Queensland toured England in ’83 for memory.
NSW’s players are not as good as Queensland’s. They need to get an advantage somewhere else — somewhere aside from the biff that merely stopped the Maroons scoring for a few minutes in Origin II.
*Back Page Lead is a sports opinion website that provides sports content to Crikey.