State of Origin Player Profiles: Scott, Hoffman and Bird
Nick Fray, Origin Online and Over the Line Sports
Beau Scott, New South Wales
Back Row, Newcastle Knights
Origin Appearances: 6
Origin Tries: 0
Origin Status: The bodyguard
One thing that’s been proven time and time again over the past 35 years is that winning Origin game is not about having the most talented squad possible, but rather a squad that where every player can do what is required of them regardless of the circumstances. Game One of the current series reinforced that point yet again with the selection of unfashionable Knights forward Beau Scott in a ‘minder’ role for inexperienced halves Josh Reynolds and Trent Hodkinson. The ploy worked a treat with the Maroons starved of opportunities to exploit any defensive deficiencies the pair may have, and showed the Blues had learned a valuable lesson since James Maloney was allowed to be used as a turnstile by Sam Thaiday in last year’s series.
With Scott’s Newcastle Knights all but out of finals contention, he has an opportunity tonight to be rewarded for continuing to fight his way through what has been a trying season. His presence should also allow the young halves to quickly find their feet and if they can prevent Queensland from registering an early lead they will grow in stature throughout the game without having their confidence battered from a torrid night in defence, which was the case with Maloney last year. Scott’s only blemish in Game One was an early missed tackle on Chris McQueen, which is one more than he usually gives up. Scott won’t be the focus of much pre-game media but he is a crucial player tonight.
Ryan Hoffman, New South Wales
Second Row, Melbourne Storm
Origin Appearances: 9
Origin Tries: 0
Origin Status: Unsung hero
Much like his back row partner Scott, the selection of Hoffman didn’t exactly get pulses racing amongst the Blues faithful, particularly given his uncharacteristically quiet year with the Melbourne Storm. However, Hoffman proved the selectors made the right call in placing value on his experience and composure over some of the more fancied options available with a professional, mistake-free performance that went largely unnoticed by observers.
With the return of Sam Thaiday to the Queensland side, Hoffman may be set for a busier night than when tasked with marking Matt Gillett last time out. Chances are Hoffman won’t be on the front page of the Telegraph tomorrow, but if the Blues win there’s a very high likelihood that his defensive contribution will be a massive factor.
Greg Bird, New South Wales
Lock, Gold Coast Titans
Origin Appearances: 14
Origin Tries: 2
Origin Status: Invaluable stalwart
New South Wales, as you’ll no doubt recall, went into Game One as pronounced underdogs, with various observers citing the inexperienced halves, out-of-sorts forwards and Queensland’s home ground advantage as reasons why they wouldn’t win. But for those close to the team, the only real worry the Blues had leading into the game was the loss of Titans hard-man Bird through suspension, as he has grown into a crucial player for the side in recent years and one of the first men picked.
Bird made his mark in the Origin arena as one half of the ‘Bruise Brothers’ with then-Sharks teammate Paul Gallen, and while that aspect of his game is still very much a strength, it would be foolish to write him off as one trick pony as he has developed the ball skills and power running game required to terrorise opponents when in possession of the ball as well as brutalising them in defence.
Queensland will no doubt be buoyed by the return of Thaiday and the apparent fitness of their crop of in-doubt stars, but the addition of Bird is equally important for the Blues and he may just be the ace up the sleeve that propels them to that long-awaited series win.