The ANZAC Test: Origin Implications
New Zealand’s stunning triumph in Sunday’s trans-Tasman test has applied the blowtorch to a number of underperforming Aussies, who now find themselves fighting not only for their test futures but potentially their Origin spots as well. Fielding a side featuring an abundance of experience and success, the Aussies were played off the park by a younger, and some would say hungrier Kiwi outfit, and selectors may well be second-guessing some names who just last week would have been considered certainties.
First, on the injury front, debutant Josh Dugan left the field late with a leg injury and may be in some doubt for Game One, which would make Penrith’s Matt Moylan a near-certainty for the fullback spot given Brett Stewart’s recent struggles to stay on the park. At any rate, Dugan’s performance in an unfamiliar position was poor, and should ensure he is not considered for a spot on the wing, with a number of poor defensive reads allowing Manu Vatuvei to punish the Aussies; the Blues can ill-afford such lapses against the prolific Inglis/Boyd combo down that same edge.
The Blues must also decide what to make of Greg Bird, who is on report for a lifting tackle on Jason Nightingale. It’s highly unlikely he’ll be suspended long enough to keep him out of Origin, but it’s yet another example of poor discipline from the Titans veteran, who has racked up a litany of indiscretions both on and off the field. Given that coach Laurie Daley has been vocal about establishing a more professional culture at the Blues, he’ll face a tough decision as to whether he wants to stick with a hardened veteran who has been a great servant for the Blues, or continue refining the side’s culture by making an example of the wayward Bird.
The other key talking point for the Blues coming out of the game is the quiet performance of debutant Alex Johnston on the wing. Granted, he didn’t get a whole lot of ball with his centre Michael Jennings taking on the line at every opportunity, but you get the sense the Blues selectors would have liked to see a bit more initiative from him.
The Aussies’ poor performance would be particularly concerning for the Queensland selectors, given that the nucleus of the side was built around the same Maroons core that dominated Origin for so long. The performance of Greg Inglis at fullback was very disappointing; it may have just been an off-day, but selectors are likely to be a lot more comfortable going into Game One if long-time custodian Billy Slater is available.
Cooper Cronk is another who failed to fire on Sunday, and rumours have been swirling for weeks now that he is carrying an injury. Whether or not that’s true, he’s been fairly quiet at club level by his standards this season, and while he will almost certainly be picked for Game One, his spot may come under threat from Ben Hunt or Daly Cherry-Evans if he struggles again, particularly if Queensland find themselves 1-0 down in the series.
Nate Myles is a similar case, struggling to stand out at the Titans this year while contributing very little to the Kangaroos’ cause on Sunday. He always lifts a gear for Origin and will still be one of the first picked for the Maroons, but there may be a push to include an additional prop on the bench this year in case he struggles, particularly given that front row partner Matt Scott is also down on form of late. Broncos workhorse Josh McGuire is desperate for a shot in the Origin arena and may provide the injection of enthusiasm that the older warhorses need.
The performance of Will Chambers on debut was encouraging – he didn’t always execute but his energy was obvious throughout the 80 minutes. With Broncos pair Darius Boyd and Justin Hodges both pushing to return to full fitness in time for Game One, Chambers seems set to line up at right wing, but the Maroons can be confident they’ve found a long-term successor to Hodges at centre.
Cover Image Source: www.foxsports.com.au
Nick Fray, Origin Online