State of Origin 2014: Some Reflections

The battle between Queensland and New South Wales for rugby league supremacy has ended and for the first time in the life of my nine year old nephew the trophy is returning south of the Tweed.

Here are some reflections on New South Wales first series win in, for some, living memory.

1. The better team won

I know that this will be hard to admit for some Queensland fans however, the second half of game 3 aside, New South Wales were the better team in this series.  Defensively they had a plan to shut down Queensland and it worked to perfection.  Congratulations to New South Wales on your win.

2. There is no better actor in the game than Greg Bird

The winner of the 2014 Gold Logie ... Greg Bird

The winner of the 2014 Gold Logie … Greg Bird

I have watched a lot of sport in my time but can anyone genuinely argue that the best actor in the game is not Greg Bird? Seemingly, according to Bird, he is never in the wrong and ought never be penalised EVER.  Constantly blameless, in his own eyes, and constantly informing the referee that he is blameless either he is the most deluded person in the world or a magnificent actor.  All of that has not even touched on his excellent performance to milk a penalty after tackling Nate Myles last night.

3. Corey Parker: giving hope to silver-haired blokes everywhere

I can not recall a better performance by a forward in a Queensland jumper than that of Corey Parker last night.  He ran hard all night, tackled everything and threw more offloads than I think he has all season.  This was just a great performance and gives hope to all blokes getting on in years and searching for a career renaissance.

4. Refereeing: well it was consistent … consistently questionable

I am not an advocate of the abuse of referees.  Indeed, I remain one of the few, it would seem, believers in the maxim that the umpire / referee is always right.  That said, it has to be said that this was a series in which the refereeing reached new heights for, at the very least, questionable, decision-making.  It effected both teams and did not effect the result of the series but bad refereeing only adds to the niggle between the teams which is not good for the game.

5. Channel 9 loves a NSW win

Was I alone in wondering why we, as viewers, were put through a one on one interview between Brad Fittler and Laurie Daley in celebration of New South Wales series win last night? After all New South Wales has only won one series in the last nine haven’t they? If fans of the game ever needed a further guide to the bias inherent in Channel 9’s telecast of State of Origin football they had it last night.  They just love it when NSW wins: not sure why I am surprised really.

State of Origin is one the best sporting contests in Australian sport.  This wasn’t a series that reached great heights frankly, in part due to the ongoing niggle between the combatants and the defensive manner of NSW’s game plan (for which they are to be applauded).

Bring on 2015!

State of Origin 2014, Game 2: 5 talking points

Well it has finally happened: New South Wales have won an Origin series.  For the first time in the smart phone / twitter error the Origin shield is staying south. For the first time in their living memory my nephews, all proud Queenslanders, have smelt the bitter aroma of defeat.

It might not have been the best game of rugby league I have seen but boy it was a pulsating contest.  Here are my 5 talking points from Game 2:

1. Congratulations to New South Wales

It is simple: when you lose you must congratulate your opponent.  So congratulations to New South Wales on winning the 2014 Origin series.  I am not an advocate of getting the “dirts” about losing contests like this and simply put, the better side won.

2. Time to lift the “one punch” ban

The NRL CEO, amongst much fan fare, announced 12 months ago a ban on all punches with an immediate sin binning the result for infractions.  Can anyone cogently argue that the silliness of that edict did not deleteriously effect the contest last night? The game was screaming out for a fight in the early contests and, to me, a stoush in the first 10 minutes would have reduced the niggle that pervaded the first half.  The message to the NRL must be: lift the ban, let the boys sort things early doors and let the game go on.

3. Time to remark Dave Taylor’s card: NEVER TO BE SELECTED AGAIN

Many on social media and in the actual media have been advocated for the selection of Dave Taylor for Queensland this series.  Simply put: he is not up to State of Origin standard.  Yet again last night he put out a performance in a maroon jumper exemplified by missed tackles and horrid offloads.  He is a liability and must not be selected again.  Enough said.

4. Refereeing: it is not an excuse but it was woeful

Can any fair-minded New South Wales fan argue that the refereeing in this game was fair? I know I am not a regular watcher in the NRL but in what context has there ever not been a penalty for Hayne’s strip on Thaiday as he was about score? I concede it wasn’t a try but surely the ball had to return to Queensland?  And then, to add insult to injury, the ball richoceting off Woods’ chest and out of play with 5 minutes to go being determined to be a penalty to New South Wales is just incongruous with the laws of the game.  There is all this technology in the game and yet a decision as simple as that was just plain WRONG.  Hayne and Cummins should go the way of Dave Taylor and have their cards marked: “never again”.

5. Gallen and Bird: I am glad they play for New South Wales

Are their two more distasteful players to watch then Gallen and Bird. Every tackle they make includes a fore arm to the head of the tackled player on the ground.  Every time they are penalised they scream at the referee. Any bit of niggle or incitement between the players is not their fault.  If these two blokes are supposed to exemplify the best of New South Wales rugby league I am happy for them to play in a blue jersey.  There are ways to win and ways to lose and the way that Gallen and Bird win, albeit successful this time out, is hardly a way to win.

So that is that: series over.  New South Wales can proudly claim to have won 1 series in a row.  Bring on the 2015 series!

State of Origin 2014, Game 1: 5 talking points

Game 1 of State of Origin 2014 was won and lost last night at Lang Park.  It was an exciting game of rugby league and, as hard as it is for me to say it, the best side won.  Here are my talking points from Game 1:

1. No Fighting: yep … the new laws did take away from the contest

After Paul Gallen’s thug punch in the same game last year the NRL / ARL introduced laws that banned punching with the punishment being an immediate sin binning.  There were a poultice of moments in last nights game that would have, ordinarily, lead to an all in brawl.  It did not happen and I for one thought the game was lacking for it.

2. Cooper Cronk: more important to Queensland than Jonathan Thurston

Cooper Cronk broke his arm in the 9th minute and after that Queensland looked bereft of ideas in attack.  Cherry-Evans was solid but looked behind the pace and as though he had not run in the top team much during practice.  Cronk’s kicking game was missed as was his calmness in difficult situations.

3. The Brent Tate tackle: Josh Reynolds must be suspended

There is no way to sugar coat it: Reynolds has to be suspended.  The usual discount for State of Origin indescretions must not apply to this tackle, particularly if the NRL / ARL are serioius about rubbing out this type of tackle.

4. Aidan Guerra must start game 2

The Queensland back row was bested somewhat easily by their counterparts.  The back rower from Queensland who was best on the night game of the bench in the form of Aidan Guerra.  He was forceful in defence and ran strongly in attack.  With Sam Thaiday also likely to return the Queensland back row only improves with Guerra’s inclusion in the run on.

5. Can Paul Gallen just shut up?

I wrote last year about the lamenteous conduct of Paul Gallen in the first State of Origin ( ).  Nothing has changed: every decision of the referees last night that were slightly against the men in blue and even neutral decisions were met with Paul Gallen getting the face of the men making the decisions.  It is neither a good look nor is it good for the game.  Just shut up Paul!!!

Game 2 is in three weeks time and Queensland will win.  Enough said.

A State of Origin Wager

The first State of Origin is on tonight and, of course, that means there is a poultice of betting options available for those interested in placing a wager.

For me I think:

1. Queensland will win; and
2. State of Origin games are rarely blow outs.

So my tip for tonight’s game is:

Queensland to defeat New South Wales by 1-12 points.

As always:

1. Please gamble responsibly; and
2. All care is taken with tips given on this site however no responsibility is taken for losses incurred.

Go the mighty Maroons!

State of Origin: Shumpty’s Top 5 moments

I wrote two years ago on this blog of my love for State of Origin ( ) and nothing has changed.  Whilst I have become an ever more passive fan of Rugby League, aside from when the Canberra Raiders are playing, this is a time of year that still focuses my attention away from Rugby Union and onto the other rugby game.

This year I will not be attending the games in Brisbane: I refuse to pay the exorbitant prices the QRL have placed on tickets.  That does not mean though that I will not be focused on the game come Wednesday night; I will just be doing it from the comfort of my lounge!

As with any major sporting event that is about to chalk up its 100th edition, everyone has favourite moments of the event and here are my top 5:

1. 1995: Fatty’s “Nevilles” win 3-0

I concede that this is not a single moment rather a full series but as a Queensland fan I can not go past it.  This is the series that is quintessentially what State of Origin is about: a group of mates totally written off by everyone standing up for each other and their state and besting a more fancied rival.  Every year I pull out my old VHS tape of highlights from this series and re-watch it. Enough said!

If you want to watch the highlights again, here they are:

2. 1991: The King is dead … Long live the King

In 1991 the man who dominated State of Origin for its first 11 years and remains, to this day, the best player ever produced in Queensland (if not Australia) retired from State of Origin competition.  That game was also my first attending live.  I will never forget the roar of the crowd as Mal Meninga converted from the sideline to win the match nor will I forget seeing grown men openly weeping as King Wally did a lap of honour at the end of the game.

3. 2008: Thurston’s show and go

I have been lucky enough to venture into “enemy territory” twice to watch the Maroons play in Sydney.  This is the game for me that always stands out.  The series was tied at 1-1 and the game was tied 10-10 with 17 minutes to go, when J Thurston changed the game. Now you have to remember that I was in my Queensland jersey amongst a sea of blue and my mates and I had been copping it deluxe from everyone around us.  What happened in the next 30 seconds silenced the crowd and move us to full voice.  I can still see it now: Thurston shapes to pass outside and then slides through a tired NSW defence, Slater looms on his inside and suddenly is in under the posts.  Game, set, match and series for Queensland.  We still haven’t been beaten in a series!

Check out the highlights here: … the try is at 8mins 30secs.

4. 1995: Queenslander!!!!!!

I know I have spoken of 1995 above but this wouldn’t be a trip down my personal memory lane of highlights without including Billy Moore and the “Queenslander” chant.  Watch this:

I really don’t need to say anything more do I?

5. 1992: Alfie’s field goal

Another State of Origin classic was played out in the second game of the series at Lang Park.  Queensland had been down to 11 men early in the game (Bill Harrigan at his NSW favouring best) but fought hard to ensure their line was not broken all game.  With 66 seconds to go (after Ricky Stuart had missed two attempts) and the scores locked up 4-4, Allan Langer nonchalantly slotted a field goal from the 22 metre line to secure a 5-4 victory for Queensland.

This year the season is no less exciting for Queensland’s almost decade of dominance and history again beckons for the Maroons.  Maybe there will be a moment to rival one of these five moments.  Even if there is not: this will still be a season for the ages.


For the love sport: State of Origin

As many of you will have worked out by now, I am a sports fanatic: simply put, if it is sport I will watch it and I will follow a team.  Over the years I have fallen in and out of love with many sports.  Rugby League is a sport that I have loved and fallen out of love with over time and it would be fair to say that aside from my ongoing support of the Canberra Raiders, the NRL competition in Australia really does not interest me much.

That fact declared, it is that time of the year again that my fervour for the game of rugby league reaches its peak because it is State of Origin time.

For as long as I can remember as a young child there were only three nights in a year that I was allowed to stay up late and they were the Wednesday nights that State of Origin was on.  I would sit with my Dad, watch and listen to his oft frustrated rumblings about high tackles, repeat sets of six and head high tackles all the while not really knowing what was going on. It would be fair to say that during my formative years I was not so much a rabid supporter of State of Origin rugby league but more a passive observer.

That all changed when I went to my first game of State of Origin at Lang Park.  12 June 1991 was the date and it was the third game of a hard-fought series ultimately won by Queensland 2-1.  I have three vivid memories of this game: first that we were in the old outer of Lang Park sitting on concrete steps; second that Mal Meninga kicked a goal from the sideline and I had never heard a sound like it and third, it was Wally Lewis’ last game.  To that point in my life I had never experienced anything like it and was hooked.

Still though, even after my 1991 experience I did not possess that “hatred” of New South Wales that most of us from the Sunshine State possess around this time of year.  It was not until 1995 that I really understood what it meant to Queenslanders to beat New South Wales.

For those that can remember it, the 1995 series was held at the start of the “Super League War” and all of the expectations were of a New South Wales whitewash, the bulk of Queensland’s usual team sheet being aligned with the rebel faction.   New South Wales players, coaches and supporters were insufferable before the series started and I wanted nothing more for Queensland to prove them wrong.  Everything that those much more senior to me had been complaining about with respect to those who reside on the other side of the Tweed River finally was sheeted home to me. 

History shows that Paul Vautin’s team of “Nevilles” (as he described them) defeated their much more fancied opposition 3-0.  Sitting in the lounge room of the Humphreys’ Family homestead in Ipswich images of Billy Moore screaming “Queenslander”, Brett Dallas running away to score under the posts in Melbourne and Trevor Gillmeister leading Queensland into the last game when we all knew he was crook sent chills up the spine.  Even now as I sit here writing this I get the chills.

That was a series Queensland was given no chance to win by anyone and yet despite all of the disadvantages put in front them prevailed against all odds.  That win meant so much to me, my father, my mates and anyone else I spoke to and for the first time I really realized how much it means to Queenslanders to beat New South Wales.

I am not going to get into the usual banter about which state is better: the fact is that I am biased and it is impossible for me to answer impartially.  What I am going to say is that the “hatred” between the supporters of the two States is, to me, what continues to make these series of State of Origin games what they are.  For weeks before game one, the best of mates will be sniping at each other about their respective teams chances and, with the advent of mobile telephony, there seems to be not a moment in the game that goes past that does not lead to a text message or a tweet directed at the opposition teams supports being received or responded to.  Having attended two games in “enemy territory” in New South Wales proudly sporting my Queensland jersey I have felt (and heard) the disdain with which interloping supporters are considered with.  Without that byplay between the respective groups of fans, I do not think the series would be what it is today.

It is important to recognise here though what I also consider to be the essence of State of Origin.  It is the fact that for the period of the game and its preliminaries it truly is mate against mate from the players right through to the fans.  Which, by extension means, that the following day we are all still mates no matter what the result.  It is for this reason I have purposely put the word “hatred” in inverted commas during this post.  Hate is a word easily bandied around but the fact is that we do not hate each other (as that word is meant to be used), we just hate losing to each other.   It is just sport afterall.

With that, I look forward to 4 July when the third game of the present series reaches its crescendo at Lang Park and hope the best side wins: of course we all know that that team is Queensland.  Let the banter begin!