No time to rest for Origin stars
It’s only been five days since State of Origin. For many of its combatants, it may has well have been a year.
As observers continue to dissect Queensland’s 18-10 win at Etihad Stadium, those who were actually involved have had no choice but to move on – with wildly varying fortunes since fulltime was blown last Wednesday.
Take NSW’s Luke Lewis, for instance. The Penrith captain returned to training to learn that, for the duration of the interstate series, he is no longer the Penrith captain.
“It was a little bit disappointing, a bit of a kick in the guts,” Lewis said after a boilover 22-4 success against Manly at Centrebet Stadium on Sunday.
“I’m here to do the best I can for my team-mates and this Penrith jersey.”
Coach Ivan Cleary insists Lewis “hasn’t been replaced” but rather relieved of the pressures of captaincy until Origin is over, with Kevin Kingston deputising.
But Lewis is not sure if he wants the job back. “All I want to concentrate on is getting through these games,” he said.
“If I get picked in the Origin, try and get that series back for NSW. When it comes time to get that (captaincy) chance again, we’ll see how it goes.”
For Queensland victors Cooper Cronk, Cameron Smith and Billy Slater, life moved on pretty quickly last week. They backed up in Melbourne’s 34-10 win over Brisbane 48 hours later, while Broncos Origin stars Justin Hodges, Petero Civoniceva and Sam Thaiday were stood down.
“The Broncos have got a bit of a different mentality to us with resting their stars,” said Storm coach Craig Bellamy.
“If I tried resting one of these three tonight, with a home game against the Broncos after an Origin ... that would have been a real tough ask for me.
“I had a hard enough time getting (Cameron Smith) to sit on the bench, let alone stop him playing altogether.
“They really want to play after Origin... tonight they certainly wanted to play.”
Despite the absence of his stars during the preceding week, Bellamy insisted: “Our preparation is the best it’s been in a month and we played the best we have in a month.”
Across the hall, Civoniceva was philosophical about being told by coach Anthony Griffin he would be a spectator. “It’s his call,” the prop said. “They had some success with it last year.”
Up the highway in Sydney on Friday, there was no controversy over the tries Queensland’s Greg Inglis scored in Souths’ 32-12 win over Canberra at WIN Stadium.
On Saturday, Blues winger Jarryd Hayne went close to inspiring Parramatta’s second win of the year, his bomb right on fulltime chased by centre Ryan Morgan who later claimed to have been “checked” off the ball by double St George Illawarra tryscorer Kyle Stanley in a 14-12 Dragons victory at WIN Jubilee Stadium.
On Sunday, Robbie Farah got the win he toiled so hard for five days previously when Wests Tigers outlasted North Queensland 26-18 at Campbelltown Stadium.
But for the biggest contrast, look no further than Queensland winger Darius Boyd. Two tries in Origin; an ignominious 24-14 loss by his Newcastle Knights to Gold Coast at Hunter Stadium on Saturday night.
Speaking on ABC radio, former Newcastle halfback Matt Rodwell on Sunday predicted it would not be long before Boyd is switched to five-eighth, as coach Wayne Bennett once did with Darren Lockyer.
Asked about that possibility, Bennett said: “You’ve got to play to all those things.
“But because of my own experience, I’ve got to maintain a bit of stability and consistency in my own approach to things so that we can turn things around.
“If I get all over the shop, it’s not going to help them.”
All over the shop? That’s the week that was for our Origin stars. And rugby league, it’s a pretty big shop.
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