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STATE OF ORIGIN: Men's game 3 and under 19s
12 July 2023 - Queensland play New South Wales in game 3 of the men's State of Origin series on Wednesday night at Stadium Australia, Sydney
Men’s game 3
Does a clean sweep matter? The only reason people even begin to seriously consider it is because the media only has three modes for previewing an Origin dead rubber. The first is to deny reality and question whether there is such a thing as a dead rubber (there is). The second is to speculate whether the winners will sweep the series (they didn't). The third is Nick Campton’s more innovative (and interesting) out of the ashes, rises the Phoenix approach.
But there’s no bonus points or special prizes for winning a series with three Ws, just as the importance of series wins isn’t path dependent. They’re all victories and they’re all of equal value. Record books don’t care and, evidently, neither do the Maroons.
Much in the same way we heard plenty about New South Wales’ imminent DYNASTY circa 2017-18, the obsession over the sweep has some of its roots in the Blues’ fractured psyche. The potential for a Blues sweep in 2021, all in Queensland, a truly crushing defeat thanks to Vlandoball, would have been some measure of revenge for all those years under the yoke of Smith, Slater, Inglis, Thurston and associates. Similarly, a sweep in 2023 would’ve represented a nadir for the program under Fittler and the looming spectre of the bad old days returned anew.
The degree of domination that’s required to be considered successful has risen noticeably in the time that I’ve been following the sport and its a bar that is set by the feedback looped from fans to the media and then amplified back to fans. It's not enough to win the series, or even go back-to-back. Teams must now vanquish their enemies from the face of the earth as retribution for past injustices, like winning eight times in a row and never shutting up about it or just continuing to draw breath.
This year’s vintage of Blues were never as hapless as betting markets and hysterical pundits made them out to be. New South Wales were never as good as Queensland on paper, or when it mattered on the pitch, but they weren’t out of their depth like the 2020 Maroons or the 1995 Maroons. The trap for the Blues from this game is mistaking the Maroons’ breathtaking commitment to half-assing an Origin game to fulfill contractual obligations with having found the keys to defeat Queensland in 2024.
James Tedesco looked as agile in game 3 as he did in games 1 and 2 in absolute terms, but relatively, with the Queensland defensive intensity dialled back more than a few degrees, he came close to looking something vaguely like what we've come to expect. He won't be afforded that latitude next year, when it matters again, should he return.
If styles make fights then, then let's consider NSW’s style in game 1 as the Blue Panthers, in game 3 as the Blue Bunnies and game 2 as a hybrid of the two. It's clear the hybrid option was a failure because it played into straight into Queensland's strengths, resulting in a smashing and costing them the series.
The risk for the Blues is misinterpreting a 14 point win against torpid defence as proof the Blue Bunnies’ style is superior, and while it clearly is aesthetically, when compared to an 8 point defeat for the Blue Panthers against Maroons that were dialled up to quadruple-ass1.
In most universes, the Blue Panthers win game 1. Suffocation most assuredly does not play to Queensland's strengths, and had the Blues not yielded and continued to apply the same asphyxiating pressure for the full 80, the result in this universe would have been likewise. Whether the Blue Bunnies can win a game with some jeopardy attached, or if they would suffer the same fate as the hybrid, remains to be seen.
If there's any saving grace for New South Wales, the odds of Fittler learning anything from this series are close to zero and he'll start fresh in 2024 by picking guys who had good games on the Sunday before team lists are published. Long may he reign.
The Maroons played with a lethargic dimness in the eyes and the mild irritability of a sullen teenager being asked to do anything more than the bare minimum. Are you really making me chase you? Seriously? (dramatic sigh) Fine.
Brimson looked at sea. Holmes played one of his worst in ages. I have no idea what Coates is doing here or why he’s perpendicular to his teammates.
The attack never looked cohesive and the lack of imagination to try something other than bombing to Coates’ wing or try the most Harlem Globetrotter shit you’ve ever seen, was palpable. The yardage gap was as narrow as it's been all series, despite there seeming to be greater space to roam.2 Getting down the other end didn't seem to be an issue but preventing the Blues from doing likewise was and with their handbrakes released, New South Wales finally managed to find some points, win a game and spare themselves the dreaded sweep discourse.
We don’t have the time to ennumerate all of the faults but there's plenty of blame to go around should anyone feel in dire need of assigning it. Ultimately, many resumed their human club form, relinquishing their superman Origin form, and most of them will be back to their best in 2024.
The height of comedy was Danika Mason and Paul Gallen interviewing each other at halftime while trying to walk alongside the Blues, as the players steadfastly ignored them and headed for the dressing sheds.
The post-game interview on the field of former players, standing in for current players, while panning around the faces of the current players was a strange way to get around the RLPA blackout. I’m not sure if Nine understands that most viewers aren’t toddlers and can handle looking at the person talking, even if they’re not wearing a jersey.
I wonder if we’ll see more slapping at the arms or if it’ll be like the strip, and players tend to forget about it until they see it done and then that’s all they can think about.
I was fairly indifferent to Queensland’s performance, with the important stuff wrapped up. The only thing that really riled me was Klein’s faffing about in the second half.
Taking two penalty goals in a dead rubber is some coward stuff.
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Under 19 women’s
The two most valuable resources in rugby league are possession and then time. The average NRLM game features about 80 sets. The average senior women’s game has around 60 to 70. This game had 50. Because these are espoirs femmes and not professional men, everything takes longer but that means each set has a 60% bigger impact on the outcome than the equivalent in the men’s game. Each error, whether of handling or of judgement, gives up possession and has a correspondingly higher time cost.
In the first half, it looked like the Maroons might fall foul of this statistical logic. Despite capitalising on an early Blues error to take the lead, penalties and simple errors fouled Queensland’s movement forward through the rest of the half and allowed the Blues plenty of possession and plenty of opportunity. The first try was an unfortunately soft bargeover to Makira in the middle and I’m still not convinced the second was actually grounded before Weekes lost control. But as we saw in the first men’s game, other than these lapses, Queensland’s defence held firm, stymying further gains and leaving the Blues bereft of attacking options.
The Maroons bounced back in the second half and played a situationally efficient game. Queensland used a mere 43% total possession3 - more than five fewer minutes with the ball in a 60 minute game - to turn a six point deficit into a ten point lead in the space of ten minutes. Mino-Sinapati and Bella crossed in almost identical fashion, a matter of find a crack in the line, crashing over and twisting until the ball made contact with grass. Kiria-Ratu’s pass to Surha was a wonderful demonstration of skill, one that wouldn’t have been out of place at the highest levels of the sport.
And that was enough. The Maroons could rely on their defence, conceding another try to Makira, and an aimless Blues attack and watch the seconds slip through the fingers of New South Wales until full time and victory.
Sienna Lofipo (Wynnum / Titans) and Rilee Jorgensen (Burleigh / Titans) both starred in the BMD finals and looked a cut above some of their peers tonight. In fact, the spine looked pretty handy.
Emily Bella (Mackay) had an absolute blinder. Looks to have a good kitbag of skills already and is brave enough to throw herself into contact to make up for the lack of size. We’ll be seeing her in the pro ranks soon enough. (She is Martin Bella’s cousin)
Some errors in the three-quarter line but they made up for it in their defence. Two of three tries were in the middle.
Under 19 men’s
As our friends and colleagues at the Rugby League Observer have pointed out, it’s been nearly 20 years since Queensland won an under 19s State of Origin. Greg Inglis played in that 2005 side, it’s been so long.
The number of players who pan out as full time professionals from these sides tends to be surprisingly low, so we won’t get too cut up about the performance of this player or another. Still, it was an extremely ordinary performance for the Maroons, lacking a certain grit that we’ve seen from the other sides in 2023.
After 20 minutes, the Maroons had a completion rate of just 42% but were somewhat miraculously only down by four, after an astonishing turn of luck for Sielaff-Burns to effect a rare in-goal strip. Minutes later, thanks to Tamale doing his best Xavier Coates impression and leaving space for Caleb Jackson to break the line and put Will Sullivan over, it was 10-8. The early cockiness of the Blues evaporated as the game became more of an arm wrestle through the midgame and possession and completion rates evened out. Mozer got targeted in the middle, conceding opportunities to the Blues, including a late one to Sanders for NSW to retake the lead just before half time.
A pair of tries after half time put the Blues firmly in control of the match. Despite briefly reaching parity, the Maroons showed a lack of patience when they had the ball, and a lack of skill to lose it often. While there were some decent sets, some solid shots and this was a far less embarrassing performance than last year’s 32-4 drubbing, the Blues never looked in trouble and their arrogance and cockiness returned, as is their prerogative as the clear winners.
Don’t like it? Then don’t let them win. A good ass kicking every now and then keeps one sharp and we can only hope for those who graduate from juniors to become professionals that this lights a fire inside that they carry with them for the rest of their careers.
How do you hit Ben Te Kura (205 cm) high?
Ethan “The Colonel” Sanders. Surely.
Israel Leota has played more sports than just volleyball. Did you know he also plays rugby league?
Weird that no one seemed to notice this?
Rugby league officials enjoying Under 19s Origin
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That's a lot of ass.
It's like eight times the ass.
Game 1 averaged 38 metres per set. Game 3 was over 43.
If you look at all the stats, NSW should’ve won comfortably. The Maroons gave up 174m, +4 on errors and had a 69% completion rate.