What a great game.
State of Origin is all about taking your opportunities, winning those moments.
Game one was a game where both Queensland and NSW were in the moment but couldn’t convert. When you factor in both teams completed at around 90 per cent and stats were shared evenly, it shows neither side did much wrong.
So we come back to opportunities. What if Jack Wighton doesn’t make that pass and Dane Gagai doesn’t score that try. It’s those kind of moments, as brutal or brilliant as they are, that will define the result.
But there are things in a game that statistics don’t measure and that’s desire and want.
My thoughts are that when you lose an Origin game, you don't waver. It’s very difficult to manufacture ‘want and desire’. NSW goes to Perth knowing they have to win – there are no tomorrows for them being down 1-0 in a three-game series.
Match Highlights: Maroons v Blues
Their attitude will be fantastic. The way they think about Game Two is going to be spot on. What the Blues hierarchy do that week to get the players primed for that moment of running across that white line will become so much easier.
They won’t need to emphasise want and desire. It will be in the NSW players in bucket loads.
Brad Fittler doesn’t really need to make any changes. Players want an opportunity to make amends. They will be thinking, 'I won’t make the same mistakes again and I’ll be better for the experience of Game One'.
Certainly, both sides could execute a little better as Game One is notorious for having poor execution rates, but the quality of the match was unbelievable – so the Blues don’t need to change anything.
The teams are evenly matched so it’s those moments – the opportunities – that are the key to success or failure.
Queensland’s battle will be to have that same desire and want. NSW had a first-half plan that worked: beating Queensland around the middle. They went into halftime on top 8-0 through the menacing work of Damien Cook and James Tedesco. David Klemmer was fantastic with his metres and the Blues were on the front foot.
But you have to keep that pressure up and convert those moments, even when the opposition might change a few things, like Queensland did in its defence.
I’ve heard commentary that the NSW forward pack wasn’t the right mix – that they needed more size on the their bench.
My thinking is that even if your forwards are big, they have to be mobile; they have to be able to play 80 minutes. Everyone knows what Origin is like with its speed, a lot of ball in play, it's more intense, more physical, more aggressive. You need mobility off your bench – you need a mobile footy team.
Walters wants more from Ponga and Munster
Queensland came up with a good plan to move the ball past the NSW middles and make the Blues' edges work more. If the edges are being made to work, then you need a bench with edges.
NSW had the forwards like Cameron Murray, Jake Trbojevic, Boyd Cordner and Tyson Frizell who have good speed and good footwork. The theory behind it is good but again, it comes down to who wants it more when the going gets really tough.
There’s chatter that the NSW halves in Nathan Cleary and Cody Walker didn’t gel. Daly Cherry-Evans and Cameron Munster had a stronger connection via playing together already, but they also had a better kicking game.
The Maroons' kicking game laid a great foundation for their success. DCE made more metres than Cleary, Munster made more kicks than Walker and I thought Ben Hunt’s kicking was more incisive than Cook’s.
NSW can improve in this area, though, because they were just out-kicked.
But they also need to look at how the Queensland kick-pressure was better. That’s another 'want and desire' thing. The Maroons seemed to be a half-metre better on the kick-chase at each end. That can certainly make a difference in Origin footy.
The stats show Queensland’s kick defusal was 82 per cent, NSW was at 61 per cent.