14/04/2024

Queensland won the 2022 State of Origin series in an intense battle. (Image: QRL)

In a thrilling night at Suncorp Stadium, Queensland clinched the 2022 State of Origin series. The Inner Sanctum takes a look at the five most important takeaways out of the decider.

The Maroons clinched the 2022 State of Origin series against the Blues with an all-time game in the history books, winning 22-12 at Suncorp Stadium.

The Inner Sanctum takes a look at the five most important takeaways out of the series decider.

Historic start to the game

This decider had arguably one of the most intense and wild starts to the game. With crunching hits and poor tackling techniques, three players were lost to head knocks within the first five minutes of the game.

Cameron Murray from the Blues collided with Corey Oates in the second minute of the game and was taken off immediately. This was before Selwyn Cobbo copped a hit from teammate Patrick Carrigan and was taken off the field via medicab.

Finally, in the first five minutes, Lindsay Collins from the Maroons also had to come off the field after collecting the hip of Daniel Tupou in a tackle.

The first five minutes set the tone in terms of the physicality and intensity of the game that we would see for the entire 80 minutes.

Maroons attacked with more flexibility down the stretch 

Queensland’s attack came alive in the second half.

Finding a balance between their intentions with the ball and the freedom to let their players shine thinking on the spot and making plays happen was what allowed the Maroons to shine and get the tries they needed to turn this game in their favour.

The try that would take the Maroons down by just two at the half-time break came from a change of plan and direction.

James Tedesco shifted his stance to the middle of the field, putting in a grubber kick that just hit Jarome Luai’s leg before it landed perfectly to Kurt Capewell, who would then put down the ball over the line. 

After being down 12-10 going into the final 20 minutes, Queensland was able to take the lead with the Kalyn Ponga try. The space he was able to maximise was crucial in the success of the play.

In the play before Ponga’s try, Tedesco saved a try that was headed for under the posts. This led to the ball movement shifting to Ponga, who would then shift and sidestep off his left foot, passing Tedesco before he would put the ball down over the line.

Harry Grant’s ability to shift the ball and deceive the defensive line and the markets at the dummy half spot is what makes him one of the most talented players in the game. Those instincts and noticing sudden movements and tendencies of specific players were pivotal in where the ball was moving towards. 

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Fittler’s structured offence puts his players in cages

Since becoming coach of the Blues, Brad Fittler had won three of four Origin series before this year.

However, Fittler continues to have this major issue with the Blues, with too many elements of the game structured and controlled. With the talent he has at his disposals, he has been denying his players the opportunity to demonstrate creativity and flexibility.

Although the structured sets worked in the tries that were scored, the best is brought out of players when they have the chance to make plays that aren’t planned before the game, something instinctive and on the spot as they are playing.

Game two was where we got to see players like Nathan Cleary shine in changing up his game on the spot as he ran towards the Queensland defence. 

The biggest struggle they had in this game was their shift of focus with the ball. With Queensland’s offence taking up the majority of the territorial battle, NSW kept trying to make metres and complete sets just like Queensland was doing to them.

The problem with this course of action is that Queensland was able to counter what the Blues were throwing at them. When Angus Crichton is running from dummy half on the second last tackle of the set and the marker defence from Queensland tackles him immediately, the Blues do not benefit with a non-dummy half player having to quickly move into that spot thinking about just field position.

Their method of using the backline to get metres out of their own half did not have the same impact as it did in game two. The Blues do not have a great attacking system outside of Nathan Cleary’s kicking game. When Cleary is not playing well, the Blues follow in the same direction.

In future series with Fittler as coach, allowing his players to move with the ball the way they want to rather than just following the current trends of attacking shapes and lines in the current era of the NRL is not going to win games and series consistently.

The next man up mentality from the Maroons  

With Cameron Munster out of the decider, there was a lot of pressure for the Maroons to perform at a high level. Every player stepped up where needed accordingly.

Billy Slater only made three interchanges in the first half, with two being forced due to head knocks. This made players who were normally taken off early in the game play for longer stretches.

The players that Slater had picked understood this principle of the game very well, which they kept in mind for the entire 80 minutes.

Even when Dane Gagai got sin-binned, every player played multiple positions on offence and defence and played with urgency on the defensive end just like they did in the first game of the series.

Tom Dearden had an incredible debut, and his performance will go down in the history books as one of the best, especially in his situation of being an almost last-minute replacement due to unfortunate circumstances.

Dearden’s running game was a stand-out, and his ball movement particularly on the left edge was what allowed Valentine Holmes to score the first try of the game.

Ponga’s all-around performance was incredible to watch. From his running game to the passing and defence, he made sure he stood out.

Daly Cherry-Evans and Ben Hunt displayed their kicking game, creating field position and opportunities for the Maroons to succeed and put the Blues on the front foot.

This created the final touch of the game, with a clutch defensive effort from Hunt who would then run away with the ball and score on the other end.

The importance of players like Latrell Mitchell in Origin

Players like Latrell Mitchell have the ability to play freely and dominate in multiple areas of the game without interfering with the structure in place.

Since his return to the NRL, Mitchell has created a lot of points changing direction, fending players and moving the ball to the right place at the right time in creative ways.

When Fittler’s offence is moving the ball from the dummy half to Isaah Yeo to Nathan Cleary to Jarome Luai to Matt Burton or Angus Crichton, the Maroons defence knows where to rush the offence and shut down the opportunity for the Blues to score points.

Mitchell’s game cannot be controlled the way Cleary’s can. That is what the majority of the changes in past series have been.

Players that are able to change the game without knowing what they are going to do are dangerous in this sport, particularly with the pace of the current game.

Players like Mitchell, Api Koriosau, Tom Trbojevic, Jack Wighton, and Nicho Hynes are examples of players in the current game that do not need every detail of the game ordered to them.

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