National Rugby League By Aaron Callaghan
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Your ‘Brydans Lawyers’ New South Wales Blues wrapped up the 2018 State of Origin series with a close win in Sydney on Sunday. Goal kicking proved to be the difference for the New South Welshmen, as the match finished at three tries a piece. James Maloney’s three successful try conversions proved to be the difference.
A completely fresh faced, young and relatively inexperienced NSW Blues thrived under the mentor-ship of Brad Fittler and his ‘No Dickheads’ policy. Fittler set about revamping the NSW Blues culture, refusing to select players exhibiting scars from previous series defeats. The 2018 series victory has shown NSW, Brad Fitler and his coaching staff the blueprint for the future, NSW have some great building blocks for success in captain Cordner, Maloney, Tedesco and Damien Cook just to name a few.
It is time to look at some key points from the 2018 series so far, a mix of analysis and the talking points following game two;
Darren Lockyer’s Comeback
I’m not referring to his playing career but rather Darren’s flowing locks and silky, dulcet tones behind the camera. A post-playing career in the media was certainly unlikely for the Queensland and Brisbane custodian turned five-eighth, having a head for radio and a vocal range like a pack-a-day smoker. Rollies - no filters. Locky’s hair has miraculously come roaring back and he is sounding better than ever, it's not too much of a stretch to see Locky stepping into to fill the big hole left by the great Phil Liggett on SBS cycling coverage.
State of Origin is great
Save for Gus Gould’s pre-game monologues - which for some reason the production team at Channel 9 still think are a good idea - and his commentary box diatribes regularly aimed at referees and administrators, the state of origin spectacle is in good shape with great crowds and great viewer numbers. The National Rugby League marketing department will be flat out trying to determine how the Samoa v Tonga game can draw 18 000 to Campbelltown international sports stadium and the Sydney Roosters get 3500 on a Friday night (read: Reported at 10 000). State of Origin drew 87 000 in Melbourne followed up by 82 000 in Sydney.
This proves one thing – Victorians will turn up for a funeral.
Much has been written of the Queensland succession plan following the representative retirements of the old guard in Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk, Jonathan Thurston and Bill Slater. However, it seems Queensland have an incumbent superstar ready to slip into the number 1 jersey. Kalyn Ponga, who is Maori by birth and West Australian raised, was electric in his origin debut. If you’ve spent even a minute being subjected to watching the Newcastle Knights this season you would have seen how dynamic a ball carrier and creator the young fullback is, and his talents were on display in game two and undoubtedly for many years to come.
The After party
Clinching a series victory is always the more sweeter at home especially in front of 80 000+ spectators and all the more comforting knowing that NSW have some of the greatest partiers rugby league has ever seen at their disposal. With Brad Fitler and Greg Alexander’s on-field mentorship, Andrew Johns is free to concentrate and carefully plan the post-match celebrations. Since NSW last victory in 2014, Sydney’s night life has been shackled under the harsh conditions of Sydney’s lock out laws, shouldn’t stop Joey… It won’t stop Joey.
The D Word
Dynasty. It’s a dirty word for New South Welshmen. We should be avoiding it at all costs. Any talk of the start of a dynasty should be immediately barred. All Sydney media outlets should be banished from speaking on the subject, New South Wales should be acting like they've been here before taking the enormity of series win in stride. Celebrate and move on.
In the deepest darkest place of every rugby league loving New South Welshman lies a desperate thought, hoping, praying that it is indeed the start of a golden era however the scarring of Queensland's miraculous tally of 11 series victories out of the last 13 attempts makes it difficult to believe NSW have turned the corner. Perhaps this is why Brad Fitler desperately avoided picking players mentally scarred with the pain of losing.
The trophy is safely back in NSW. No pressure lads but eight in a row would be nice!
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