Why Gallen's spray is exactly what Origin needed
On Tuesday morning, Paul Gallen gave the type of explosive press conference that really, only he can give.
It is exactly what was missing from Origin I.
I've actually lost count of the number of people – colleagues, journalists from other organisations, friends outside work – that have come to me and said that while they couldn't put their finger on it, there was "something missing" from the build-up to the first Origin game.
I felt it myself, up in Coffs Harbour for the lead-up to Origin I. There was just something a touch muted about the week compared to last year. Whether it was the return of Gallen or not, this was not the case for Camp Two.
I mentioned this to Gal and while he couldn't compare personally having only done a one-day whirlwind visit at the start of the Game One camp, he said other people had told him the same thing.
Gallen did a huge amount of media throughout the week, making himself available to reporters in camp and doing a live hook-up on Fox Sports' NRL360. That interview, when he called on Blues supporters to effectively put up or shut up with regards to the NSW side – "get on board or don't support us" basically – got as much mileage as any interview from any player or coach throughout the week.
But it was nothing compared to the colossal spray he launched at Queensland at his captain's press conference on Tuesday.
He took aim at the "grubby tactics" of the "so-called angels" of Queensland, called out Billy Slater, piled the pressure on under-pressure playmaker Daly Cherry-Evans with a memorable reference to the "$10 million man", and confessed to a "genuine hatred" between the states.
And just like that any vague possibility that a lack of intensity or a lack of passion or a lack of feeling may permeate Origin in Melbourne was incinerated.
Say what you like about Gal, but the man gets Origin. Not just on the field but more importantly off it. He knows how to play it and he knows how to sell it.
Those with northern affiliations were quick to start listing the hypocrisies of Gallen accusing the Maroons of below-the-belt tactics but that overlooks the fact that no-one – least of all Gallen – is holding the Blues up as cleanskins.
But no doubt there is plenty of truth in Gallen's comments, as well as frustration about how Game One played out. Part of the beauty of it is the raw honesty combined with the strategy – he soaks up all the pressure, deflecting it away from teammates who see their leader genuinely leading the charge. He inspires confidence while at the same time giving the Queenslanders their pantomime villain. As much as Robbie Farah gets the Queenslanders' backs up, no-one does it quite like Gal.
So it all sets the scene for a genuine Origin classic at the MCG on Wednesday night. May the best team win.