Don’t you just love rivalries? Sporting rivalries in particular. They’re intense, passionate and rarely fail to impress, leaving fans and players either elated or shattered, depending on the outcome. A haze of Maroon and baby blue will descend on Etihad Stadium this Wednesday, as one of Australia’s most bitter and intense rivalries, State of Origin, makes its way to Melbourne’s Etihad Stadium.
Recent history suggests this could well be a one sided affair. Queensland have dominated over the past decade, winning seven of the past ten series and most importantly, the last six. They’ve shown no signs of slowing down either, whitewashing the 2010 series then finishing strongly in game three to wrap up the 2011 series two games to one.
While thousands of Origin fanatics will make their way down from Queensland and NSW, there is expected to be a huge Melbourne contingent venturing to Etihad Stadium for the mighty encounter. Due to the blistering early season form of the Melbourne Storm, the exposure and interest in NRL has flourished in the predominantly AFL dominated state. This, along with the host of Storm players in the match, means many Melbournians will head along to watch the two foreign giants face-off.
The Maroons will need to get the job done without the leadership of arguably the greatest Origin player of the past decade, Queensland fullback of the century, Darren Lockyer. The retirement of Lockyer, after a record 36 Origin appearances, will undoubtedly leave a hole in the Queensland side. The Maroons have a couple of handy replacements at their disposal, with Cowboys superstar Johnathan Thurston and Melbourne Storm’s Cooper Cronk, proven superstars and big game performers.
Another focal point will be the performance of 2010 Dally M Medallist, Todd Carney. He’s the Brendon Fevola of the NRL, with his off-field indiscretions highlighting his career more than his undoubted ability on the field. He’ll be tested on the biggest stage on Wednesday, with his origin debut under the most intense of microscopes. What Carney does have in his favour is an unbelievable amount of talent, ability and most importantly, form. He could well be the key for the Blues: if he’s on, they’re every chance of snatching a win.
Both sides have their X-factor players as well. The player that provides that little bit of something special to turn the game in their State’s favour. For the Blues, the inclusion of Jarryd Hayne could be just that. His form this season has been enigmatic and his selection raised a few eyebrows amongst the footballing community. But when he’s on song, the 2009 Dally M Medallist is unstoppable, bringing others around him into the game and creating opportunities scoring opportunities from the smallest of gaps. Much the same can be said about Maroons winger Darius Boyd, whose 2012 club form with the knights has been average at best. But his Origin record speaks for itself, with two tries on debut and six in total, he’s a man who knows how to lift for the occasion.
As the game is at a neutral venue, this will be the most important of the three game series. Expect a fired-up Blues outfit seeking redemption and hungry for success, and a Maroons unit eager to prove that the post-Lockyer era is capable of doing it without the Queensland great. It’s shaping up to be a belter, and a must see for all sports fans.
: Tom Melenhorst