Former New South Wales coach Phil Gould has criticized Brad Fittler’s Blues for being too “predictable” in its series-opening loss to Queensland.
Despite coming into Origin I as the favourites, the home side was stunned by a spirited Maroons outfit that ran out 16-10 winners courtesy of a strong second-half performance.
Fittler selected six Panthers stars in his game one side, with Brian To’o, Jarome Luai, Nathan Cleary, Liam Martin, Isaah Yeo and Stephen Crichton representing the shield holders, and Gould said the Blues’ play had become “a little bit too Pantherised” as a result.
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“You’re not playing club football, you’re playing the best around, you’re playing Origin, you need a little bit more than that,” he told Wide World of Sports’ Six Tackles With Gus podcast.
“You need a little bit more to your game and to your strategy coming into that than just a club football mentality because it’s nice combinations and nice structure. You need a couple of little trick shots coming out of trouble, you need someone that’s going to be a little different.”
Gould said the absence of 2021 stars Latrell Mitchell and Tom Trbojevic – both out due to injury – hurt the Blues.
“(They) are two players who can make something happen out of nothing. They can make players miss, they can find offloads, they can bob up on any area of the field, they can be there on a support run, and we just lacked that a little bit.”
Gould criticized the Blues for being too “predictable”, saying the overly-structured attacking play had hampered Cleary’s ability to influence the game as he has in previous Origin series.
“I think NSW came with exactly what Queensland were expecting,” he said.
“When you’re playing against the best in this environment and you get these one-off opportunities, you’ve got to come with a little bit more than good structure and good shape and those types of things.
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“Cleary plays a predictable role in his football, so they were able to put some pressure on him, understanding that he has kicked them to death in other Origins previously.
“Cleary was more exposed in what he was doing and where he was getting the ball and how he was getting the ball was predictable and that’s where Queensland were able to shut him down.
“I just thought NSW came at them with more of a club strategy, a club style of football. The longer the game went, you could see Queensland’s defense getting more and more confident in what they were doing.”
Despite Cameron Munster being named the man of the match, Gould heaped praise on Harry Grant, who was influential in the second half in the No.14 jersey for the Maroons.
“Harry Grant was the difference for me because he was the X-factor,” he said.
“I said it before the game that he was the only strategic play that either side had available. He was the one that we were going to look for to get into the game and when would it happen.
“It was at the 20-minute mark that Billy threw him into the game and things changed from that moment. Every two or three sets of six, he would just find that run and sometimes two runs to put NSW on the back foot.
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“He created more space for Munster, created more space for (Daly) Cherry-Evans and Ponga and they played with more of a free spirit than New South Wales did.
“Queensland were a little more (unpredictable) just in the nature of their players. Harry Grant is unpredictable, Munster is completely unpredictable, Kalyn Ponga has got two or three options every time he carries the ball.
“I always felt like there was something more likely to happen for Queensland, and that was reflected in the stress levels of the two teams.”
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