Mal Meninga’s Maroons masterstroke

WHY would a rugby league coach, in the toughest arena of the game, throw an 84kg halfback into the fray to replace a 108kg prop?

Because he is Mal Meninga, the most successful coach in State of Origin history.

Although Meninga's decision to introduce Daly Cherry-Evans into Origin III at the 29th minute mark, in place of Nate Myles, proved a masterstroke, it was partly fuelled by frustration.

At that stage of the game the Maroons had been tackled 28 times inside the Blues quarter, had been held up in goal on four occasions and had a try disallowed.

And, to add a question mark to the interchange, Myles had been one of Queensland's most damaging players - defensively and with the ball.

But it was the unpredictability and brilliance of Cherry-Evans, given a free rein by the coach, who prised wide open the previously impregnable Blues' defence.

And even though the pointscoring blitz in the 32-8 scoreline did not come until the final 10 minutes, that decision by big Mal was the trump card in what was a bizarre contest.

There is little doubt that in Origin I and II, the Maroons lacked direction and stability without Cooper Cronk.

While Cherry-Evans was a strong contributor in those matches, the telepathy between Cronk and his Storm teammates, so evident in Queensland's long run of success, was not there.

No doubt the score on Wednesday night was unfair on the Blues.

Their defensive workload early in repelling Queensland was phenomenal and at the end they simply ran out of petrol.

But after scores of 12-8 and 6-4 in the first two games, the lopsided 32-8 score in game three proves yet again that at State of Origin level nothing is a fait accompli.

And that is what makes this the must-watch sporting event it has become.

Origin observations

As the better side in games one and two, NSW unreservedly earned its first series win in nine years

Paul Gallen was justly named Wally Lewis Medal winner as man of the series.

If Josh Reynolds is serious about being regarded as a tough guy, he needs to take a leaf out of the Cooper Cronk book. On-field cheap shots don't come close to emulating what Cronk endured to be fit for Origin III.

Mistake-ridden Dave Taylor has played his last Origin match, and James Tamou is a fading star.

Unquestionably, Corey Parker is now among the game's marquee players.

There is no such thing as a dead rubber.

No players in the 102-game history of Origin have epitomised the mate against mate notion better than Greg Bird and Nate Myles.

Like Mal Meninga, Laurie Daley is a quality person, a quality coach and a quality leader of young men



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