Another chapter in Australia’s greatest sporting drama begins next week in Adelaide.
There’s so much on the line and nothing more so than New South Wales Blues coach Brad Fittler’s contract.
Tactically, Fittler hasn’t been good in his tenure as NSW boss.
In other games, Queensland have just found a way.
State of Origin is about moments.
So let’s do something different.
Let’s look at a tip sheet for the Maroons.
When defending Nathan Cleary inside your defensive 30, give him the inside shoulder if he wants to take it. Push up on the outside and give him no other option. Important that shadowing players from the middle of the ruck cover.
Squeeze Jarome Luai out of attacking structure and cut him off from more potential line runners on the outside. Let him skip around and keep your line.
Play into the ‘Tevita Pangai intimidation’ stuff. Expect it. Meet him, keep battle with Pangai in the ruck on the grass. Not on feet. Let him fire up. Zap his energy and try to keep it clean.
Kick early on front foot, even third tackle, make James Tedesco work and get runs in his legs without his wingers back far enough to help him.
Target shorter Brian To’o with high kicks, whether it be from 20 or 40. That should also take him out of taking one of his carries which he’s known for.
Api 1: Eyes up on the try line against Api Koroisau. First marker, legally and square, actively play at his left forearm when he’s passing left to right.
Api 2: Red flag will also be a flat NSW “decoy” forward sitting flat. ‘A’ defender keep his shape but important for ‘B’ and ‘C’ if needed to rush back toward the ruck and disable the play.
Api 3: Chance to use bench hooker tactically against NSW because Koroisau will need a break at some point. Barring injury, keep bench dummy half and react to how the Blues use their rotation. If and when Fittler replaces Koroisau, NSW will need to use Nicho Hynes, Cam Murray or Luai in the middle of an Origin game. Interject Ben Hunt/Harry Grant and alter attack and increase intensity through the middle third with Daly Cherry-Evans, Reece Walsh, inside passes and the fresh legs of your back-up hooker.
Easier said than done but force an early mistake from Latrell Mitchell. Jam him up and work on the ground. Get him on his back and frustrate him out of the game.
Share kicking duties on both sides of the field as NSW don’t have that luxury. Cleary needs to be targeted as only legitimate in-field kicker. In rotation and kicking for territory, kick for your left corner and rush up from the left and try to keep NSW to the left-side of the field. Cleary’s boot less effective if he’s kicking from his right or centre of field under pressure.