What it means to pull on a NSW Blues jersey
There’s a different feel to Origin this year.
Having the series at the end of the year makes for a different preparation: getting into camp nice and early, having a chance to get the body going again while the boys from different clubs filter into the squad, then working more specifically on our gameplan.
When the series is in the middle of the season, you come in for a week, then go back to clubland, then come back in and so on. Being able to have a sole focus on Origin, like we do this year, is good, and with more time together it’s made for a stronger, tighter-knit squad.
Coming into camp after the finals also gives everyone – except for the Storm boys – a chance to bounce back from the last defeat of the NRL season.
For our Penrith players, coming off that grand final loss would have been tough. But at the same time, they’re in the same boat as the rest of us: enjoying the chance to finish the year on a high, and loving the opportunity to come into camp, pull on the jersey and represent our state.
Three of the Panthers boys haven’t been in the squad before, and then we’ve got Nathan Cleary, who’s been part of the team for the last two years. He’s going to have no dramas getting over the grand final and getting up for Origin 1. The temperament he has as a young half has been well documented, and we’ve got all the confidence in the world in him.
Personally, losing in the semi-finals was incredibly disappointing, but I try to look at the positives, and that’s what’s in front of us now. Falling short just makes me even hungrier to perform well for the Blues.
Being the captain of this team means so much. Any chance I get to be in the position that I am, I don’t take for granted, and I’m lucky to have this coaching staff and playing group around me.
What we’ve been able to achieve over the last couple of years has been special, but the job’s not done. We’re still hungry to keep winning and deliver for our fans.
Everyone at the Blues is so grateful to have such a proud supporter base who’ve stuck with us no matter what, whether it’s been the good last couple of years or the tougher seasons before.
We’re lucky to be representing this great state, representing our great fans, and while it won’t be full capacity at ANZ Stadium in Game 2 or at any of the other matches, we definitely feel the support no matter what.
The new BluesWe’ve got three debutants coming into the Origin 1 team: Clint Gutherson, Luke Keary and Junior Paulo.
I think all three of them are going to go well. You look at their form in the NRL not just this year but last season as well, and they’ve been fantastic. All of them thoroughly deserved their spot in the squad and in the line-up for tonight, and they’ve been unreal in camp. Everyone is excited to see them go out and play their first game for New South Wales.
These are the facts about Luke Keary: he’s in camp with us, he wants to be here, and he’s a Blue.
For Luke, it was always just a matter of time before he pulled on a Blues jersey. He’s already played for his country, and when you watch him play in the NRL it’s clear he’s such a competitor, he makes sure to compete on every single play. That’s what Origin is all about.
From my perspective, being Roosters teammates with him is handy, because we already have a great understanding from clubland. We know each other’s game inside-out, so don’t have to spend time in camp working on our combination. It’s just a matter of learning the way we want to play here for New South Wales and getting the gameplan down pat.
There’s been a bit said about what state he should be playing for, but these are the facts: he’s in camp with us, he wants to be here, and he’s a Blue. Any outside noise doesn’t matter.
What to expect from the Maroons
Wayne Bennett coming back to coach the Maroons is probably good news for them. He’s got tremendous experience, and knows what Origin’s all about. To be honest, though, I don’t really care about who’s coaching them – my focus is on executing our gameplan.
There’s some inexperience in the Queensland team this year, with eight debutants named in their side, but I don’t consider that to be a weakness. The way this year’s gone, everyone’s getting used to adapting to something different.
Inexperience or not, we haven’t pinpointed any particular players we need to pay extra attention to. Do that, and sometimes you can get your pants pulled down by someone else. We’ve got to be wary of that full set of names that they’re going to play, and we’ve prepared accordingly.
It might be a new-look team for them, but everyone understands that whoever pulls on the Maroon jersey always does a job for them, and tonight will be no different. We’re going to have to be at our best to be competitive.