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Origin players with the most to prove

Leila McKinnon NRL.com Tue, May 22, 2012 - 10:30 AM

There are a number of players that have plenty to prove in this year's State of Origin series Copyright: NRL Photos

If there is one thing that is plentiful at Origin time it is motivation. A burning desire to win at all costs is as common as Maroons scarves at Suncorp Stadium, and as endless as the number of column inches written on which players should or shouldn’t be selected for the Blues.

Winning for your mates, for your state, for your place in history, to emulate your heroes, to fulfil your childhood dreams…they are all driving forces behind our best players. But there is one powerful motivation that can give a proud Origin team member an edge, and that is having something to prove.

Blue or Maroon, they’ll all run out of the tunnels hungry on these three big Wednesdays of 2012, but who has the edge? Who owns the “I’ll show ’em” attitude?

Let’s start with New South Wales, a team rich in chips wedged on to broad young shoulders. Todd Carney: bad boy, champion, drinker, superstar. From season to season even the most attentive NRL fan hasn’t known which Carney will turn up. But I guarantee you this series will see him at his lightning-fast best. And at his best, he’s one of the few players in the NRL who can turn a game around and inspire a win. If there’s one consistency in this inconsistent rebel it’s the success that comes with his me-against-the-world attitude. Watch him excel in Origin and take Cronulla up the ladder in 2012, but be wary of backing him into a big 2013.

Jarryd Hayne’s been looking for form for quite some time. When was the last time you glimpsed the Hayne train or the Hayne plane powering over the try-line? We seem to be stuck with the Hayne wane. Former Blues player Matthew Johns has questioned Hayne’s selection publically, and theorised that he’s feeling weighed down by the burden of great expectations. Maybe bookies offering $2.70 on New South Wales will lessen the strain? And the jeers of an army of doubters could lift that weight too, freeing him to show us what we all know he’s got deep inside.

Steve “Blocker” Roach played 17 Origin games for the Blues and along the way he learned something about motivation. No one’s fired up Robbie Farah for 2012 the way Blocker did when he said “…his game doesn’t suit Origin. You can’t do in Origin what you do in club games. You need more than just skill and guile.”

In 2009 Farah made two mistakes playing Origin, blunders you can’t afford when you’re facing the Maroons who took advantage both times with tries. Three years on he’s burning to show he’s ready to be back among the best.

And Blocker is taking the credit already: “All these clubs get the shrinks in and all that, but just get me in. I’m a bit cheaper too. You just gotta fire em up. Have a dig. It’s all about mind games.”

Who has more to prove than Michael Jennings, whose club is so unimpressed by him he’s been dropped into its feeder team? It’s another massive risk for Stuart who’s hoping selection will be a kick along for Jennings to play the football “we all know he can play”. As for Jennings he’s sworn to repay Sticky by playing well for New South Wales.

What a team of misfits. Between them they’ve got the talent and the motivation, but not the focus, the consistency or the confidence. Origin will make or break them.

Let’s look north now, to a team that always has something to prove. Ever since New South Wales used to buy all of Queensland’s best players and pull down Maroon pants year after year, the pride of the Sunshine state has hinged on Origin victory.

They are a team of champions, and among them stands a giant, the most successful of them all, Petero Civoniceva.

He’s played 30 games in Maroon, driving them forward and creating a wall in defence. What could he possibly have to prove? Well some clever Queenslander has told the 36-year-old that New South Wales regard his forward pack as the team’s weakness.

"They (NSW) see the strength is our backline ... as a forward pack we have identified that. We know that Farah will be trying to pick us out and get their backrowers coming back inside at us.”

Oh heaven save plucky little Robbie from a clash with 116 kilograms of fired up Petero.

As for the coaches, on paper Ricky Stuart is the one with the most to prove. Effing and blinding, throwing walkie-talkies and leaping with joy, he is almost as entertaining on the sideline as the players on the field. This is how he feels about Queensland’s ongoing dominance: “I hate it, I can’t describe to you how much I hate it.” And he followed up with a word we can’t print here to get across just how much he hates it.

But does this Stuart passion give him an edge over his old mate Malcolm Meninga? No. Big Mal’s default position is turned right up to maximum on “everything to prove”. He wants this seventh win as hard or harder as he wanted his first.

Will Ricky’s scrappy misfits surprise the champs with the talents they’ve been known to neglect? Is hunger enough against experience? I don’t think so but I know we’re in for three thrillers.

Follow Leila McKinnon on Twitter: @LeilaMcKinnon

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