State of Origin II is this Wednesday night and the New South Wales Blues are staring down the barrel of yet another series defeat. But it’s not all doom and gloom just yet despite the unenviable job of squaring the series in Queensland’s own backyard.
Curtis Woodward dissects what each Blues player must do if they’re to win and bring the decider back to ANZ Stadium.
Matt Moylan: Was rocks and diamonds in his State of Origin debut in Game I. If he thought ANZ Stadium was tough, Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith at Suncorp Stadium are another level. There’s no room for errors in this game for Moylan. He needs to be safe and start New South Wales’ sets on the front foot. Can’t be late to the party in the middle third either and must be following the big Blues forwards throughout the eighty minutes. His support play could prove the difference if the Blues can get their second phase going.
Blake Ferguson: I hope against hope Ferguson and Moylan have introduced themselves to each other before Game II. Ferguson is a big body and needs to be there to start each NSW set no matter how tired he is. The Maroons will keep coming and he must be there. Will be a target for Adam Reynolds and James Maloney in the air and has to take his opportunities. Too many times in recent years the Blues have missed half chances.
Michael Jennings: The Blues went too sideways in Game I and the Maroons could be punished if Maloney and Reynolds can turn Jennings back against the grain early enough for him to weave through the staggered line either finding space himself or picking up a straight runner.
Josh Morris: Cancelling out Queensland legend Greg Inglis isn’t good enough anymore. We need extras from the Canterbury centre. Morris needs to pose an attacking threat to Queensland and find space for the men inside and outside him.
Josh Mansour: This guy was sensational in his debut last time out and needs to back it up. Many a Blues winger has been embarrassed in the last decade at Suncorp. He’ll get bombarded with aerial kicks and needs to soak up all that pressure and more. He then needs to come looking for the ball and fight, like he does, for every metre. Origin games in Brisbane seem to fly by at breakneck speed, even faster than in Sydney, and it’s easy for a winger to miss out on the fun. Must involve himself.
James Maloney: Has only played a couple of Origins but has to be categorised as one of the “old heads”. Maloney is at his best when he’s thinking run first and if the Blues are chasing twenty or thirty points, this guy needs to have the game of his life.
Adam Reynolds: There was a moment in Origin I that would still be hurting the young halfback. It came midway through the second half and the Blues on the attack. From about thirty metres out Reynolds kicked across field for his outside backs but the kick was way too deep off the boot and was taken easily by the Maroons. The pressure valve was released and the Maroons went on their merry way. Reynolds is in the team for his kicking game but he must put questions to the defensive line with his running game too. He needs to be better than perfect.
Aaron Woods: He’s going to get his metres and make his tackles but I wouldn’t mind seeing some agro from the big fella. Let’s hope.
Robbie Farah: Can dictate the speed offensively for the Blues but also must take the right options. There will be times when NSW need Farah to control the ruck and take them forward but he must know when to release Reynolds, Moylan, Walker and Maloney.
James Tamou: Nothing wrong with a bit of competition for spots. Hopefully Tamou knows how close Fifita is to taking his starting position. In fact, I’d probably start Fifita over Tamou. The Cowboys prop needs to take some angry pills and dominate the Maroons pack.
Greg Bird: One of the veterans who will have the job of plugging gaps, helping his halves out in the line and making plenty of tackles. Also has the ability to offload the pill and his footwork could prove handy. Must not play for penalties. Get up and play the ball.
Josh Jackson: Very similar to Bird and the decision to start these two in the second row could be showing coach Laurie Daley’s hand. The Blues have to force the ball, they must keep the ball alive and they have to be willing to trust their instincts.
Paul Gallen: We all know what we’re going to get from the captain. Put him down for 150 metres now. Hopefully though when the Blues are attacking the ball goes to the halves and not Gallen.
Dylan Walker: Put him on with ten to play first half and fifteen to play in the second.
Tyson Frizell: Go mental, son!
David Klemmer: Go mental, son!
Andrew Fifita: Keep offloading and get up your teammates if they’re not there.