Origin I: Rants and Ratings

State of Origin I

NSW 9 defeated QLD 8

Thankfully, the actual game of rugby league will dominate the paper today, but despite what you may read, the Series opener at Telstra Stadium was one of the dullest on record. Don?t get me wrong I love State of Origin football and always will, but as a spectacle the clash was lifeless and the group of mates I watched the game with all agreed ? halfway through the game we didn?t care who won, we just wanted it to be over quickly so we could start watching the Worlds Most Dangerous Sports!

Apathy, I never thought I would utter that word in the same breath when I described what I felt like watching State of Origin, but that magic ingredient that makes Origin football was definitely missing last night. Perhaps it was no Joey, no Lockyer, the phone call scandal, questionable selections, Phil Gould insisting he was quitting again, etc. that brought down my anticipation levels before the game but I have never sat through an Origin clash with less emotion.

I am sure it was different for the players and fans at the game (as it always is), and most likely the majority of you the readers. And I truly hope Origin II is a game of more ups and downs than snakes and ladders, but before we get carried away with the ?greatness? of Game One, take out your tape of last years corresponding fixture ? press play ? and you will find there is no contest.

Still! With that disappointment aside NSW toughed out a win and a 1-0 series lead and here are Nicolson Sports Consultancy?s player ratings for Game One. Feel free to comment, criticize, debate and analyze the following, hey you might find it more interesting than last night?s game!

NSC Player Ratings:

NSW:

1. Ben Hornby ? 7 A solid performance from the Dragons custodian, but was not a difference maker

2. Luke Rooney ? 6.5 Did a lot of hard yards early in each set, but was not seen in attack

3. Michael De Vere ? 6 Rarely caught out but rarely stood out, lacks strike power for a centre

4. Matthew Gidley 5.5 Very disappointing considering he needed to stand up and take some playmaking pressure off Gower, not a factor

5. Luke Lewis ? 7 Thrived at the Origin level where his skill and smarts stood out, excellent debut but may be wasted on the wing in attack

6. Shaun Timmins ? 8 NSW?s most dangerous ball runner all night, rewarded with a try and the match-winning field goal that won?t be forgotten anytime soon

7. Craig Gower ? 7 Another great organizing effort from the Panthers halfback but clearly wore down as the game progressed with the playmaking burden and couldn?t spark the team in attack late

8. Mark O?Meley ? 7 Very willing but sat on the bench for far too long, NSWs best go-forward merchant barely played 30 minutes which was far less than he deserved

9. Danny Buderus ? 7 Another great effort from the NSW captain but like Gower seemed burdened under the playmaking weight and apart from one or two runs didn?t make a noticeable stamp on the contest

10. Ryan O?Hara ? 5.5 A short and average debut for the Raiders prop, underused for the most part but did look a step behind the pace especially early, the willingness was there but he didn?t make the yards consistently

11. Andrew Ryan ? 6 Does a lot of little things well and his work-rate was solid but doesn?t have an x-factor

12. Nathan Hindmarsh ? 6.5 Awesome defensive display? when he was on the field, the Eels 80-minute man sat on the bench for large chunks of the game and it is hard to dominate at this level riding on the pine

13. Craig Fitzgibbon ? 8.5 The best player on the field, worked at his usual high level and kicked well despite missing a potential match winner, but is he a lock?

14. Willie Mason ? 6 Made a few surging runs but lacked the kind of impact that can change the momentum of the game, jury still out on his work-rate

15. Brent Kite ? 6 Decent debut but looked out on his feet after 5 minutes, then Gould kept him on for a long period where he did ok but the question if he?s good enough for Origin level remains unanswered

16. Trent Waterhouse ? 5.5 Another player hardly sighted and unfortunately will be remembered for failing to stop little Scottie Prince from scoring, is he ready for Origin yet?

17. Craig Wing ? 6.5 As always added a dimension out of dummy half but floated during the game between five-eighth and hooker and thus lacked direction, will be better for the run though and could explode on a dry track in Origin II.

TOTAL: 111.5 QLD:

1. Rhys Wesser ? 6 Very safe at the back and gave the Maroons excellent kick-returns but was barely sighted in attack, but with his talent should make up for that in Brisbane

2. Justin Hodges ? 4 Physically Hodges should be a force, but it seems every time he plays Origin he shrinks 2 foot and makes crabs look like they run straight

3. Paul Bowman ? 5 Another quality defensive display but Bowman needs to bring something extra to the table for Qld to have a viable attack either side of the field

4. Brent Tate ? 7.5 Is a class player and made a number of telling contributions to the game including his try, but playing on after being KO?d by an elbow proved just how tough he is

5. Billy Slater ? 6 Looks wasted on the wing but you can?t put him at fullback with Wesser there, interestingly played a part in a few set plays that got him into the game in the fullback role

6. Chris Flannery ? 6 Performed to the level expected at five-eighth but should be in the forwards as the extra playmaking role stifles his running game

7. Scott Prince ? 7.5 A big Origin future lies ahead of this kid if the selectors stick with him, was Qld?s best player and led the side around the park very well, is just the player Lockyer needs inside him for Origin II

8. Shane Webcke ? 7 Speaking of toughess Webcke exemplifies the word, cops a few big hits, a busted rib, and just keeps charging, a true warrior

9. Cameron Smith ? 7 Herculean defensive effort by the youngster and is cemented in the hooking role, outplayed Buderus on the night especially running from dummy half

10. Steven Price ? 7.5 Massive work-rate from the Bulldogs captain, has put to bed questions over his suitability to the Origin game with a great performance

11. Michael Crocker ? 5.5 Quiet game for the man some have labeled ?The Raging Bulls? heir apparent, apart from laying out Gower with a great hit (and it was legal) just didn?t make an impact

12. Dane Carlaw ? 6 Started the game with gusto but the wind died down and Carlaw seemed lost at sea, we?re still waiting for this extremely talented ball-runner to realise his potential at this level

13. Tonie Carroll ? 6.5 The human jaw is so reliable that Qld will find it hard to move him out of the lock spot, but for the sake of their attack they need to, Carroll is a great defensive player but offers very little in attack

14. Ben Ross ? 6.5 Good debut from a Panthers prop who actually played in the game, consistently proved a handful for the Blues defenders to put on the ground and didn?t look out of place

15. Petero Civoniceva ? 6 It was always going to be difficult for ?Petrol? to come back from injury in an Origin game but he didn?t let his side down, but he lacked his usual go-forward that comes with match-fitness

16. Travis Norton ? 5 Needs to either start at lock or make way for another running forward, Norton is a decent playmaker but is wasted sitting on the bench and used sparingly

17. Matthew Bowen ? 5.5 Elusive in his limited game time and should have booked his ticket to a starting wing birth for the second game, but again hardly used so couldn?t be expected to make a major difference

TOTAL: 104.5

Ref: Sean Hampstead ? 7 Can?t fault Hampstead?s performance too much, although both sides kept the play the ball relatively clean, hard to see him losing the post on the back of a solid referring effort

Got a comment, why not air it? Either on the Front Row Forums or Email: [email protected]

Regards,

Warrick NICOLSON ========================= Freelance Sports Journalist NICOLSON SPORTS CONSULTANCY Ph: 0402 851 485 Fax: 02 9653 1483 [email protected] =========================

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