Slater reveals ‘secret’ in Maroons’ dizzying change

NRL great PAUL GALLEN will appear on Nine’s 100% FOOTY every Monday night of the NRL season, where he will debate the rugby league’s hottest topics with Phil Gould and James Bracey. Tune in tonight at 10:45 PM (AEST) ahead of Wednesday’s State of Origin opener!

We are two days away from the State of Origin series opener and it’s interesting, because it’s been a quiet build-up, arguably the most reserved in recent memory.

There has been no mysterious illness caused by the Camp in Queenslandnot a Maroons player in a race against time to overcome an injury like we seem to get every year.

And normally we’d be doing wall-to-wall coverage of Freddy’s alternative ways, his barefoot walks and “grounding theories.”

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A factor in that could be: Billy Slater – it is his first series in charge and he will approach the game differently from his predecessors. Maybe he doesn’t want to play those mind games we’ve seen in the past.

Yesterday on The Sunday Footy Show Billy told us that Xavier Coates will almost certainly play on the left wing, which is something you would almost never have seen from Queensland in the past, they would keep that a secret until the two sides split up on Wednesday night.

The understated buildup is interesting, maybe both sides realized how close this series could possibly be and chose to focus their energies there.

On paper, this is potentially the closest series in four years.

If Queensland wants to win it will be a simple game plan. It will be old school, hard-fought, knocking them through the middle type of play, then allowing the Maroons to use their speed on the margins.

They don’t have many ball-playing attackers, there isn’t really anyone known as an off-loader.

Queensland’s approach is to use their attackers to defeat the New South Wales attackers, then have Daly Cherry-Evans and Cameron Munster steer the ship.

In a way, New South Wales is the opposite, they have ball players on the other side of the park. Isaah Yeo is almost an extra half along with Junior Paulo and Cam Murray you can expect a lot of offloads while Damien Cook will shoot around the ruck and then the outside they can hurt you all over.

The circumstances will play a major role in the result. Accor Stadium is traditionally very, very slippery, it makes ball games very difficult. But the flip side of that is the wind. It’s been very windy in Sydney for the past few days, when the wind comes into the stadium on Wednesday night, it stays dry, it keeps the dew off the ground, and that’s certainly in New South Wales’s favour.

If the wind dies down and it’s damp and slippery, it’s to Queensland’s advantage.

The forecast suggests there will be no rain, but to be fair, dew is such a factor in Accor Stadium that rain doesn’t really matter. The Blues will definitely want some wind to keep the ground as dry as possible.

The ARLC announced Friday that it has changed its judicial code, making it less likely that players will miss club matches due to relatively minor violations that take place in representative matches.

That’s way too late, wish it had been years ago!

The players don’t like to pay fines, but they don’t like to miss matches either. I guarantee from the point of view of the clubs that a fine is much more pleasant than having one of their star players miss a game because of something that happened in the state of origin.

If you go through all 34 Origin players’ contracts and calculate the prorated amount per match, the penalty will be less than what they earn per match, so it’s pretty easy to figure out which option they prefer.

The back pocket is the hardest to hit a player, but since the club pays the vast majority of the money earned by a player, it was always hard to penalize the club for something relatively minor that happened when the player was absent on rep service.

Perhaps the biggest news of the change is the reduced chance of a player missing a final match, even a grand final, for something relatively small.

If you’ve committed previous offenses, a minor indiscretion could mean you miss a major final, and I don’t think anyone was okay with that.

It’s a change that probably should have come years ago.

Take it easy with the Warriors

There’s been some whispering about Nathan Brown’s Future with the Warriorsand they were very disappointing against Manly at the weekendbut it’s so hard to be critical of the club given what they’ve been through since the pandemic hit.

We are so quick to judge these days and call for the coach to be fired, and there will always be someone willing to take the job, whether that be Shane FlanaganPaul GreenCameron Ciraldo or Josh Hannay, but I look at the schedule and wonder if a new coach would do better than Brown.

The only concern in recent weeks has been their effort. Some of the scores put on it were a little too big for comfort. If you are beaten by a better team by 12 points, sometimes you just have to accept that. But they lost 44-12 to Manly, who was not at full strength, and Melbourne put 70 on them.

They’ve conceded more points than any team in the league, and you can feel the effort hasn’t quite been up this year at times. Does that come back to the coach? Probably not. I would look more at the individual players. I’m not going to hang Nathan Brown to dry, each player should look at their own performance.

Nathan said after the loss to Manly that there have been times this season when they took the field and didn’t really expect to win, and that is a major concern.

I never went on the field, not expecting to win. I worry about those comments, but to be honest with Nathan, sometimes you say something after a loss and it doesn’t come out the way you intended. Being interviewed right after a loss is difficult, you are often emotional and it is difficult to get your thoughts together.

Being critical of the warriors right now is like beating up Bambi, they have done an amazing job for the past two and a half years keeping the game going. You have to remember that the Polynesian community is very family oriented, which has made their situation even more difficult.

I know they have had their immediate family with them, and they have been very well looked after by the NRL. I am not apologizing for a second as my understanding is pretty much all they asked for they received. Both the Warriors and NRL have done a great job.

But at the end of the day, having an extended family not with them, even if you haven’t slept in your own bed for so long, takes its toll. I remember a Kangaroos tour that lasted two months, nothing beats your own bed and your own home.

It is possible that some players have just reached the end of their band, the finish line is in sight and they will be heading home soon, so maybe some of them are already mentally on the plane back to New Zealand.

I think we should loosen them up a bit.

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