On Wednesday night New South Wales and Queensland will meet in the deciding game of the 2017 State of Origin Series at Suncorp Stadium. Already one of the biggest events on the sporting calendar, expectations that the Blues may finally topple the all-conquering Maroons has many referring to this fixture as the most anticipated game in the history of Rugby League.
To put the claim into some perspective, the 2015 decider was also described in the same way as has every other decider in the history of Origin. This narrative is as much a part of Origin as the colours Blue and Maroon, Queensland’s underdog status, Blatchy’s Blues, Caxton Street, and the myth of the Maroon’s picking and sticking. This weekend, we were treated to another oft-repeated tale, that of a Queensland star in a race against time to be fit to play.
Network news faithfully shared this story on their Sunday bulletins accompanied with images of a forlorn Billy Slater being ferried away on a golf cart. As grim reporters elaborated further, explaining that Slater had rolled his ankle and could not complete the session, my mind drifted to the fable of The Boy Who Cried Wolf.
Like the boy in the fable, Queensland has told us time and time again that one or more of their players were injured or ill and that it would require something just short of a miracle for them to be fit to play. It happens so frequently that when told of the news, NSW Coach Laurie Daley quipped “they have one every prep don’t they?”. You can understand the coach’s scepticism; a quick Google search presents you with Daley responding similarly before each Origin this year.
It’s become such a recurring Origin story that it is hard to remember the last occasion we weren’t bombarded with a similar tale. Each and every Origin we are fed to the point of ad nauseam this tale of the race against time accompanied by stone-faced coach’s telling us that the player would be given until kick-off to prove their fitness. Then, as if touched by an angel, the player who was mere moments away from being delivered the last rites is declared fit to play.
It has gotten so ridiculous that before Origin Two, Jonathan Thurston was reported to be in danger of missing the game due to a rolled ankle. The footballing public being asked to believe that an injury that wasn’t severe enough to stop Thurston completing the training session might preclude him from playing, what was at that stage, the biggest game in the history of Rugby League.
The monotony and pantomime nature of the whole situation is frustrating and annoying enough on its own. What is worse than this though, is the fact that an Origin great may well be at risk of missing this year’s decider and it is impossible to care because you can’t trust Queensland when they tell us that a player is injured.
This and all the important ORIGIN NEWS is discussed on The Pinch Hitters with Boz and Pav ORIGIN SPECIAL PODCAST, listen via the link below.