Queensland went from the heights of a brilliant, unexpected victory last Wednesday night to the severe low of an Origin thumping within a week.
Despite heading into Game Two last night with all the confidence in the world, apart from an encouraging start, the Maroons were heavily outplayed by their southern counterparts.
Due to the nature of this series, there is no time for the Maroons to lick their wounds as attention shifts to next Wednesday’s decider.
I think it’s pretty obvious that QLD need to make changes to keep up with the Blues. Below are the changes I expect the great Wayne Bennett to be looking at.
With all due respect to the extremely talented Valentine Holmes, he was a spectator last night in his Origin return. Truthfully, apart from two early games, Val hasn’t looked anywhere near the player who left the Sharks to chase a dream in the US/push a Cowboys move a year early.
Holmes is very capable of that match winning play, however we’ll look at that more in the next entry. Simply put, the Maroons need a third fullback in this series to beat the Blues.
Aj Brimson’s injury was absolutely heartbreaking for both Brimson himself and the QLD fanbase as he was quite clearly the first choice option.
Corey Allen, despite only a handful of games at fullback at club level, is shaping as the possible solution.
It wouldn’t have mattered who played fullback for the Maroons last night, they were never winning that game. That said however, Holmes doesn’t look up to the position after seven weeks off.
Val to the wing
The above said, Holmes has to be there for Game Three. It just needs to be in his more natural position of on the wing. Those with short memories will forget that he has literally won games, and series, for the Queenslander’s from the wing.
Holmes shifting from fullback to the wing at the expense of Phillip Sami looks the option. Sami made a few crucial errors last night I don’t expect the far more experienced Holmes to make.
The third change will likely come in the centres. I expect Capewell to revert back to the interchange bench with Brenko Lee coming in to make his Origin debut.
If Lee had passed his fitness test last week we would never have had the Game One heroics from Capewell, which I believe have earned him a dench spot for Game Three.
The Maroons need specialist centres. Capewell was far from terrible last night but Gutherson arguably leveled the score across the fortnight.
Gagai may have fallen away late on last night but was still VERY dangerous early on and still outplayed Jack Wighton. I believe the Maroons need Lee to re-establish their advantage that they had in Game One out wide.
Capewell possibly moves to the bench, where I believe he’ll be joined by the very solid Lindsay Collins. Ben Hunt will probably retain his utility spot, although there’s a chance he may miss the game also (see below).
Jai Arrow will be there after two performances we’ve come to expect from the future Bunny.
The big question is whether or not Moeaki Fotuaika will retain his spot. I thought his inclusion was a no brainer after a monster season, however his Origin debut will be one he hopes to soon forget.
With Christian Welch an absolute lock to return to the run on side, if passed fit, Bennett has a huge decision on who to name on the bench.
Does he go with Capewell? Does he keep Collins and Arrow together or does he look to throw Big Mo back into the action? Does Lui move to the bench/?
Does Bennett stick with Hunt, or does he add a fourth forward and play an 80 minute hooker?
Big decisions ahead.
Harry Grant In
This is the risk that QLD simply have to take. Jake Friend has tackled his backside off across the opening two games and has been serviceable at dummy half, but the Maroons need to take an attacking punt here.
Storm (via the Tigers) superstar in the making Harry Grant HAS to be named for Origin Three, to start.
Early on I thought Hunt would start with Grant coming in but I would run with Grant in the 9 without any hesitation at all.
Hunt can be there on the bench as a utility as a backup plan if Grant somehow doesn’t fare well in the pressure cooker, however he has done everything right in 2020 and is the man for the job.
As solid as Friend and Hunt are, neither have the attacking flair of young Grant. The NRL rookie of the year is brash, quick and almost fearless.
Exactly what the Maroons need for Game Three.