BY CURTIS WOODWARD
The state of New South Wales is still reeling after a nightmare on Wednesday at ANZ Stadium. At half-time, eight million people were on cloud nine. Forty minutes later, Queensland had come back from the dead again to steal Game II.
But the agony may not stop there.
The inevitable drums are about to start beating.
NSW gave up the series and their chance to lock it up in front of 82,259 frustrated fans and will now have to win back the Origin title at Suncorp Stadium in the decider.
Can you hear the drums?
QLD was given every chance to win Game II. The Blues spluttered their way through offensive plays in the second stanza, turned over possession, raked at the ball in two-man tackles and were on the wrong end of almost every 50/50 call from the referees.
The dark old days were back.
If the Maroons are given countless sets inside your half – they will eventually take advantage. They did it again.
Now the panic is going to set in at NSWRL HQ.
The players that dismantled QLD in Brisbane at Game I are going to be questioned after one forgettable half of football. The Blues do panic better than anyone.
Bring back Paul Gallen they’ll say.
Drop Mitchell Pearce.
Where was Nathan Peats’ running game?
What planet was Jarryd Hayne on?
If the Blues make changes, drop even one guy from Game II, they’re already playing into QLD’s hands. The players that felt the anguish of Game II deserve to win the series in Game III.
“It’s hard to digest everything right now because there are a range of emotions,” Wade Graham told NRL.com.
“What we did in Game One gave us two bites at it so we know what we have to do up there in the decider.
“We definitely have confidence and we feel as a team that if we play our best game then we can beat them. We showed that in the first half tonight. Even with all the cheap turnovers and penalties in the second half, we were still in it until the very end.
— NRL (@NRL) June 21, 2017
— Wide World of Sports (@wwos) June 21, 2017
“We’re very disappointed by how it all finished but Game Three is on in three weeks and we know we can turn it around.”
If the Blues have learnt anything over this journey it’s that changing players now, with one game to play, can only hurt them. Whether they can show the trust to the players they’ve chosen is another question.
Coach Laurie Daley needs to show solidarity because his job is on the line.
Stories continue to circulate that Daley may walk away to take an NRL club job anyway but if he wants to stay on, the selection choices he and officials make will determine his future.
Bringing back Gallen is a terrible idea.
For all his toughness, the forward pack is far more dangerous without him.
Dropping Pearce is an even worse idea.
Throwing another halfback into an Origin decider at Suncorp is rugby league suicide.
Peats wasn’t picked for his running game. Selector Peter Sterling wanted a hooker that could give crisp, early ball to his runners and playmakers. He does that and that’s the reason Robbie Farah wasn’t considered.
And for Hayne?
There’s absolutely no way Hayne can play that badly again. He’s a Dally M winner and one of the best players in the NRL when he’s on.
One poor half of footy after what we’ve seen this year from the Blues shouldn’t mean changes.
QLD will be licking their lips if NSW hit the panic button.
Knowing the Blues, they may have already hit it.