Peter Sterling: Origin's battle of the boot

I could write a dozen columns on the importance of kicking in the modern game.<br><br>With defences so well drilled, it often proves to be much more successful going over the top instead of through or around. In fact, in the opening 11 weeks of this year’s competition, one-fifth of all tries scored have come off the boot.<br><br>For some teams, the percentage has been much higher with the kick almost the major part of their attacking arsenal. Remarkably, Penrith have scored more than half their tries in this fashion with 25 from their 48 scored. Obviously, their lofty position on the ladder can be directly attributed to this productive tactic.<br><br>Conversely, it is also terribly important to be able to combat teams scoring against you through kicks. This is where competition leaders the Dragons have come into their own, giving up just two tries from the 21 conceded. <br><br>I raise this point because if this aspect of the game is so crucial at club level, you can imagine the magnitude it takes on in representative football where defences are even more effective.<br><br>In Wednesday’s opening Origin clash, there is very little that separates two marvellously gifted state squads. After 80 minutes, I’m tipping that the winner will have enjoyed more success in the kicking department and that this was clearly a major contributor in their victory.<br><br>For their respective teams, most of the responsibility will fall on the shoulders of Brett Kimmorley and Johnathan Thurston.<br><br>Brett is one of those rare players who actually kick through the line with a very flat trajectory. This means that he doesn’t find enormous distance, but his kicks are rarely caught on the full and that chasers are invariably on-side.<br><br>Closer to the line, he usually has good weight and I’m sure that NSW will look to capitalise on a particular ploy which has been used by both the Dragons and Bulldogs to great effect.<br><br>Taking advantage of his basketball background, two of Ben Creagh’s three tries this season have come from Jamie Soward kicks that are aimed half way between upright and corner post. <br><br>The first was in Round 6 against the Titans where he came from outside-in to outjump the opposition.<br><br><a href="http://www.nrl.com/GameanalyserVideo/tabId/10910/Default.aspx?seasonID=240?seasonid=240&amp;roundid=842&amp;fixtureid=50020100602&amp;videoquality=1&amp;type=try&amp;period=2&amp;time=473" target="_blank">CLICK HERE to see Creagh's basketball skills in action.</a><br><br>The second was even more impressive in Round 10, ironically against the ‘Dogs, where he batted the ball forward before re-gathering on his fingertips.<br><br><a href="http://www.nrl.com/GameanalyserVideo/tabId/10910/Default.aspx?seasonID=240?seasonid=240&amp;roundid=846&amp;fixtureid=50020101001&amp;videoquality=1&amp;type=try&amp;period=1&amp;time=1302" target="_blank">CLICK HERE to see this attacking weapon in action.</a><br><br>This perfectly suits Kimmorley, who has a deft little dink kick ideal for such a Creagh chase. We’ve seen clear evidence of this in recent weeks.<br><br>In Round 6 against the Tigers it was Michael Ennis who raced through to score. &nbsp;<br><br><a href="http://www.nrl.com/GameanalyserVideo/tabId/10910/Default.aspx?seasonID=240?seasonid=240&amp;roundid=842&amp;fixtureid=50020100601&amp;videoquality=1&amp;type=try&amp;period=1&amp;time=2116" target="_blank">CLICK HERE to see Kimmorley's kick accuracy at the line.</a><br><br>A week later it was Ben Barba capitalising against the Broncos.<br><br><a href="http://www.nrl.com/GameanalyserVideo/tabId/10910/Default.aspx?seasonID=240?seasonid=240&amp;roundid=843&amp;fixtureid=50020100701&amp;videoquality=1&amp;type=try&amp;period=2&amp;time=589" target="_blank">CLICK HERE to see Kimmorley deft attacking chip in action again.</a><br><br>The beauty of this kick is that it is aimed at an area where the defence is spaced. If it is able to be directed over the head of one defender, there will be a gap on his outside to the next and this is where Creagh arrives with momentum. <br><br>Whilst Brett will handle much of the Blues' creative kicking, they must surely call on the prodigious boot of Jarryd Hayne when looking for distance.<br><br>In his last game against Manly, I was amazed at how far he was striking the ball in difficult Monday night conditions. Despite being on the right wing, NSW need to make sure that he has positioned himself in-field to kick long from inside their own half.<br><br>Johnathan Thurston is not dissimilar to Kimmorley in the way he kicks, as he also tends to flatten his delivery, but he will favour going wider. In the Cowboys' opening game against Brisbane, he created a contest in the corner for Ashley Graham to win and score.<br><br><a href="http://www.nrl.com/GameanalyserVideo/tabId/10910/Default.aspx?seasonID=240?seasonid=240&amp;roundid=837&amp;fixtureid=50020100102&amp;videoquality=1&amp;type=try&amp;period=2&amp;time=1351" target="_blank">CLICK HERE to see Thurston's try-assist.</a><br><br>The obvious target for the Maroons will be Israel Folau, who is the best leaper in the competition. Whilst he hasn’t scored from a high kick this year, we all recall some of his spectacular efforts in the past and he may well be due.<br><br>He is also particularly dangerous for what he can provide for others in this situation. Whilst he didn’t catch on the full against the Broncos in Melbourne, he enabled Jharal Yow Yeh to benefit in Round 9. <br><br><a href="http://www.nrl.com/gameAnalyser/tabId/10910/default.aspx?seasonID=240?seasonid=240&amp;roundid=845&amp;fixtureid=50020100903&amp;videoquality=1&amp;type=try&amp;period=1&amp;time=1433" target="_blank">CLICK HERE to see his clever touch.</a><br><br>The area that Thurston really shines in, however, is his ability to force line drop-out re-starts when his kicks trap opponents in their own in-goal. No-one is better in creating effective last play options.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <br><br>The loss of Cameron Smith’s kicking contribution is pronounced, however rookie Matt Ballin is quite adept at doing so out of dummy-half. (As is Michael Ennis)<br><br>Ballin has taken on more responsibility this season for Manly and the Blues wingers will need to be aware of his and Thurston’s 40-20 attempts. <br><br>Whilst no NSW player this season has come up with this incredibly advantageous play, both Matt and Johnathan have displayed the necessary precision.<br><br>Queensland are also in the enviable position of having a right foot, left foot combination with skipper Darren Lockyer able to position himself on the other side to Thurston. With Darren on the left and Johnathan on the right, their kicking legs are away from the opposition which makes them harder to pressure and should take any charge-downs out of play.&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;<br><br>Despite it being a three game series, the result of Game 1 has proven to be a decisive result throughout Origin history. Of the 28 best-of-three series played, the winner of the opening clash has gone on to be the superior state on 20 occasions. On Wednesday night, one of these teams will receive a massive kick towards a successful campaign. <br>