2006. Brisbane Broncos were the unlikely NRL Premiership winners; it was also the last time the New South Wales Origin team went into a series with the trophy in their hands. Having started the campaign with fifth choice halfback Brett Finch winning them the game with a field goal, to eventually going down to a late Darren Lockyer try in Game three in Melbourne, a lot has changed in that time.
Queensland have dominated the series for the past eight years before last season when another unlikely halfback hero, Trent Hodkinson, wrangled back the trophy south of the border.
Now that time is here again. Despite the cheesiness of it, State of Origin is truly state vs state and mate vs mate.
That mate-ship and loyalty to the players who did the job for NSW in the last series has come into question this week with a couple of new faces coming into the squad for game one.
Out goes Jarryd Hayne, who has made the tranisition to NFL, but also it appears grim for veterans Luke Lewis and Anthony Watmough. Lewis and Watmough have been mainstays in the NSW side since they made their debuts in 2004 and 2005 respectively. However, in comes Josh Jackson and David Klemmer to make their debuts.
Both the Bulldogs enforcers have had good starts to the season with Jackson unlucky not to feature last year and Klemmer already has represented Australia at the end of last year with the Four Nations.
Were the two experienced players in that bad of form that they did not warrant selection? Admittedly Watmough has struggled to fit in at Parramatta this season but Lewis has had one of the better starts to the season.
Laurie Daley has said that both players can still feature for the Blues later in the series and Luke only dropped out because of the injury to Paul Gallen meaning the side needs to carry an extra prop. If Gallen is fit for game two and NSW have won game one, how can you leave someone out and find room for him and Lewis?
Queensland have been heralded for ‘picking and sticking’. Although with eight years of dominance the tough calls haven’t had to be made. Even after losing last years series, Mal Meniga has stuck by the nucleus of his squad for the opener this season.
There are some good young players coming through, most notably in Souths duo Alex Johnston and Dylan Walker, but they were overlooked for people like Will Hopoate and Josh Morris who have done the job before.
Anthony Watmough and Luke Lewis have done the job before, but it seems the rules are different for them.
In 2006, there was a game in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne and NSW threw away the chance to go back-to-back. For Laurie Daley and the whole of NSW, in the words of Shirley Bassey, let’s hope it’s not ‘just a little bit of history repeating.’
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