25 May 2011
When it comes to State of Origin, there is no such thing as ‘Queensland spirit'
There is a misconception that being born north of the border instils some kind of superhuman abilities that only surface once a maroon jersey is on the back – a myth that has seeped its way into the NSW psyche for years.
The problem is most people – including the Blues teams of late – have begun believing it's true.
When Maroons sides leap off the canvas in the eleventh hour of tight matches (as they so often do) – we cry that Queensland players care more, that there is more pride and spirit in their side and in their character.
The idea is ridiculous, but it has gained genuine traction among humiliated Blues fans searching for vindication in the painful stanzas between each Origin series. The true genius has been the chorus of Queensland greats drumming up these ‘spirit talks'. They talk of a cosy camaraderie within the camp; a football mecca ruled by the game's gods on earth, who spend their retirement days shaping and sculpting today's troops. And for five years, they've all been laughing up in the clouds.
Enter Ricky Stuart.
Perhaps if there is a genuine counter to Queensland's Mal Meninga, Stuart is it: both were true leviathans of the game during a golden era. While his record coaching in the home and away season admittedly hasn't been great, Origin is a very different beast. Stuart bleeds for the Blues and his passion makes up for any perceived deficiencies in his coaching style.
Stuart's number one priority must be instilling a bit of belief that can overcome the mental frailty of past campaigns. The desire to win State of Origin does not run along state borders, and the man at the helm needs to take grab the notion that Queenslanders have more heart and shake it out of his players. Shake it hard.
He has picked five debutants, but indicated that he has learned from selection mistakes in previous years by hinting at stability and looking towards the future. It is refreshing to hear a coach admit that the selection merry-go-round must end.
A decade ago the Maroons made tough disciplined decisions on key positions (namely at 1,6,7 and 9), ones that have reaped reward ever since.
The backs combination of Jamie Soward, Mitchell Pearce and Josh Dugan is as green as we've seen for a while – none legends in their own right, unlike their counterparts Thurston, Lockyer and Slater. But these newcomers have the opportunity to become locks in the side for years to come. The likes of Hayne, Carney, Idris, Cooper, Mullen and Campese will only get a chance if those go horribly, and even then, hopefully with very careful consideration.
Not everyone agrees with Stuart's fresh injections – Brisbane media has labelled the side “the worst ever”. Sure, the Blues will be hard pressed once again to break the Maroons, but this rhetoric might be just a tad sensationalist.
With the aggressive Paul Gallen branding the skipper's arm band – the Blues are likely to engage in firebrand forward play and look to be expansive through the backline. There is talent oozing through the paper the side is written on, it just needs to find its way to Suncorp Stadium.
It might be too early to judge, but the cavalier attitude Queensland has displayed in the build-up to Game One may well be early signs of unwarranted comfort. The flashy team announcement with accompanying superhero theme music may have been entertaining, but it was self indulgent. There are some big personalities in the side now – Atlantic salmon in a sardine tin. That said, the biggest egos in the room – Greg Inglis and Justin Hodges – aren't even playing.
The cockiest of all are the legions of fans who will smother Brisbane on Wednesday night – they too are giddy with the “northern fortitude” fallacy. Intoxicated by the champagne of victory after victory, they will be brutal to the visitors.
It is to be expected and welcomed however. Each and every NSW player should feel a twinge of pain when someone says they can't win, every time a shout of abuse or can of XXXX is thrown their way.
This, after all, is the greatest of showdowns in the harshest of arenas, where passion flows on tap. Contrary to what anyone might say, have no doubt it will be streaming free on both sides of the frontier.
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The Colonel, Bathurst, NSW (30 May 2011 11:57AM) wrote:
Great read!! Keep em' coming.