Fair Dinkum Department: State of Origin edition

It’s back to the drawing board for Brad Fittler and his New South Wales contingent after they were overpowered by Queensland during their 16-10 defeat. 

The Blues struggled to offer much in attack, appearing disjointed and in desperate need of their two strike centres – Tom Trbojevic and Latrell Mitchell – who lit up last year’s State of Origin series. 

As usual, plenty of talking points stemmed from the match, including how the Blues will seek to combat the Maroons and their superior control of the ruck. 

Stephen Crichton’s selection as a bench utility has also come under the spotlight, while was there a refereeing howler late in the game that robbed the Blues?

Here’s a special State of Origin edition of the Fair Dinkum Department. 

NSW should shift to a more mobile pack given their struggles in the middle

Real or ridiculous? Real

In a game played at breakneck speed from the first to last second, there wasn’t much joy to be found for either Junior Paulo or Josh Papalii. The two struggled more than any other players out on the field. 

Paulo finished with 27 run metres and 14 tackles, while Papalii didn’t fare much better having made just 32m and 16 tackles.

To Billy Slater’s credit, he saw the issues his Maroons enforcer was having and benched him for the majority of the contest. It highlighted how the more mobile forwards in his pack – Patrick Carrigan, Lindsay Collins and Tino Fa’asuamaleaui – were better suited to this version of Origin.

Post-match, Fittler complained about his side’s inability to generate ruck speed in the same way that Queensland was able to.

“We’ll work hard and make it a real focus [in the next Blues camp],” he responded when asked how he’d address it.  

More: New South Wales player ratings

The real fix may be in a change of personnel. If quick play-the-balls is what he is after- Paulo, Tariq Sims and Liam Martin may not be best suited for the job.

In Cameron Murray and Reagan Campbell-Gillard he already has some of the best proponents of it at his disposal. He also has some talent waiting on the fringes who could offer dynamic and powerful running games to disrupt the Maroons defensive line and challenge their stranglehold over the ruck.

In order to compete with Slater’s brand of pace and power, NSW may have to fight fire with fire and bring in the likes of Keaon Koloamatangi and Haumole Olaka’atu for game two in Perth. 

Stephen Crichton was the wrong choice for the utility spot

Real or ridiculous? Real

Eyebrows were raised during the week when it was revealed Jack Wighton would play in the centres and Crichton would be the No.14.

Wighton’s performance was enough to ensure he keeps his spot for the remainder of the series. Whereas Crichton’s cameo further reinforced why questions around his selection on the bench were valid.

He had a miserable time trying to catch up to the speed of the game, with his most notable contributions being a tackle that saw him put on report and having the ball stolen one-on-one by Cam Munster. 

More: A love letter to Cameron Munster from a lifelong Blues fan 

Queensland’s rotation was based around keeping it fresh in the middle. Ben Hunt took the sting out of the first 20 minutes, before Harry Grant injected himself into the game. Meanwhile, Collins and Carrigan provided a lift as soon as they came on.

Crichton, on the other hand, covered for the injury to Kotoni Staggs in the centres. But is this really the best use of a interchange player- simply being there to cover for the worst case scenario? 

The Blues were robbed on the final play-the-ball

Real or ridiculous? Ridiculous

As the seconds ticked down, NSW desperately went in search of the try that would lock up the scores and send it to golden point.

The ball came to Isaah Yeo centre field – he looked left and saw the all-too-familiar sight of an aggressive Queensland defence up in his face. The No.13 stepped against the grain and scrambled though a pocket of space, only to be chopped down a metre short by Kalyn Ponga.

Hunt produced a flop Nathan Hindmarsh would be proud of and the tackle stretched on into eternity for Blues fans.

And just as Yeo regained his feet and played the ball, Ashley Klein blew his whistle and the siren sounded. Cue outrage.

It appeared on TV the referee had stopped play prematurely. However, the game clock and the official time-keeping are two separate things. The ref receives a countdown in his ear-piece which doesn’t always align perfectly with what viewers see on-screen. 

“He should have been allowed to play that,” Braith Anasta said on Fox League’s post-match coverage.

The Blues weren’t victims of a conspiracy. They simply ran out of time and left themselves with too many points to chase in the closing stages.

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