Paul Kent: Why alarm bells should be ringing for the NSW Blues in State of Origin

After a tame preparation for the Origin decider, the game is presented to Daly Cherry-Evans and Kalyn Ponga in a bid to secure their place in Queensland history, writes PAUL KENT.

Daly Cherry-Evans beamed his 12-watt smile, and in the flare of that moment, an honest man doing his best to sell a game that had nothing to sell but its story, you had to feel sorry for him and maybe even have with the Maroons.

The game is screaming for a promotion and all they can sell is a promise of the famous Queensland spirit that may or may not come.

The Blues sit in silence, content in the knowledge that they’re hot favorites with the bookmakers, and with good reason.

All Queensland pours into this game is a rich catalog of getting up when the moment is right – the broken bones and shattered lineups that remain the patchwork quilt of Queensland’s history.

This purple period of Queensland’s dominance, a team led by Thurston, Smith, Cronk, Slater et al easily outclassing the Blues, is almost an anomaly.

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Now Queensland is back where they need a moment… and where her husband is gone for that moment.

The most interesting statement to come out of this entire game three so far is that the Maroons’ biggest threat, Cameron Munster, has Covid.

The promotion is carried by a virus.

On the other hand, in Blue Heaven, the heartbreaking news that Jordan McLean would miss his Origin debut after tearing his hamstring was the only topic worth talking about at Morning Smoko, but it lasted the whole Day.

Where do you go besides saying you’re sorry for the guy?

That NSW are a comfortable favorite should raise alarms in the Blues camp.

In days gone by, coaches like Phil Gould, who minors in psychology, found a way to start a fight to sharpen focus and keep his blues from becoming complacent, which had the small side effect of helping promote the game.

These days they claim they don’t need it.

Origin appears to be selling itself, even as they continue to deny falling TV ratings.

If the Blues bail early, as some are fearing and the bookies are confirming, it will be disastrous for the promotion of the game.

If NSW leads by two tries early at any point, an entire state will go dark before the halftime bell. Only a famous Queensland fight can save the game.

So it relies on Cherry-Evans and Kalyn Ponga finding a bit of that Queensland folklore they’re all talking about.

So far, Cherry-Evans hasn’t thrilled Maroons fans much.

Cherry-Evans was quizzed on Monday about Queensland’s line-up, specifically the starting halves, and after being sweet early on about not knowing the team roster, he eventually conceded they knew, they just wouldn’t tell anyone.

“We really know where we’re playing as a team, which is good,” he said.

A young television voice followed from the off.

“Is that just because you don’t want to tell the Blues?” she asked, which seemed pretty obvious.

Cherry-Evans had none of it.

“I’m not sure, to be honest,” he said. “I can’t answer that question, I don’t know, I’m sorry.”

It hardly inspires anyone that they could be ready for the game of their life.

So far in Origin, Cherry-Evans has usually played well without ever dominating a game.

Ponga dominated, but when it was not expected. Suddenly we realized that he was tearing the blues apart.

The hallmark of all Queensland legends was that they found him when the moment came.

A moment or a performance, back to Beetson in Origin I through Wally Lewis and Mal Meninga to Allan Langer and Darren Lockyer and Smith, Slater and Co. they stood up when the moment came.

Cherry-Evans had a chance to thwart that plan and declare his intention to delve into Queensland mythology and lead the Maroons home.

This game is presented to him and Ponga to carve their places in Queensland history.

And the game could use a little pep too.

If Origin can no longer be interesting enough to ignite a conversation between the craftsmen and laborers who put their money in their pockets and keep the game at the forefront of every conversation on the job site, then where is its future?

If there’s ever been a more boring prelude to an Origin decider, there’s no one who can describe it.

Apparently no one survived, death from boredom.

Originally published as Paul Kent: Why Alarm Bells Should Be Ringing for NSW Blues in State of Origin Decision Makers Paul Kent: Why alarm bells should be ringing for the NSW Blues in State of Origin

Nate Jones

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