It was the fast and the furious. The first game of the series was played at breakneck speed with free flowing footy and huge collisions which left the Maroons side feeling like it had been hit at full throttle by a semi-trailer with the number plate FIFITA. The Blues were brilliant and after a tight opening massacred the Maroons with a dominant finish to the match that may have rotated Origin momentum 180 degrees. The Maroon tide of the past decade may be turning blue.
Origin Moments – Five Talking Points
Andrew Fifita has come of age. This was an explosive performance without any of the muck that has hampered his game in the past. Fifita blew the game open with his trademark footwork at the line, immense strength and silky offloads. He set up both opening tries and made mountains of metres punching holes relentlessly in the Maroon defence, which left them red faced they missed so many tackles. Fifita is a beast to face from ten yards and the Queenslanders just couldn’t handle him. The try Fifita scored to wrap the game up was just rewards for a stunning man of the match performance. QLD are going to have to find some way to foil Fifita as another game of this quality in Sydney and the trophy is heading south.
Happy to be away from the troubles in Tiger Town, James Tedesco produced a masterclass at the back for the Blues. He was everywhere in attack and defence, covered kicks like a swooping hawk. Tedesco was faultless, locking up the custodian position for the series in a state brimming with quality fullbacks. His blinding speed was a constant threat and it was his pace out of dummy half that caught out an exhausted QLD defence out on its feet as he ploughed over to score a try in the second stanza. Tedesco finest moments were in defence, producing two massive try savers, stopping a rampaging Matt Gillett dead in his tracks and smashing Dane Gagai over the sideline. The impressive part was this when the game was over, Tedesco displaying hunger and pride in his jersey and the Blues cause by not allowing any Maroon to cross that previously thin Blue line.
Gagai Gives Everything
Dane Gagai gave one of the best individual performances from a winger in a well beaten side in Origin history. He was inspirational, ran the ball back with pride and purpose, straining every sinew with each adrenaline-charged run. Most of the Blues missed tackle count came via the fast feet of Gagai, he was extremely hard to contain. The only thing he didn’t do was get over the try line but that was only due to James Tedesco’s tremendously timed tackle that drove the brave Queenslander over the sideline inches short. Changes will be made by Maroon selectors for Game 2, Gagai will be one of the first picked and don’t be surprised to see him move closer to the action in place of Justin O’Neill. Origin tests players to their limit, Gagai has passed with flying colours every single time, he raises his game. The greatest compliment I can hand Dane Gagai is, he is an Origin player who delivers Origin plays.
Blues Rule Middle
This game was won straight up the centre of Suncorp, as most Origin games are, as most games of rugby league are. The Blues dominated this part of the field, their forward pack were bigger, stronger and more skilled than the Maroons. David Klemmer and Aaron Woods were not far behind Andrew Fifita as best on ground. Add the brilliant backrow and the bench and NSW were playing on a different planet to QLD. Blues halves Mitchell Pearce and James Maloney and substitute Wade Graham, who was superb off the pine, worked the ruck over brilliantly, constantly turning the ball back inside to a rampaging Fifita or speedster Tedesco. The Maroon dam wall was being battered and cracked just on half time, it burst early after the second half kick-off and a deluge of dazzling Blues tries ensued.
The Maroons have always boasted of their loyalty selection policy. Pick and stick, not caring if the players are out of form at club level, they’ve always done the job in Origin. Queensland selectors, the ball is in your court. The series and your decade long dominance in Origin is at stake, changes must be made. Too many old and out of form players were selected. Nate Myles has been a great warrior in this arena but looked slow and old, he needed a zimmer frame to get around the park. The bench needs spark, Jacob Lillyman produced about as much fizz as drenched fireworks. If the QLD selectors are honest, they’ll admit they picked the wrong side. Jarrod Wallace must play in Game 2 and Coen Hess off the bench adds X factor. Send an SOS to Billy the Kid, Slater will play pushing Darius Boyd back to the wing. Obviously, the great man Jonathan Thurston will be back if his shoulder allows. JT alongside Cooper Cronk combining with Cameron Smith and Slater completely changes the dynamics of the Maroons, and they need to after the Cane Toad capitulation.
The Last Word
The Blues will not get ahead of themselves, the series is not over. This is State of Origin there is always a sting to this tail. Queensland are a proud state and will not hand the trophy over without a massive fight, they have too many champions within their side and back room staff, but with game 2 in Sydney it’s the Blues to lose.
I for one cannot wait for the encore in three weeks. Bring it on!