Brad Fittler has been facing an onslaught of criticism recently, with many pundits and commentators heaping the blame on him for New South Wales’ lack of success in the past two State of Origin series. Despite Queensland’s dominance, it’s important to acknowledge their exceptional performance under the leadership of Billy Slater in 2023.
The Queensland team’s spine, consisting of Reece Walsh, Cameron Munster, Daly Cherry-Evans, Harry Grant, and Ben Hunt, is an incredibly formidable lineup that has posed a major challenge for the Blues. While New South Wales has struggled to secure victories in recent times, it’s crucial to recognize the strength and talent of their opponents.
Throughout his six-year tenure as coach of the Blues, Fittler has shown great dedication and commitment to preparing his teams. He has made necessary changes when required, and there is no doubt that the NSW team will give their all in game three, not only for the state but also for their coach.
State of Origin matches are never considered dead rubbers, regardless of the series outcome. The Blues must approach this game with a mindset of doing whatever it takes to come out on top.
The return of Cody Walker to the team is highly anticipated, as he brings a level of athleticism and skill that is unparalleled in the NRL. Comparisons have been made between Walker and the legendary Cliff Lyons, which speaks volumes about his ability as a ball player.
Debutants Bradman Best and Keaon Koloamatangi will also be closely watched, as their selection highlights their potential and the faith placed in them by the coaching staff. It’s encouraging to see the support provided by Walker, who ensures that he sits alongside Best during team meetings and video sessions to establish a strong connection on the field.
Game three of the State of Origin series has always presented a unique challenge, as players are already emotionally drained from the previous matches. Physical fatigue and niggling injuries can weigh heavily on the players, making it difficult to perform at their best. However, the limited training sessions for the NSW team should not serve as an excuse, as every Origin game is crucial.
Moving on to the Wests Tigers, their recent lackluster performance was a crushing blow, particularly because they were outmatched in terms of effort and determination. Fans will be looking for a display of heart in their upcoming match against the Sharks rather than merely a win. Tackling their way out of the problem will be key to regaining the respect and support of the supporters.
Observing the Tigers‘ game against the Cowboys, it was evident that the team lacked urgency, often jogging instead of sprinting to address threats. This led to missed tackles due to late arrival and poor positioning. The coaching staff, including Tim Sheens and Benji Marshall, must emphasize the importance of never walking and always staying active.
On the other hand, the Sharks must be cautious not to underestimate the Tigers simply based on their previous poor performance. They need to remain focused and not let external reminders of the Tigers‘ struggles affect their game.
Dale Finucane, Cameron McInnes, and Jack Williams epitomize the heart and fighting spirit that characterizes the Sharks. With their consistent dedication and performance, they have become a driving force for the team and positively influence their teammates.
Expectations are high for Ronaldo Mulitalo, as he is expected to take advantage of the Tigers‘ vulnerabilities on the left wing. Alongside Siosifa Talakai, Mulitalo will likely make numerous tries during the match.
Penrith’s victory over the Melbourne Storm in their last game was exceptional, proving their resilience and determination, especially in the absence of their star player Nathan Cleary. Izack Tago also showcased his potential as a representative player, displaying power and strength in his collisions.
The Panthers‘ success can be attributed to their strong team culture, which is rooted in their knowledge of their style of play, training standards, and defensive patterns. Their ability to consistently produce talented players from their local juniors is a testament to the importance and impact of community and club loyalty.
While a three-peat in the NRL is a rare achievement in the salary cap era, Penrith’s performance this year suggests they have what it takes to potentially accomplish this feat. If they manage to secure a premiership in 2023, it may be a monumental achievement unlikely to be repeated in the foreseeable future.
As an advisor to Brad Fittler and the NSW Blues, Andrew Johns brings invaluable coaching expertise and insights to the team. His presence further enhances Fittler’s coaching capabilities, providing an additional resource to guide the team towards success.