What we learned from Origin
Queensland have still got it, NSW halves fail to impress, goal-line defence the key to the Blues' win and one of the game's great late bloomers.
1) What did we learn from Origin III?
News of the death of Queensland's dynasty has been greatly exaggerated.
It is exactly what I suggested in this column after Origin II. As proud as New South Wales should have been after securing their series win, it would have been silly to think the Maroons were a spent force, either for the third game or next year's series.
We could have so easily been talking about a ninth consecutive Queensland triumph. But to keep things in perspective, there have been times where the Blues could have been winners in matches in recent years that would have reversed a series result here and there.
New South Wales won the shield, but the Queenslanders are set to be favourites for next year again. And the good news: there's already less than 330 days to Game One 2015!
2) What were the key statistics in this Origin series?
There were plenty.
The Blues' goal-line defence for one. I doubt a side in the history of the interstate contests has conceded so few tries after their opponents have had so many tackles inside the attacking 20-metre zone.
And that goes for Laurie Daley's men across this series. It was highlighted again in the first half of Wednesday night where the Blues had only one try posted against them despite the Maroons having 28 tackles to 1 inside the 20. This is against a Queensland side crammed full of some of the greatest attacking players of a generation: Slater, Thurston, Inglis…
On the other side of the coin, NSW won the series scoring only four tries in the process.
Where does that put the position of playmakers Josh Reynolds and Trent Hodkinson for next season? In my opinion neither can say they have done enough to be absolute certain selections.
And Wednesday night's result against proved how hard it is to achieve an Origin clean sweep.
Since three-game series were introduced way back in 1982, there have only been seven sweeps.
In the last 14 years, there has been just one and that was in 2010, the only 'Maroon wash' series of their phenomenal eight-year streak.
3) How good is Corey Parker?
His effort in winning man of the match at Suncorp on Wednesday night was outstanding.
By my count he had 22 hitups, 195 metres made, 28 tackles and clearly the most offloads of any player on the night.
While many have made the point about what a loss Cooper Cronk was after being injured early in the series opener, it can also be stated what a huge hole Parker left in the Queensland side when he missed Game Two through injury.
Parker has been a bit of a late bloomer at Origin level. Now he is one of the first players the Maroons pick, and a fixture for the Kangaroos.
4) How many points will it take to win the minor premiership?
At this rate, less than any recent season.
Based on some number crunching from the past five years through 17 rounds, the race for top spot heading into the playoffs is as competitive as the race for the top eight itself.
The 24-point tally secured jointly by the Panthers, Sea Eagles and Bulldogs so far in 2014 is lower than any of the previous five years for the team running first at the same stage of the season.
Indeed last year South Sydney were placed on 30 points after 17 rounds, four in advance of the second-placed Roosters, yet still didn't win the minor premiership.
To equal last year's figure of 40, one of the current trio would have to win eight of their last nine games.
5) Does the NRL have a serious problem with players gambling?
I don't believe so.
Look, it is disappointing if reports are proven that a few players have broken a black-and-white rule of wagering on NRL matches.
The code could do without the headline, but it's not 'earth shattering'.
There has been not even the slightest trace of match fixing uncovered, and that's a good thing.
Hopefully the lesson is learned, and that others will be deterred in the future from making an extremely silly mistake.
6) What's that noise at Mount Smart Stadium?
It's Semi and the Beast!
What a treat we are in for this Saturday when the Eels travel to Auckland to play the Warriors with Semi Radradra (15 tries) and Manu Vatuvei (10 tries) on opposite sides. A couple of crowd-pleasing giants on the end of their respective backlines.
For the record, the Eels' and Warriors' season try tally of 62 has been bettered by only two teams in the NRL (the Roosters and Cowboys).
That's the match I'm headed over to call this weekend.
Enjoy your footy!