You could almost draw the same comparison between the Globetrotters and QLD, as they last night wrapped up the 2016 State of Origin Series at home. Particularly when Darius Boyd thinks he can pop a basketball pass over the top, and Dane Gagai thinks he can not only catch the ball above and behind his head, but then be present enough in the moment to gather it in and dive over in the corner. You top that off with a kicker (JT) who thinks it's appropriate to start a conversion so far right of the posts it almost took a train to Roma St station threw on the indicators and then turned 90 degrees left to go over the black dot.
That is what seems to be the difference between these two sides. When QLD push passes in tight spots they stick. When O'Neill decides to rush his man and it forces the ball out, it stuck and Gagai went the length. When JT ran around the back of GI and floated the ball into thin air Darius 'The Scarlet Pimpinel' Boyd pops up out of nowhere to link Oates into the corner.
Whereas for NSW when Maloney made it into a couple of half holes there was no support. When he tried to shift before half time Mansour was off his edge and the ball went over his head into touch to no one. When they forced a ball to Fifita in the middle and he drops it. When Jennings decides to rush his man, he misses the mark and gets caught out and QLD score.
But more than that it also comes down to simple execution. When NSW had their first attacking kick their 5th tackle option was to run the ball, Walker found himself out of space and put the ball onto his boot, it rolled dead. 7 tackle set QLD. When QLD had their first attacking kick their 5th tackle option was to go straight to Thurston to roll the ball in for a repeat set and the pressure stays on.
NSW took risks, QLD took measured risks. That's the difference.
But I digress. In the beginning the match didn't seem like it was going to live up to the hype that we had been sold about an open expansive encounter. Both sides trading penalty goals as the new mantra in Rugby League seems to be if there are two points on offer, take them.
But there were a couple of shifts in the match that turned that on it's head. Walker's ill discipline giving away consecutive penalties, then the O'Neill rush (mentioned above) that put Gagai away suddenly woke up the the players the crowd and the game. For the next 50-60 minutes we witnessed a match that ebbed and flowed and every time QLD stuck their nose out a length NSW got the whip out and reigned them back in.
So who was good and who bad?
NSW - The individual good:
Tyson Frizell - Scored a try on debut, seemed like he was everywhere in attack and defence and troubled QLD a lot. But what polarizes his performance is the chase he gave when Gagai was scooting away. It's not often that when a try is scored there is a moment that overshadows it. This was one of those moments. Much better than the try was a chase. A second rower sticking with Gagai and never giving up, ankle tapping him on the line. That's an Origin performance, that's an Origin player...Wade Graham who?
Robbie Farah - He has his critics and he has his problems at club level. But Farah's dummy half running particularly in the first half put NSW on the front foot and had their forwards well on top. It was Farah's running that had NSW bending QLD back, if it wasn't for the bad (see below) QLD looked like they were going to get picked apart.
Jack bird - Don't underestimate this guys debut. Came on in the middle and had to play big minutes and shift into five eighth when Reynolds went off early in the second half. In hindsight and although NSW maybe could have got there on emotion, in the modern game it's probably a bridge too far when you lose a pivot. But Jack Bird proved why he is a far better utility player for NSW. Almost scored twice apart from a couple of last ditch Queensland efforts.
NSW - The individual bad:
Dylan Walker - Greg Inglis retired Nathan Merret's Origin career after only one game and last night he may have just retired Dylan Walker's after two. Coming off just 9 minutes and a poor mistake in Origin 1, Walker had the toughest job in Rugby League. Contain GI. And he did it poorly. GI's first run was straight at walker he put a palm into Walker's chest and shrugged him off like a rag doll. From there it all just unravelled for the young Manly player. So concerned with shutting Inglis down he gave away 3 consecutive penalties, tackled Inglis without the ball and he let the emotion and the occasion get the better of him. Walker is just not ready for Origin football yet. Perhaps in the future he can take a leaf out of Justin Hodges book and bounce back. But for now he isn't ready, plain and simple.
Michael Jennings - Had a night to forget. When rushed by O'neill panicked and threw a speculator which led to Gagai's try. He got caught out in defence a couple of times, most notably in Gagai's second try, he rushed out of position (there wasn't even a lead runner he just chased a ghost) and left a gaping hole for Boyd. Then in the last two try scoring opportunities was the player who knocked on which might have proved the difference.
It speaks more of NSW than Michael Jennings and that seems to be their motto. Yes there is a thing as trying too hard especially when it rushes you and you make silly mistakes. When you come up with the wrong options. When you let the emotion get the better of you.
For NSW overall
It is in their selection and their senior management where they get it wrong. I will admit I called for Nathan Peats at hooker over Farah and Ennis, but Farah proved me wrong and I am able to sit here and admit it.
But where I am not wrong is on other players. You want to show loyalty and yes NSW only lost by two points in game 1. But they still aren't picking the best players in their positions. They didn't have to put Walker into centre. They shouldn't have picked him at all. I am not going to tear the poor guy apart anymore, but Daley seemed adamant to prove that Walker was his pick and he wants him there. But he shouldn't be there. Morris went down early enough in camp that they could have brought in any number of centres to fill the void. For me Jarrod Croker's name keeps coming up. I just can't understand how he hasn't played Origin. NSW could have used his cool head last night. Moylan. Although not a bad performance Tedesco is like a caged lion (or Tiger if i need to go there) and the best fullback in NSW. Gallen. Although he deserves to go out on in his terms, it's a good thing he has chosen this year as his last. Great career Gal but it's time.
NSW keep singing the 'we can score more points song' but it hasn't and wont happen while they keep making these types of selections.
Finally for NSW it's about who replaces Reynolds. I guarantee Laurie Daley will want to see Pearce in the mix, but I just hope NSW use this as an opportunity to blood a player of the future. There is no reason why Jack Bird couldn't play there. But they could also use the opportunity to bring in Chad Townsend and give him a taste. Time will tell.
QLD - The individual good:
Greg Inglis - See above. I wont go into anymore detail except to say he had the most running meters for QLD (144) and simply monstered his opposite number.
Johnathan Thurston - Continues to be in everything and come up with the big plays at the right time. Forced repeat sets with his kicking. Was the lead chaser of his own kick for QLD to drag Moylan back into his own in goal from 10 out. Threaded the needle with that grubber for Gagai's third. But moreover hit hard in defence. He put a massive shot on Jackson late in the fist half and came up with a couple of big shots on Walker.
Cameron Smith - Best for QLD, best on ground. When NSW were bending QLD back and their fowards were getting on top Smith held them together in the middle of the field. At the 25minute mark when NSW gave a way a couple of penalties Smith the slowed the contest right down. When QLD scored and NSW hit straight back, on QLDs next set Smith kicked from dummy half into touch to let QLD get set and gather themselves. He leads from in front and by example. When people talk about the best players in history they usually compare players in different eras. Lewis v Chruchill. Johns v Lewis. Lockyer v Johns. Thurston v Lockyer/Johns. But now we have a very interesting situation where we might be trying to settle the debate of the best ever between two players in the same era and in the same team. You try and Split Thurston and Smith? I can't.
QLD - The individual bad:
Sam Thaiday - Didn't get involved seem flustered at times and had very little impact. He took some poor options. I don't think I have ever seen Sam Thaiday so loose in defence as when he upended Paul Gallen. That sort of play is unforgivable and Sam deserves to sit out at least 3 weeks, and rightly so. Not good enough. He will be lucky if he make sit back in time for game 3 after suspension.
Aiden Geurra - I called him out in game 1 and again last night he looked behind the pace of game. He had no impact against NSW big forwards. With Corey Parker retiring QLD are going to need a mobile back rower to fill the void. Guerra needs to step up and watch hours of Parker footage. He will be there game 3 because QLD pick and stick, but if NSW had have found a way to win Guerra might have found himself on the chopping block. He burst onto the scene a couple of years ago but of late hasn't deserved his spot.
For QLD overall
Did what they do best and controlled the tempo of the game. Stuck to their structures trusted their game plan and completed at a high percentage. The worry for QLD is that this wont service them forever. QLD have enjoyed a period of time where they have some of the best players the game has ever seen and a couple of future immortals. The problem is, this might force them into a false sense of security. NSW were the better team in game 1 and lost on execution. For 20-25 minutes of the first half NSW were picking QLD apart and every time QLD nudged out NSW came back. In years gone by if QLD get out to a 10-12 point lead it blows out. But NSW are showing more spirit than that. And I parity some of these careers much like I said about Gallen above. All of these ageing players should take a leaf out of Parkers book. Yes it must be hard to walk away from. These players live and breath Rugby League and Origin is the pinnacle. But QLD look well behind the pace, almost disturbingly at times.
The pace NSW set early only for QLD to hang in there made me think about the future of Origin and these teams for the first time in a while and I thought I would end this with some predictions about what we will see in the next couple of years.
Disclaimer: we know the NRL is looking at the Origin format so this is assuming we still have a three game format in years to come.
I think NSW will see a lot more success over the next few years and Origin wont be a foregone conclusion. Aaron Woods looks set to be the next NSW captain and they are ushering in a new crop of young exciting players. Especially their forwards. QLD have some ground to make up in this area, especially in the front row with Scott and Myles at the back end of their stints. In the halves if Reynolds stays fit I think we will see him come of age at Origin and he could be a destructive game changing player. I see a lot of Andrew Johns in Adam Reynolds and that makes for a scary prospect.
Thurston has said 2017 is his last rep year. By then Morgan will be primed to take a run on role in 2018 and I think 2018 might be Smith's last year. Therefore with plenty of Origin experience under his belt, if he stays fit I think Morgan (after doing his apprenticeship under Thurston at the Cowboys) will be the next QLD captain, perhaps in 2019. And by then this era of dominance will be coming to a close and NSW will let out a sigh of relief.