Inside Word: Finals form begins here

The aftermath of a great Origin series has been riveting, to say the least. Anyone who thought State of Origin was dead will certainly be thinking otherwise at present.

After three great games, even though the third game wasn’t the outcome we wanted, we witnessed a revival in Origin passion. Queensland deserve every accolade they receive. They are a no doubt a champion team littered with modern day champion players.

To win six series on the trot is something we may not see again ... this is not to say I am happy about it! But credit where credit is due. I believe NSW are on the right track and the next 12 months’ planning is very important to our state. We need to keep instilling in every player in NSW - young, old and in between - that the sky blue jumper is our ultimate dream. We have to keep developing a culture that Ricky Stuart tried so hard to recreate ... a feat I think he achieved.

Now that the series is over we come into the money rounds of the competition. The top four is sorting itself out but the make-up of the eight will be interesting. History shows that a lot of our premiership-winning teams start to go on a run or a burst into form about 4-6 weeks out from the semis. 

The players are all match-hardened and starting to get excited about the possibility of playing semi-final footy. They will all toss up the ‘one week at a time’ cliche but deep down they can feel the big games getting near. The weather will start to warm up, the coach starts to up the ante, and our big-name players generally rally and produce some mighty performances.

The last six or so rounds are very important for a team’s confidence. You want to be heading into September healthy, confident and knowing that what you have done over the course of the season will put you in good stead to give the comp a real shake. Luck will unfortunately determine a big finish or not. By that I mean luck with injuries ... you can get by at a pinch with an injury to one key player; but take two or three of your best players out through injury and the dream begins to fade.

The old saying ‘big names win big games’ is true. The Lockyers, Fittlers, Johns, Langers etc of our game all have produced at the right time of year to give their team a win ... without these players it is very hard.

The coach, medical and conditioning staff play a huge role all year but even more so at the back end of the season. The key is timing; knowing when to ease off the workload and knowing when to amp it up. It’s been a torturous long year and you need your players mentally right and physically as good as you can get them considering the duress their bodies have been under for six months! Not an easy thing to judge.

A team can do little training to prepare for a semi in order to have the team physically and mentally at their best. If the players know within themselves their role, trust their coach, trust each other and turn up on the Sunday with real attitude, the game can be won on the back of what they developed during the year.

The style of footy in semis can tighten up a little bit. As is every week, but even more so in Origin and in semis, there are two things you need to win. You need an even share of possession and you need to complete over 75-80 per cent of your sets. If you did this every week you will be right in every game. You may not win every week but you can almost guarantee that at the back end of the game you will still be in it competing with a good chance of victory.

Obviously there is more to it but time in possession and completions are so important ... without the ball you simply cannot win no matter who’s in your team.

I am still unsure of who will win this year but the Storm, Sea Eagles and Dragons are all very capable and it will be a great finish. Enjoy this week’s games!