Game I in Sydney wasn’t a classic Origin spectacle but it was tense and tough, a real arm wrestle with a climatic finish in the end. Queensland got the cash after NSW faded badly in the second half, Cooper Cronk once again the Maroons’ savior. It was the proverbial game of two halves but it was surprising to see how much NSW seemed to run out of puff late in the match, especially their much younger forward park.
What wasn’t surprising was the breakdown of communication between Mitchell Pearce and Trent Hodkinson in the final minutes. No one took control with the game on the line and the field goal opportunity was fluffed, with Josh Dugan missing his attempt to level the scores and Queensland having already gone up the other end to score. Having two natural halfbacks was a gamble and it didn’t work, but Laurie Daley will supposedly stick with the controversial pairing in Game II.
I tipped the Maroons, with no great pleasure, and it will take NSW a miracle to win the series from here. Queensland always seem to do well in Melbourne and virtually never lose at Suncorp. Paul Gallen is being tipped to make a return from injury and it would be good to see the likes of Brett Stewart come into consideration. The Prince of Brookvale was again at his playmaking best against the Cowboys on Saturday. Will Hopoate was poor on the wing in Game I and surely a wily veteran like Stewart could do a job there.
With NSW hooker Robbie Farah unlikely to be fit for Game II, Dragons rake Mitch Rein has had his name thrown into the selection mix. While the obvious choice would be to pick veteran Michael Ennis, who has seven Origins under his belt, Rein would be more of a left-field choice. But the 25-year old is definitely deserving after enjoying a brilliant season.
St George Illawarra are up among the top teams in the competition and a big reason for that is the form of the Wollongong workhorse. Rein is a dynamic player who is tough and durable, exactly right for the Origin arena. He is quick from dummy half, can score tries and make them, and tackles himself to a standstill. Rein may be six years younger than Ennis but he is no rookie with 77 NRL games experience.
The former Kiama junior could add a bit of X-Factor into the Blues with his speed and ability to bust through tackles.
The Newcastle, NSW and Australian combination of Matt Gidley and Timanu Tahu was a delight to watch in the early 2000s. The centre and winger seemed to have an uncanny understanding and scored many tries together for the Knights, Blues and Kangaroos. Gidley’s flick pass to Tahu became a thing of beauty to behold on a weekly basis.
Now Mitch Aubusson and Shaun Kenny-Dowall aren’t at that level but gee didn’t they have a night to behold against the Storm on Monday night. On the right wing Aubusson scored one try and set up two others for Kenny-Dowall with some beautiful offloading. The third try, an audacious flick, was a peach.
What makes their pairing so great is Aubusson isn’t even a centre, he’s more of a second-rower, but was playing there because of injury to Blake Ferguson. The utility has played a number of different positions for the Roosters and is very versatile. Kenny-Dowall was on the wing but he is usually a centre. He’s only been ended up being pushed out because of Ferguson and Michael Jennings in the centres and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck at fullback.
It may have been a makeshift combination but it was on fire at Allianz Stadium. More please.
Manly’s 2015 season has been a shocker and the football gods were certainly not smiling on them on Saturday when the Cowboys stole a win in the final two minutes. It was a heart-breaker for the Sea Eagles but one consolations was the displays of Tom and Jake Trobjevic. These two blonde brothers, the new Brett and Glenn Stewart, have made outstanding starts to their fledgling NRL careers.
A fullback or winger, Tom is only 18 but has scored three tries in just three games. Coming back from injury, he was sensational in Townsville. A local junior like his old brother Jake, Tom has already played for NSW at Under-18 level and the 192cm tall outside back is destined for great things.
Jake Trbojevic is 21 and made his NRL debut back in 2013. He has find appearances rare since then until this year, where he has arguably been Manly’s best forward. A strong prop who hits hard in defence, he’s been exactly what the Sea Eagles undersized pack needs. Already a junior NSW and Australia rep, the 106kg monster seems to play the game with no fear.
The brothers from Mona Vale are tied to the club until 2017 and show that the future can still be bright for the Brookvale outfit.