Mitchell Pearce has hit the nail on the head: in the lead up to Game One of the 2012 State of Origin series he admits he needs to step up for the Blues. But he’s not alone.
Stepping up is what Origin is about – especially for New South Wales players, given their current predicament. If they think they can turn up to the Cauldron, or ANZ Stadium, or to Melbourne where we head next week, and play regular NRL footy… they’re gonna be found wanting.
They’ll be weighed, measured and spat out as Origin losers. And perhaps they won’t get another chance to prove themselves again, such is the cut-throat nature of it all.
Queensland have been cruising of late. Six series wins in a row, with all but the first one having an ominous dominance. The Maroons? They definitely step up at Origin time.
Less than a week out from the time-on whistle let’s examine the statistics of the two teams’ individuals head to head. But rather than delve into their NRL form, we’ll use Origin form as the barometer. It will give us a true indication of how they have fared when they are on the big stage.
And the big question: are Queensland as dominant by the numbers as they are on the scoreboard? Let’s see…
Billy Slater v Brett Stewart
Slater has played 17 Origin matches and has an impressive 11 tries in this time. He has 12 line-breaks, five line-break assists, two try assists, seven offloads, 60 tackle-breaks and averages 104.8 metres. His kick returns average 57 metres. The star custodian has missed 2.1 tackles a game, has 32 errors and has given away five penalties.
Stewart has suited up for five Origins. He has two tries, two line-breaks, two line-break assists, one try assist, five offloads, 13 tackle-breaks and averages 117.4 metres. He averages 77.8 metres from kick returns. Stewart misses just 0.6 tackles a game in Origin and he has just two errors – and hasn’t been penalised.
Verdict: Slater has proven more elusive in terms of tries scored and breaks made. Stewart offloads more, makes more metres both in general play and from kick returns, plus he misses fewer tackles – and is a referee’s mate.
Darius Boyd & Brent Tate v Akuila Uate & Jarryd Hayne
Boyd has 11 Origins to his name with six tries, 10 line-breaks, one try assist, four offloads, 32 tackle-breaks and three errors. He averages 88.3 metres, 25.8 in kick returns and misses 0.5 tackles a match.
His Queensland team-mate Tate is a veteran of 15 games with five tries, just one line-break, one line-break assist, 12 offloads, 30 tackle-breaks, 11 errors and seven conceded penalties. He averages 100 metres (just 8.2 metres from kick returns) and misses 1.3 tackles a game.
On the New South Wales side, Jarryd Hayne has played 13 times in the sky blue for seven tries, 11 line-breaks, one line-break assist, nine offloads, 94 tackle-breaks, 11 errors and two penalties conceded. He averages an impressive 142.2 metres a match with 58.1 metres in kick returns. He misses 1.8 tackles a game.
Akuila Uate played three games last year. He has scored one try, made two line-breaks, one line-break assist, one try assist, two offloads, 16 tackle-breaks and just the one error. He averages 131.3 metres, 32.3 metres in kick returns, and misses just 0.3 tackles a game.
Verdict: The Blues have a victory on the flanks. Should the Blues wingers live up to their stats, they can make a huge impact.
Justin Hodges & Greg Inglis v Michael Jennings & Josh Morris
Justin Hodges might be under an injury cloud but he’ll do all he can to play. He has 12 Origins under his belt with three tries, four line-breaks, two line-break assists, one try assist, 12 offloads, 44 tackle-breaks, 17 errors and two conceded penalties. He averages 98 metres, 11 tackles – and a high 3.4 missed tackles.
Greg Inglis has tallied 15 games with an impressive 12 tries. He has a blistering 18 line-breaks, seven line-break assists, six try assists, four offloads, 78 tackle-breaks, 17 errors and six penalties conceded. He averages 108.3 metres, 10 tackles and 2.5 missed tackles.
Into the side from ‘reserve grade’, Michael Jennings has plenty to prove. In four Origins he has just one try to go with three line-breaks, two offloads, 23 tackle-breaks and five errors. He is yet to offer a line-break assist or try assist. He averages 96.5 metres, 12 tackles and 2.2 missed tackles.
Josh Morris has two previous Origins under his belt. He has scored one try, added one line-break and six tackle-breaks. He averaged just 48.5 metres and 7.5 tackles, missing 1.5 a game.
Verdict: A knock-out blow by the Queenslanders here. Greg Inglis is an Origin machine and while Hodges’ stats aren’t as dominant as one might expect, it is enough to win this battle. Jennings has a solid base to work from, while Morris must do more.
Johnathan Thurston v Todd Carney
Thurston slips into Lockyer’s jersey this year, meaning the Maroons cover for his loss well. He has played 21 Origins with three tries, five line-breaks, nine line-break assists, 15 try assists, 14 offloads, 49 tackle-breaks, 26 errors and 10 penalties conceded. He averages 51.2 metres running, 243.7 metres kicking, 17 tackles and 5.5 misses.
Todd Carney is an Origin rookie: for an idea of how he performed on the big stage we’ve pulled his 2010 grand final numbers. How did he perform in a losing side in the biggest game of his career? When the Dragons beat the Roosters Carney had just one try assist, 65 metres running and 82 metres kicking. He made 12 tackles, missed one, offered one offload, two tackle-breaks and two errors. He’ll need to be better in Origin.
Verdict: Carney will need to prove himself from the get-go in this arena. There will be nowhere to hide against Thurston.
Cooper Cronk v Mitchell Pearce
Queensland super-substitute Cooper Cronk finally gets his chance to shine in a starting jersey. In six Origins Cronk has scored one try, made one line-break, one try assist, three tackle-breaks and one error. It’s important to note he has averaged just 24.5 minutes a match, making 26.3 metres running, 19.2 metres kicking, 14.2 tackles and one missed tackle a game.
Mitchell Pearce has also played six Origins but played 80 minutes in each of them. He too has one try, with four line-break assists, three try assists, four offloads, six tackle-breaks and eight errors. He runs for 28 metres, kicks for 228.8 metres, makes 22.2 tackles – but he has a worrisome 4.7 missed tackles to his name each game.
Verdict: The numbers don’t do justice to Cronk. Nevertheless he wins out – especially given Pearce’s vulnerability in defence and errors.
Cameron Smith v Robbie Farah
Cameron Smith, the new Queensland captain, has notched an impressive 24 Origins already. He has scored four tries and kicked 15 goals and has averaged 77.3 minutes. He has made five line-breaks, five line-break assists, six try assists, six offloads, 49 tackle-breaks, 10 errors and conceded four penalties. He has run for 53.3 metres each game and amazingly, over 24 games, averages 40.3 tackles a match with just 2.6 misses. Smith also averages 167.3 metres from the boot.
Robbie Farah returns to Origin after a hiatus… reportedly for coming into his second Origin match with an undisclosed injury and playing below his best. Now forgiven, Farah will look to improve on his two games when he averaged 64.5 minutes, 54.5 metres running, 142.5 metres kicking, 37 tackles and 1.5 missed tackles. Farah added one line-break assist, one try assist, one offload and two tackle-breaks.
Verdict: No Blues player will want to prove himself more than Robbie Farah. Nevertheless Cameron Smith is the king of the No.9 jersey and can even lay claim to being possibly Queensland’s greatest ever hooker.
Matt Scott & Petero Civoniceva v Paul Gallen & James Tamou
Matt Scott has missed some NRL action this year but his eight Origins show reasonable numbers. He has eight offloads, 15 tackle-breaks, runs for 105.4 metres in an average 44 minutes, makes 20.8 tackles and misses 3.6, plus he has two errors and three penalties conceded.
Veteran Civoniceva has played 30 awesome Origins. He has just the one try and line-break, 10 offloads and 44 tackle-breaks. Big Petero averages 53.2 minutes and 124.6 metres with 23.6 tackles and 2.6 missed tackles. He has just five errors and seven penalties conceded.
Paul Gallen is and always has been a stats man: in 11 Origins the NSW skipper has crossed for one try, added three line-breaks, two line-break assists, two try assists, 23 offloads and 32 tackle-breaks. He averages 62.5 minutes, 122 metres, 29.9 tackles, 2.6 missed tackles and he has eight errors and 10 penalties conceded.
James Tamou is another Origin rookie, so let’s look at his stats against New Zealand in the recent Test match: Tamou made 71 metres and 19 tackles in 28 minutes from the bench against the Kiwis. He pumped out two offloads and had three tackle-breaks.
Verdict: As good as Gallen is, and Tamou may turn out to be, it is the experienced Queensland pair who take the prize. They know how to get it done.
Nate Myles & Sam Thaiday v Luke Lewis & Glenn Stewart
Myles has now notched 17 Origins. He has scored one try, added one line-break, four offloads, 16 tackle-breaks, nine errors and five conceded penalties. He averages 42 minutes, 83.5 metres, 22.4 tackles and 2.9 missed tackles.
Thaiday has 15 Origins. He has two tries, two line-breaks, five offloads, 28 tackle-breaks, 10 errors and six penalties conceded. The Broncos’ captain averages 52.3 minutes, 73.7 metres, 22 tackles and 2.6 missed tackles.
Luke Lewis has eight Origins to his name. He has tallied one try, two try assists, six offloads, 20 tackle-breaks and six errors. He averages 59.9 minutes, 68.9 metres, 17.4 tackles and 2.2 missed tackles.
Glenn Stewart has just three Origins, with one offload, four tackle-breaks and two errors. He played an average 56 minutes, ran for 64 metres, made 32.7 tackles, and had an average two missed tackles.
Verdict: The Maroons boys have been better in attack, the Blues boys in defence. The duo that excels in both will probably be on the winning side.
Ashley Harrison v Greg Bird
Under-rated Harrison has pushed his Origin total up to 12 games. He has one line-break, two line-break assists, seven offloads, 13 tackle-breaks, eight errors and three conceded penalties. He has averaged 67.8 minutes, 76 metres, 26.3 tackles and 1.6 missed tackles.
Greg Bird’s Origin tally is eight games. He has two tries, three line-breaks, one line-break assist, two try assists, 11 offloads, 31 tackle-breaks, five errors and two conceded penalties. He has averaged 66.6 minutes, 103 metres, 21 tackles and 3.6 missed tackles.
Verdict: Despite a few less tackles and a few more misses Greg Bird takes the points for the Blues.
Matt Gillett v Jamie Buhrer
Two rookies thrown into the Origin arena to fill the utility role.
Matt Gillett’s biggest career game was the grand final qualifier last year against Manly, when he was thrust in to fill in for Darren Lockyer. At five-eighth he ran for 73 metres, had one try assist, three tackle-breaks, 20 tackles, two missed tackles, one offload and one error.
Buhrer played in the same match but his career highlight was last year’s grand final (despite limited involvement). From the bench, in just nine minutes, he ran for 17 metres, had one offload and one tackle.
Verdict: Gillett probably gets the nod – but you never know how one will handle their first Origin.
Dave Taylor, Ben Hannant & David Shillington v Tony Williams, Ben Creagh & Trent Merrin
Here’s the raw numbers on the bench boys.
Taylor: 4 games, 2 offloads, 3 tackle-breaks, average 29.2 minutes, 51.8 metres, 14.5 tackles, 2 missed tackles, 2 errors, 2 penalties conceded.
Hannant: 9 games, 1 try, 1 line-break, 10 tackle-breaks, 1 error, 2 penalties conceded, average 30.2 minutes, 69.6 metres, 20.4 tackles, 2.7 missed tackles.
Shillington: 4 games, 1 line-break, 1 line-break assist, 1 try assist, 4 offloads, 12 tackle-breaks, 2 errors, 1 conceded penalty, average 41.8 minutes, 102 metres, 15.2 tackles, 3.2 missed tackles.
Creagh: 8 games, 4 tries, 2 line-breaks, 2 line-break assists, 9 offloads, 17 tackle-breaks, 6 errors, 2 conceded penalties, average 62 minutes, 64.1 metres, 25.9 tackles, 1.4 missed tackles.
Merrin: 2 matches, average 18.5 minutes, 23 metres, 18 tackles, 1 missed tackle.
Williams: On debut. His 2011 GF stats were 47 mins, 40 metres, 3 tackle-breaks, 12 tackles, 1 conceded penalty, 1 missed tackle.
Verdict: Queensland have the edge here… but just who isn’t hoping to see some Taylor v Williams fireworks?
Roll on kick-off!
• Statistics: NRL Stats