For the first time in Origin history, the Wise Men from the East are travelling west of the Murray-Darling in their tens of thousands, bringing to us Sandgropers their strange 13-man game that we used to see every week with the Western Reds, and now just once a year, when the NRL forces the Warriors to fly halfway around the world to play Souths.
IT’S THE COCKROACHES VS THE CANE TOADS, IN ORIGIN II!
I’ll be in attendance, and fair dinkum, I wouldn’t be shocked if most of the 59,000 strong crowd will be cheering for the Queenslanders, and booing the New South Welshmen relentlessly, without the threat of a Behavioural Awareness Officer to stop them.
Immediately, I warn those of you to the East- the weather for this weekend can be best described as…. crap.
Which means we’re half a chance of being able to recreate this moment, given Mark Geyer is in Perth for a Reds Reunion.
And now, time for our comedic line-ups!
New South Wales (Inclusions in Red)
The title of ‘Biggest Blue Rabble’ in Australia has passed through many hands this year- The Liberal Party, The Carlton Footy Club, and now, Freddie Fittler has delivered the title back into the hands of New South Wales, by naming a team that would make more sense if picked by Wally Lewis.
And to cap off the hilarity, the Blues will also be wearing the first-ever alternate jumper in an Origin game.
10/10 material from the NSWRL, I haven’t seen a routine this funny since I went to Fringe World and watched Akmal Saleh bag South Australia.
Aside from Freddie’s ballsy, headline-grabbing decision to drop Latrell, David Klemmer, Payne Haas and Nick Cotric are all injured, Cody Walker has become the latest Blues half to be chewed up and spat out, Josh Morris was basically a rental, and Angus Crichton is also gone, because nobody had any idea why he was still in the team for Game I.
Into the team from left-field to replace Klemmer is his Knights teammate Daniel Saifiti for his Origin debut, alongside the Melbourne Wrecking Ball, Dale Finucane, Wade Graham has played a mere 88 minutes since he recovered from his ACL tear- but he’s Wade Bloody Graham- Tariq Sims returns on the bench, Tommy Turbo partners Jack Wighton in a wacky tobaccy centres combination, and there’s a recall for Blake Ferguson, who has more convictions for Indecent Assault than he has Origin tries.
Amazingly, Fergo is the first Eels player to play an Origin game since Michael Jennings in 2016, which probably speaks more to how poorly the Eels have performed.
One of the few changes that I actually agree with is Jimmy Maloney being recalled to once again partner Nathan Cleary, thanks to a combination of Penrith’s return to form, and Mitchell Pearce conveniently hurting his hip flexor.
In a bid to help Wighton and Tommy Turbo settle in, Blues assistant Mark Gasnier has been flown in to the Blues’ camp to mentor the pair, and to show them how properly rip a team bonding session to shreds.
I’ll give you the tip fellas- Northbridge is slightly more violent than King’s Cross.
Bega native Finucane is a vital inclusion, because he’s one of the few Blues players to have played on Optus Stadium, back in the Round 1, 2018 double-header, along with his Storm teammate Josh Addo-Carr, plus the Souths duo of Damien Cook & Cam Murray.
If this team manages to win Game II, it would be the greatest indictment on the Sunshine State since the release of the Fitzgerald Inquiry.
After Crazy Kev’s preparations with THE COACH WHISPERER worked a treat in Brisbane a fortnight ago, he’s only made two forced changes for the Maroons, with Joe Ofahengaue and Jai Arrow both injured, and into the team comes Knights veteran Tim Glasby and Arrow’s Titans teammate Jarrod Wallace, while Dylan Napa is promoted into the starting line-up, and the ban on mentioning ‘The Other Team’ remains firmly in place.
While ‘The Other Team’ self immolate like a protesting Buddhist monk, the Maroons are managing their own issues, with Napa carrying a wrist injury from the Dogs’ loss to the Roosters, Dane Gagai being quarantined with a virus, and Kalyn Ponga fell afoul of THE COACH WHISPERER’S ban on mentioning ‘The Other Team’ by name in his Tuesday press conference, and drawing a massive $20 fine.
Gagai’s horrible quarantine conditions were revealed on Wednesday, by none other than Queensland’s shock 21st man, West Coast ruckman Nic Naitanui.
Then again, Dane spends the entire NRL season in quarantine, and is released when Origin rolls around.
If having a fierce rivalry with the Sydney Swans wasn’t enough to make the Perth crowd get behind the Maroons, then cheering on Port Headland’s favourite son in Kalyn Ponga could prove a decisive factor.
That whole story began when his dad Andre flew from Aotearoa to Perth in 1989, and played Union for ‘Neddies’, before he went and worked up north, where Kalyn was born.
Andre has proudly declared that 100+ members of the Ponga clan will be in attendance on Sunday to cheer on THEIR boy.
Brendon Julian, Luke Ronchi, Former Senator Scott Ludlam, Keisha Castle-Hughes, and Andre Ponga- A fine list of WA Kiwis.
And of course, just like ‘The Other Team’, the Maroons have players who played on Optus last year; Dane Gagai for Souths, and the Storm contingent of Will Chambers, Cam Munster and Felise Kafusi (18th man Christian Welch also played).
With the series on the line, I’m beginning to think that Freddie’s plan for the Blues is a simple hit and hope that the Maroons will see the team line-up, plus the navy blue jerseys, and die of laughter.
And if the nut-job routine can do the trick for Kev, it can probably work for Freddie.
Although, if the Murdoch cabal are to be believed, IF the Banana Benders can wrap up the series on Sunday, then the NRL would stand to lose approximately $3,000,000 in ticket sales from the fans that won’t show up for Game III in Sydney.
Forget about the antics of THE COACH WHISPERER, that should be enough motivation for the Maroons right there.
To quote the late, great Big Kev: