NSW Blues' poor culture keeps costing them Origin
A GREAT silence falls over the Blues. Freed from another Origin series shortcoming, they are still not free from their Origin pain.
Everything we believed is a fraud. The strides made in culture, their belief in what it meant to play for NSW, all a puff of smoke.
Not everybody let the team down. But those who did, did so badly.
As a unit there is not a lot of strength in the Blues. Not everywhere, where it is absolutely necessary in Origin.
Some are wonderful young men. Captain Boyd Cordner grew this series.
Josh Jackson is welcome in any team you care to name. Jake Trbojevic is a player you can build a team around for the next 10 years.
Coach Laurie Daley went beyond the call for his players, protecting their reputations against the loss. Cradle them too tightly, though, and they die in your arms.
It seems the Blues still weren't united ahead of the decider.
Some players let down Daley and their teammates tremendously. They should never be picked for NSW again.
Several days before the game Daley told David Klemmer he was going to start the game in place of Andrew Fifita. It was a sound tactic.
Queensland negated Fifita in Game II when they got out early from marker and chopped him around the legs. The moment Fifita feels his legs are being attacked he begins to crab across field.
A starting pair of Aaron Woods and Klemmer provided other benefits. One a ballplayer, the other pure crash and barge.
It also allowed a fresh Fifita to come on once the sting had left the defence, where it is assumed he would be more threatening.
Fifita did not much like the switch and the story broke in The Sunday Telegraph.
Asked a question, Klemmer could not lie.
"Yes, I was told I was starting," Klemmer said. "But I didn't. That is all I will say."
Most reports, the politest way they can be described, are that Fifita aggressively questioned the tactic, to the point Daley relented and allowed him to start, leaving the rest of the squad frustrated.
What happened to this culture of team buy-in? They were sacrificing a sound strategy to please a player?
Fifita is big and quick across the ground and should stand like a colossus in the game. Yet Fifita is a punchline in the Queensland camp.
They laughed solidly when he whinged after Game II that he was sledged. He was angry, he told all who would listen, but he would not say what was said that angered him.
He seemed to have no trouble sooking about what was said on the field but, pressed for detail, then saying what happens on the field stays on the field.
It later emerged that Josh McGuire - who put it on the line verbally and then backed it up physically, winning the admiration of plenty - told Fifita "We knew you were shit" and "You are just shit c ... s".
The Queenslanders, all solid men, knew Fifita's salty tears said everything they believed about Fifita. They exposed it, too.
At the same time as we were being sold on this new Blues culture it also emerged in the decider fallout that Blake Ferguson and Josh Dugan were spending their day off at the Lennox Point Hotel.
This was after the bonding period was shut down. If nothing else, it shows where their heads were at.
The disappointment in all this is that this is exactly what the Blues have been telling us they are so slowly building towards - identifying and correcting this weakness in culture.
The Blues spoke so often about it they had many of us convinced.
We have now learned it is one thing to recognise it and speak to it ... and another thing altogether to live it.
The failings begin from the top down.
The Blues are called in to camp and as quickly as they can they fly to Kingscliff on the Queensland border. As far from the heart of NSW as they can be. Hessian netting is wrapped around the ground for training sessions to stop prying eyes seeing in.
The Blues isolate themselves, tucked in their own world.
Queensland embrace their State. They fly into towns like Toowoomba and Rockhampton and Mackay and spend a day signing autographs and absorbing what it means to represent these people.
Training is open and Queenslanders are welcomed to be part of it.
Their first words are always about the honour of playing for Queensland and not letting their state down.
The Blues merely speak to it, undone by a few, and still they do not learn.