No matter how many games, and series, New South Wales have lost since we all really started taking notice of interstate battles back in 1980, few games have had the almost complete disappointment that last night's match did. How do you reconcile the fact that all of the opposition's points came almost directly from refereeing decisions that were, at the least blantantly incorrect, and at the most completely incompetant.
New South Wales had once again given up a home game to have the match played in Melbourne, something Queensland have NEVER done. NEVER! To pile on the misery, the NRL had scheduled the Melbourne vs Brisbane match to be played this Friday in Melbourne. This meant that Brisbane and Queensland supporters could all travel to Melbourne for the State of Origin match, and stay a couple of extra days and see their team play Melbourne on the Friday night. Combine this with the fact that Melbourne's powerbase of Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk was also the Queensland powerbase, it meant that majority of support at the game was obviously going to be biased to the Maroons. I'm not knocking the NRL for the scheduling of the game. It just made good sense. However, the question I and others continue to ask is - why must NSW always have to make these sacrifices for the "good of the game"?
The Blues led early at 4-0, before a brawl erupted, at which point Jennings ran from about five kilometres out to throw a Superman punch. He was sin-binned for ten minutes, something that rarely happens in club footy these days, but was fair enough. However, no one from the Queensland side joined him, despite the fact that the brawl was started by Queensland, and (once again) Sam Thaiday came in throwing punches as the third or fourth man, and (once again) avoided any repercussions.
With a man down, Queensland exploited the penalty and the overlap to score in the corner, and moved into the lead.
Then there was the superb one-on-one tackle made by Greg Bird, for which, unbelieveably, Queensland was awarded a penalty. It was a driving tackle, but not a spear tackle, and there was no suspicion that hands had slipped between the legs to gain an advantage. It was a terrible penalty. From this penalty, Queensland scored their second try from the next set of six tackles.
Thirdly, and most disturbingly, Greg Inglis was awarded a try when the third referee in the box decreed that Robbie farah had played at the ball with his foot in attempting to stop the try being scored. The ball went forward from Inglis off the boot, before he reached out and placed his hand on the loose ball. This was probably the most controversial moment of the match. After the game, the coaches and the referee's boss claimed it was a fair try. They were probably the only people watching the game who thought that was the case. I couldn't - still can't - believe it was awarded as a try. It was a knock on. Inglis lost the ball, it went forward, no try. But no. It was awarded, and Queensland won the game 18-10.
I'm not trying to suggest the result of the game should or would have been different. Queensland did not play well, certainly not as well as they have in previous years, and NSW played well in patches. If those decisions had in fact gone the other way, I think Queensland may still have won. And I'm sure they would preferred to have won without the "help" of the referees.
It was more deflating because the State of Origin is the showpiece event of rugby league. This game was destroyed by these incidents, and if the showpiece cannot hold its own in this marketplace, then the game itself is in trouble.
Game 2, which NSW must win to stay alive, will be interesting in the lead up, to see what changes take place in both camps. One wonders if Civenoceva will play given his lacklustre display up front for the Maroons, while surely Watmough at least, and Learoyd-Lahrs possibly will come into contention for the Blues.