Venue: ANZ Stadium
Time: Whenever Channel Nine finish their ads after 8pm AEST
Here we are, the decider.
Or as it’s traditionally known up north, the night when the Blues wet the bed and the entire country laughs at them.
Despite that 38-6 annihilation in Perth to New South Wales, history is burrowed into the corner of the Banana Benders, having won the last seven deciding Game IIIs dating back to 2006, with the Blues last deciding win, and their last successful Origin title defence, coming way back in 2005, best remembered for Matt King scoring a hat-trick…. and Andrew Johns retiring.
Going slightly further back, the last Game III win IN SYDNEY was 2004, when Brad Fittler came back for a proper farewell, charged down Darren Lockyer, and scored a try to cap off a 36-14 win.
Back then, the Maroons had never won at the Olympic Stadium.
Yep, it’s been that long.
In doing what he does best, Kevin Walters has battled on in the face of overwhelming odds, and declared tonight will be the biggest game in State of Origin history, even bigger than the last time we said that a game was the biggest game in State of Origin history, which was probably Game III of 2006.
On that note, I better check how the teams have changed!
New South Wales
It’s rare that an Origin team can actually become better than the unchanged team you originally tried to pick, but that’s Freddy Fittler for you.
It feels like an age since Tariq Sims failed at the judiciary, which gave David Klemmer the recall he should’ve received in the first place, while Nathan Cleary’s ankle has turned blue since it was hurt in Origin II, so he might want to see a surgeon about that.
But the result is that coming back into the team is the form halfback of the league, and the black sheep of State of Origin…
The mere mention of his name brings scorn, and a Google search for his Origin record; 18 appearances, 5 wins, 13 losses, deciding Game III record: 0-6.
If there is a shining light, it’s that he won’t be facing seven Immortals wearing Maroon, and he’s got a former Premiership teammate in Big Game James Maloney plus Wade Graham to carry him through the night, like Richard Gere in An Officer and a Gentleman.
Aside from that, it’s basically the same team that backed up Freddy’s crazy changes (Like Blake Ferguson for Latrell) in Perth with a 38-6 massacre, capped off by the majestic beast that is Tommy Turbo scoring a hat-trick.
You know he’s played 6 games this season for Manly & NSW… and won every single one?
It makes you forget that Jake was actually Man of the Match, the Blues’ forward pack destroyed the Maroons, and Josh Addo-Carr also scored a lazy double.
The scene for the Immaculate Redemption is set- Pearce is either going to ascend into the clouds with a halo and wings after feeding through the Fox and Tommy Turbo, or the entire state will come after him more aggressively than Craig Gower on a golf course.
Personally, I hope Mitch gives us all the finger and gets named as Man of the Match, because every New South Welshperson will just stand there in shock, like Darth Vader after Ben Kenobi vanished into thin air.
“Monday one day, Tuesday the next”- Sir Joh
It’s been incredible watching Kevvy Walters become a zen master of the art of the Mind Game, under the mentorship of THE COACH WHISPERER.
The Game III mind games started last Monday, when he named an alphabetically ordered 17 to throw some uncertainty at Freddy and ‘The Other State’, and then at 9:44 yesterday morning during the Captain’s Run, he held an impromptu presser and said Matt Gillett would have a pre-game fitness test, only to return at 10:11 and say he wasn’t playing, because of a groin injury.
I’m sure THE COACH WHISPERER is tickled pink watching Kevvy do his thing, mainly because of the cash the QRL are paying him.
It’s a perfect cover to the fact that the Maroons are now looking as shaky as the Opal Tower, with Kalyn Ponga missing from the #1 due to a calf injury, although Kalyn has turned informant, telling his Maroons teammates that the key to beating Mitchell Pearce is to be aggressive with him.
Wow, what else did you tell them KP- Bears crap in the woods?
Ethan Lowe, who was named as the 18th Man, is now into the team to replace Gillett, although if he will even wear the No.12, or even start, is subject to yet another Kevvy mind game.
Also making their debuts are Corey Norman, after a rockin’ and rollin’ 180 NRL games, going into the halves to partner DCE, with Cameron Munster going to fullback, and the third debutant is feelgood story Christian Welch, who you may recall had his season ended by a second ACL tear for about 24 hours back in May… which turned out to be nothing more than meniscus damage.
Joe Ofahengaue is also back into the starting pack, after missing Origin II with a knee gash, and it really seemed like the Maroons missed his presence
Based on his form for Souths, if Dane Gagai didn’t have a superb Origin track record, he would be playing left back.
Left back at Redfern.
But alas, with Ponga out injured, the Maroons do need a goalkicker, and he’s the one.
Kev has said he wants this team to be one that all Queenslanders can be proud of, and a rousing pre-game speech filled with vulgar insults from skipper Daly Cherry-Evans about ‘them’ is the emotional tonic that can get the Maroons fired up.
Two years ago, the Maroons would’ve gone into a decider like this without any fear whatsoever, and the Blues would’ve gone in shitting themselves at the thought of being favourites for an Origin decider.
But while all of those Maroon-clad legends will be at the Olympic Stadium again, they’ll be there in suits, and equipped with Channel 9 microphones to decipher what the hell the players are blabbering out after the sirens have gone.
If the Maroons do fail to win, then the knives will come flying for Kev, and if that wasn’t dangerous enough, WAYNE has already put his hand up to coach his beloved state in 2020 if Kev gets an NRL job, and on the 25th anniversary of The Miracle Sweep… even Fatty Vautin has expressed an interest!
But for all we know, the Maroons could win, and Kev could just scream out “Booya bitches, I’m outta here!” at his presser, vanish into thin air, and have us questioning if he really existed at all.
I can’t really see that happening, because the Blues look set to turn #OneInARow, to #TwoInARow.