Blues wrap up Origin preparations
The NSW State of Origin squad concluded their six-day pre-match camp in Coffs Harbour with a vigorous session against a combined local side before flying to Brisbane on Sunday.
The opposing players were drawn from the Group 3 Rugby League competition, which runs under the auspices of Country Rugby League in the area of northern NSW coast from Part Macquarie down to Forster and also including Taree.
The Blues were put through a final training session behind closed doors before media were allowed access to the Coffs Harbour Novotel's Elite Training Centre to view the opposed session, which ran for just over 20 minutes.
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The Blues worked on both attacking and defensive structures, with new halves pairing Trent Hodkinson and Josh Reynolds controlling proceedings. There were plenty of kicks sent the way of both wingers in both attack and defence and the forwards defensively looked slick in the middle during the contact session.
A couple of the country players looked a touch rusty and produced a few handling errors – possibly a combination of nerves at the high profile of the men opposing them and the fact they had played for their Group 3 sides a day earlier.
The cries of frustration when those handling errors did happen underscored the importance of the session for both groups; neither set of players was there for a muck-around.
The final piece of the session involved the Blues receiving line drop outs and attacking the line, with slick ball movement resulting in wingers Brett Morris and Daniel Tupou crossing for several tries.
The final play of the session saw halfback Trent Hodkinson ice a field goal from 30 metres out. Admittedly, it was under less pressure than he will face if called upon to do the same on Wednesday night but he looks like he could boot them in his sleep at the moment.
After the session, back-rower Anthony Watmough told reporters the players drew plenty from it.
"We can run through our plays as much as we want with no defenders but until you actually run through [the plays] with defenders and see what you need to work on you're just going through the motions," he said.
"We got a lot out of today, we know where we're at, we know where we sit. We take heaps out of these, you need them. If you're just running against no-one, then you go out there on Wednesday and when things start going against you, you don't know what you're doing and you don't know how to get out of it, but with these it certainly helps."
Despite the well-reported lack of a boozy bonding session this year, Watmough said the 2014 camp is the closest Origin team he's ever been a part of.
"I think what the boys have built over the last few years is really good mateship, really good friendship, and to come into camp and to be so natural – it's really coming out on the field," he said.
"We've been training excellent. The last few camps it's been a little bit stop start and not knowing your role but this one it's been short and sharp from the start."