The best Queensland team to have ever pulled on their football boots has won an amazing 6 State of Origin series in a row, rewriting the record books to a point where the winning streak may never be broken. Overnight the Queensland team for the first game of the series next Wednesday in Melbourne was named and again appears to be a virtually unbeatable squad of players despite the absence of one of the legends of the game at club, Origin and international levels.
This series will be the first in the post-Lockyer era of State of Origin, an Origin career between 1998 and 2011 during which Lockyer only missed one full series, not through poor form, but through injury.
There has been much said about the Queensland State of Origin team hopes in the wake of the retirement of Darren Lockyer, with the player who holds god-like status in the game of rugby league, not to mention a statue outside his home stadium and a road named after him near his home town. The knockers have said it will be harder without him, it undoubtedly will be.
But the haters have also said that they might not win without him and that sounds ridiculous to many who follow the game, some like it’s a religion, some because they are proud Queenslanders, come May with the beginning of the State of Origin series.
Darren Lockyer, regardless of the massive star he was and he was the biggest of the big, hard to emulate, is but one player in the fabric of a Queensland team that has so dominated over 6 years. Yes, he set up or took advantage of many of the attacking plays over 12 series in the game, but he was surrounded by people like Johnathan Thurston and Allan Langer before him and also Kevin Walters early on too and that’s just the players surrounding him on the field, there’s also many others who would take a long time to list that also make up this great team.
There’s people like Petero Civoniceva, in his last season in the game and Billy Slater, Greg Inglis and new captain of the Maroons Cameron Smith. There’s also top players like Sam Thaiday and Matt Scott providing the brute force for the Queensland team on the field of play, in the pressure cooker atmosphere that is representative football.
The Queensland team has so much depth that players like Ben Hannant, David Taylor and David Shillington will probably be on the bench, a reserve of four that also includes rising star Matt Gillett.
Not only that, but a side that counts as its second string halfback and 18th man, another star in the making, Daly Cherry-Evans, is sure to count its chances in the series ahead as very good.
Even with Johnathan Thurston switching to the number 6 jersey, a very similar position, the Queensland team can count its first choice halfback, Cooper Cronk as probably above all others in Australia and around the world.
The biggest enemy of the Queensland team at this stage is complacency. The series is theirs to win, but also there for them to lose if they don’t turn up with their game heads on, that’s State of Origin, it brings out the best in people, even the young blokes who may not have had a jersey to their name can step up if the Queensland team are lacking concentration.
The new and relatively new players and new combinations in the New South Wales team offer an air of unpredictability too which always has the ability, if plays are executed well, to bamboozle even experienced players like those who will don the Maroons jumper again from next Wednesday.
But all in all, if the Queensland team bring their attention and A game next Wednesday, then by Thursday next week, the Queensland team should find themselves just one win away from a magical 7th series victory in a row.
There’s just one word left to say: QUEENSLANDER!!!