New South Wales’ only Koori player in game 3 Greg Bird (AAP IMAGE/DAVE HUNT)
RUGBY LEAGUE: The State of Origin series has come and gone for another season with Queensland once again taking out the tri-series by two games to one.
Queensland claimed victory in a much maligned first match in Melbourne, with the Maroons admitting it was a near run thing and NSW crying foul of an incompetent team of referees.
The second match in Sydney was a do or die effort by the Blues, who were riding on a wave of home town support.
Sydney had been saturated by a media wave of hard luck stories and insinuations of official bias against the supposed underdog Blues team.
The NSW team out-muscled the Maroons in another game that went to the wire, leaving both teams physically and mentally exhausted.
Australian, Queensland and Storm fullback Billy Slater was only a shadow of his real talent after being injured early in the match and, after honest consideration, he showed his real quality by staying on the field as long as he did.
NSW fullback Brett Stewart in the meantime scored twice to put the match well beyond Queensland’s reach.
The third and deciding match took place in Brisbane and the end result may well have been the result of a mistake by the NRL officialdom.
They took a home game away from the Blues to promote the code overall by having an important representative match in Melbourne.
Like last year, 2013 will be two matches in Brisbane and one in Sydney, giving a definite hometown advantage to Queensland, already the defending shield holders.
With the Maroon crowd baying for blood after a fortnight of accusations of favouritism by the southern media and their supporters the stage was set for a dour match of purely physical grinding from go to woe.
Having played themselves to a standstill in the two previous matches, both teams were well geared up and ready to die for the cause.
A spark of intelligence by the NSW selectors to once again combine the Morris brothers in a representative team almost proved the undoing of the Maroons, with both players proving a handful for Queensland.
Two tries went up beside the Morris name.
The exclusion of Queensland’s Slater due to injury will never be fully appreciated as Inglis was a constant threat, both with speed and power right up to the end siren.
Inglis’ old Melbourne connection with Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk only caused more concern for the NSW coaching team.
In the end it was only a Cronk field goal that separated the two teams.
Player of the series was awarded to Nate Myles of the Titans, who had played himself to standstill and took the workload off several of his more illustrious team mates.
In the end it was a series narrowly won by skill against brawn, but the NSW selectors appear to be learning fast with the inclusion of the Morris brothers and Jarryd Hayne in their final 2012 squad.
Like Melbourne, how much of the Queensland success is due to Cameron Smith?
Can they have continued dominance as he winds down his career?