Manu Vatuvei celebrates his 17th career try against the Knights, while Cooper Cronk kicks the Origin-winning field goal.

Monday Morning Halfback: Round 12

Queensland step up when it matters most, why The Rock was a good choice to open the State of Origin broadcast and how the Warriors continue to have games decided by just four points.

Winning Time

"There is a time to play and a time to win, what you do in that winning time differentiates a player from a superstar." This quote was taken from ESPN’s award-winning 30 for 30 documentary series – in a story detailing the battle between Reggie Miller and the New York Knicks.  

It also aptly describes Queensland's one point victory over New South Wales in State of Origin I. Both sides had chances, but when it came to the business end of the game, the Maroons methodically ploughed down field and had one chance to set-up a field goal. That was more than enough for Cooper Cronk. 

NSW, while valiant, couldn't come up with the right play when it mattered most and it cost them the game. NSW didn't throw it away, they had an opportunity and failed to pull the trigger, but Queensland dominated longer periods of the game, ran for 500 more metres, had the lionshare of possession and spent 64% of the game in the Blues half. It was only brave defence that stopped Queensland from scoring more.

Ultimately, it came down to Cronk and Queensland's ability to perform in winning time. 

There's a time to play and a time to win.

State of the game

There have been plenty of critics of State of Origin I who believe that while the scoreline was close and the contest was gripping, there wasn't a lot of football played. There is a little truth to that theory, but it is anything but an epidemic, as has been reported in the days since. How quickly people forget the opening game of the 2014 series, it was one of the greatest Origin games of all time. 

Yes, we had one dour game between the Cowboys and Wests Tigers last week - minus a host of Origin players, but the games this week highlighted just how much attacking footy is being played across the competition. The Panthers and Eels scored some scintillating tries, while the first half of the Raiders Broncos contest was rugby league at its breath-taking best. Case in point, the Broncos length of the field try on half-time below.

Calls that rugby league has become boring and predictable are way off the mark. 

 

 

The Rock and a hard place

Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson is one of the most recognisable stars on the face of the planet, he transcended wrestling at his peak in the early 2000s and he is now transcending Hollywood as one of the most marketable and bankable movie stars of the modern era. But his intro on Channel 9's broadcast of State of Origin on Wednesday night certainly divided opinion and raised a couple of eyebrows. 

Those wondering why a Hollywood actor would introduce a rivalry between NSW and Queensland have a point, but in the same token, are missing it entirely. We've spoken before in this column about the power of Origin and how it has become a showcase that outreaches further than Rugby League's traditional base. State of Origin is beamed not only across Australia, but across the globe. As such, The Rock is not appealing to the 'rusted on fans', he is there to get the millions and millions of passing fans to stop and think, 'this must be a big deal'. In that sense, there aren't too many bigger names in the world as far as star power goes. 

The NRL has a tightrope to walk in appealing to new audiences, while not alienating the most hard core of fans. But having one of the biggest celebrities in the world launching the product is a good thing for the growth of the game.

United States of Origin

Case in point, a renowned NFL journalist in the US who covers the 49ers watched his first State of Origin with an obvious nod to Jarryd Hayne who is still trying to make a much hype transition. 

"Those men were old-school tough. That match was tense to the last second. The sport, it has gained an overseas fan." Cam Inman wrote on FoxSports.com.au. 

Welcome aboard. Hopefully he'll introduce some new fans for Game II.

Warriors come to the four

Talk about giving your fans and coaching staff are heart-attack. The Warriors last five games have all been decided by four points. 

Losses to the Cowboys 24-28 and Titans 28-32, have been followed up by wins over the Sharks 20-16, Eels 17-13 and Knights 24-20. Two of those coming thanks to tries in golden point. 

Ryan Hoffman summed it up: "I think we are the ugliest team at the moment with the way we have had our wins, but they are wins, two points, and come the end of the season we won't be looking at how we got those two points, just that we got them."

Beast feast on Knights

Manu Vatuvei equalled Billy Slater as the man with the most tries ever against Newcastle. With 17 touchdowns in as many games, Vatuvei has been haunting the Novocastrians for over a decade now.

Well done girls

Well done to North Queensland and the three girls teams from Cairns, Townsville and Mackay who participated in a round robin tournament at 1300SMILES Stadium before the Cowboys clash with Manly on Saturday night. Members of the Jillaroos side that defeated New Zealand before the ANZAC Test were on hand to help out with forwards Heather Ballinger and Renae Kunst and five-eighth Jenny-Sue Hoepper making sure the girls had a day to savour. The girls were given a tour of the facilities and became professional football players for the day. 

"There's something now for these girls to aim for and they are the future of the game," Kunst said.

"Things have slowly started to change in the last couple of years but it will probably be in the next five to six years that we will actually see the results of all that work.

"You're still convincing people every day, still convincing those old-school people who think women shouldn't be playing the game, but I think those opinions are slowly starting to change." 

You can read more about how the Jillaroos are being used on the front line here.