The rep weekend was a resounding success and the stand-alone Origin game provided the same level of excitement and drama that we have come to expect from these absorbing contests.
Congratulations to the Blues – a touch too good for the Queenslanders who were a lot better (as expected) and had their chances to snatch victory at the death.
Now – north of the border – the post mortems have started in earnest and team changes are being talked about for game 3.
In particular, Ben Hunt is copping some unfair criticism for a lack of game management at the back end of the game – when NSW had 12 men and one of his kicks went dead on an early tackle.
To put this into perspective – QLD were without three of the best game managers and high performers under pressure of all time.
The lack of cohesion was always going to come under scrutiny – especially if QLD lost the series – but it would be premature to make changes on the back of a four-point loss in my view.
Apart from missing three of their best ever players – QLD have also lost some fire power up front over the last few years including Matt Scott, Sam Thaiday, Nate Myles, Corey Parker and Matt Gillette who were instrumental in laying a strong platform during their long run of success.
The future for QLD looks bright – especially with the outstanding performance of Kalyn Ponga who was fantastic in his role as a middle third contributor and will be the likely successor to Billy Slater.
One thing is for certain – the Queenslanders won’t die wondering as they prepare to win the final game in QLD – to avoid a NSW whitewash for the first time since 2000.
The only down side to the rep weekend were the inevitable injuries to a number of players and the delay in getting players back from the Test between England and NZ in Denver.
Growing the International game is important and the emerging Nations are gaining momentum as more players are exposed to playing in the NRL and at rep level.
The Denver game – which gained moderate interest in the US – will need to be reviewed and the travel has to be taken into account if it is going to be considered going forward.
Perhaps a simpler solution would be to play this game in Australia with a number of English players already playing in the NRL and the Kiwis not having to travel too far either.
The Tongan performance against Samoa was exceptional and their leader Andrew Fifita has expressed a strong interest in playing the Kangaroos in a one-off game after a Test match against the Kiwis in NZ on October 12.
There a few issues to be negotiated – including where this game will be played and who will fund the event – but hopefully it will go ahead and they can challenge the No 1 team in the world.
The mid-season player transfer scenario has become another “eye sore” that the game can do without – as we have seen a flurry of player movements in the last couple of weeks.
The NRL has made several rule changes – on the run in recent seasons – but the June 30 transfer has to be brought forward preferably before the start of the season - to give the fans some certainty around their club’s playing roster for the season.
As an old Bulldog the fall out at Canterbury is infuriating and I am sure their fans are feeling deflated as they watch their team become decimated by the complex nature of the salary cap.
Through no fault of their own – Moses Mbye finds himself lining up for the Tigers this weekend and Aaron Woods will be lining up at Cronulla – his third club in 12 months.
The game must take a stronger stance and thrash out a better set of trading windows to ensure this scenario is not played out in the middle of the season.
It will take a collaborative approach from the NRL, the players association and the player managers to get this into a better situation.
Dragons, Warriors, Roosters, Panthers, Knights, Broncos, Tigers, Rabbits