It’s rare that one player can dictate the entire course of an Origin game on his own, but when Queensland and New South Wales run onto Suncorp Stadium this evening, Cameron Munster could do just that.
While it’s hard to say a single player would have changed the course of the beatdown NSW handed their opposition in Game 2 to level the series, it’s not a stretch to say that, in Brisbane and with a week of reflection and correcting of tactics for Wayne Bennett, the battle between the two sides will be closer this time around.
The Blues are still favourites, but after the shock of Game 1 in Adelaide, it’s not nearly as straightforward as things were originally predicted.
The biggest spanner in the works heading into the decider is that, while the Blues dominated at home, they did it without Cameron Munster on the field for all but two minutes.
While the opener might seem like an eternity ago given what has happened since, the real worry is NSW weren’t properly tested in Sydney.
The six changes Brad Fittler made to the team, which ignored the biggest problems in the centres, weren’t actually put to the test, while Jack Wighton and Clint Gutherson both got cruisey runs.
Of course, as the first half in Adelaide illustrated, Munster can’t do it all on his own, but if the forwards stick to the simple gameplan of their super coach and compete well, Munster provides all the x-factor required.
Given Wighton missed as many tackles as he made in Game 1 and his fellow outside backs were more leaky ship than strong footy team during the second half in Adelaide, the fact they cruised through their home game to keep the series alive actually poses more questions than answers.
While making no changes provides an edge in terms of continuity, the way Munster frees up the game of Daly Cherry-Evans, the way he works with Jake Friend, and the way he gives Dane Gagai time and space to work will cause headaches for his opponenets.
Harry Grant also comes into the side for this game and, playing off the back of Munster’s running game, could create attacking opportunities.
While the men in maroon may not have confidence or momentum, a full house at Suncorp Stadium is a dangerous Origin beast. No matter the occasion, the players or the circumstances, NSW teams heading north have never had much fun, and that statement becomes even truer for a decider.
The stats show the Blues have only won a third of all games in Queensland. That leaves them with a mountain of work to do.
And while it was suggested this is the worst Queensland team in the history of Origin, Bennett has scoffed at those remarks and it’s clear he was right to do so.
Yet some in the media continue to say it, despite the fact we now have a live rubber to look forward to this evening.
Munster might be the almost single determining factor in how his side plays, but we are also waiting with bated breath to see which Blues team will run onto Suncorp Stadium.
If it’s the dominant, free-flowing, creative team who scored tries for fun in Game 2, then they are going to be a hard beast to stop.
But if they don’t play that same direct style and instead revert to going through the motions as they did in Adelaide, then this game gets interesting.
The Blues also need to dominate in the back three to give their forwards an edge. With Christian Welch returning, the Maroons can go toe to toe with their opposition pack, but the outside backs still leave plenty to be desired, with Corey Allan likely to play fullback.
There is a big difference in quality at that end of the team list, and while James Tedesco, Daniel Tupou and Josh Addo-Carr had their way last time out, with running metres off the charts, this again can be traced back to the lack of Munster.
A poor kicking game allowed them to dominate, meaning they started plenty of sets up near halfway by the time tackle one was taken, which was particularly problematic with the six-again rule and a faster speed of play.
The Melbourne Storm half may not be noted specifically for his kicking game, but it still plays a vital part. Not only that, his running and creativity gives Cherry-Evans time and space for his kicking game.
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If that happens and Queensland can nullify to the Blues’ back three, then the game is back in the balance once again.
Munster is so important to Queensland’s charge and if they are to stop NSW winning a three-peat away from home, then you can say with some certainty that Munster will be in the discussion for man of the match honours.
He is just that important.