It’s Origin selection time in a few days and the boot seems on the other foot for the first time in a decade with a fair bit of conjecture around the Queensland team and virtually none around the Blues.
Now is not the time to panic – even if the Maroons go down in the second match in Sydney to lose the series.
One guy who came in for some criticism after game one was Ben Hunt, who had waited a long time to get a crack at the No.7 jersey and admittedly didn’t set the world alight.
But there is no way I would consider not sticking by him for all of this year’s series, irrespective of the result in Sydney.
He has been the form halfback of 2018 over the first 14 rounds, and the most consistent, with the St George Illawarra team that is out in front on the ladder.
The Maroon forwards didn’t help him a great deal by being dominated by the Blues and I have no doubt Hunt and Cameron Munster are the best duo for Queensland and can do a job on the Blues in the next two matches.
Maybe Ben suffers from high expectations because he is such a natural talent and skilful player, and there were calls even to play him at hooker. I just think we can be too precious in criticism of these guys sometimes and I have full confidence he can be the player who can make crucial match-winning plays when it matters, as he has for the Dragons plenty of times this year.
As I’ve said previously, the Queensland forwards were out-muscled in game one and they need to redeem themselves.
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I’d suggested Matt Scott be brought in for his Origin experience and ability to bend the defensive line. But I’m not so sure about that now after seeing him play against Parramatta in Darwin last weekend.
It wasn’t a type of performance that said “pick me” and I was more impressed by Tim Glasby for Melbourne against the Broncos. He’s played Origin before and has plenty of authority about what he does. It’s up to Kevvie Walters but either player would add some starch.
My theory of “no need to change a lot” was shared by a few mates who have played plenty of State of Origin experience that I met up with this week.
It wasn’t so much a meeting of the minds, but a meeting of broken-down Broncos in honour of foundation club owner Garry Balkin, who was a real driving force not just for the great club, but many players personally in those early days.
Garry is not in the best of health and caught up with Chris Johns, Glenn Lazarus, Andrew Gee, Allan Langer, John Plath, myself and Broncos foundation CEO John Ribot … plenty of life experience as well as footy-field experience there I might add!
Apart from Origin, the other topic that cropped up was the referees.
Now, I was taught not to say anything if there is nothing good to say about someone, but I am going to make an exception here.
I think they have clearly been over-refereeing this year. It’s bewildering and certainly frustrating for former players like us. And we were used to having scrum penalties.
I’m amazed to learn we’ve had 64 sin bins this year, many for things that would have been just penalties for so, so long.
And now we’ve added an extra element with the refs now encouraged to sin-bin players for foul play even if the victim is not injured.
Now don’t get me wrong, I think that is a good thing. The offending team should pay a bigger penalty against their opponents on the day, instead of their next opponent getting a leg-up if the player is suspended.
But can we temper the rest of the petty sin bins and stop looking to award penalties which stop the momentum of games.
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We have situations where they’re playing music at some stadiums now because it is taking so long to pack scrums. Now, we also have more penalties a game than we’ve had for years to add more stoppages.
Part of the conversation between us old boys was that we’re going down the track of rugby union with our officiating – slowing the game up, results being determined by interpretations which have ruined the fabric of their game.
The refs need to have some feeling for the game, the flow of a match and what the fans want, as well as the players.
Revisit the advantage rule. How many times has a team been called up this year and awarded a penalty and had their momentum stopped dead when, if refs had let play run, they might have scored a try?
Penalise what needs to be penalised in the context of the match – not nit-pick every possible indiscretion for 80 minutes.
Todd Greenberg has asked for this. So, hopefully it is apparent this round and for the rest of the year.
You’ll please some Broncos old heads that’s for sure, and many, many fans too.
The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.