One step from greatness
NOT that they need to prove anything, but if the Maroons can pull a seventh successive Origin series out of the bag on Wednesday they will confirm their status as one of the greatest teams of all time.
So far in this series they have not produced anywhere near their best.
And while the Blues have never been all that far away in their six consecutive series defeats, they are without doubt a more confident and dangerous team this time.
Queensland has always been strong on loyalty - a quality bred as much by the lack of numbers as a cultivated philosophy. But the speculation on just who will play next Wednesday night is 100% loyalty based.
Billy Slater is a champion, and a matchwinner. When pundits contemplate the best player in the game, the former Golden Boot winner is generally mentioned in the first breath.
The school of thought is that Slater, at 90%, is probably as good as anyone fully fit. But the too-ing and fro-ing this week over the fitness of the Storm fullback cannot be having a positive effect on the Queensland camp. And continued speculation over Matt Scott, Sam Thaiday, Justin Hodges, Nate Myles and Brent Tate is probably just paper talk, but is making the fans nervous.
There is, I detect, a growing feeling among the punters that the magnificent reign of the Maroons is about to end. In fact from mouths I never suspected, I have heard the words uttered 'a NSW win would be good for the game'.
So the ball is now squarely in the court of Queensland's big three - Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston. If the Maroons are to win the decider this trio must dictate, and dominate.
And their preparation over the next five days is paramount because - without doubt - the Blues are coming to get them.
Most major retailers have a winter sale, so maybe it's fashionable that the NRL should have one too.
What other conclusion could fans make of the door slamming that has occurred over the past few weeks? The usual trickle of players moving before the June 30 registration deadline has become a flood and is a poor look for the game.
If a player is not getting a fair crack at NRL level where he is and another club wants him, fair enough. But in the case of Roosters pair Sam Perrett and Anthony Mitchell, both were regular NRL players.
What does their departure say about their club, and what message does it send to their teammates? The obvious turmoil does help explain the errant form of the Roosters over the past three weeks.
At the time of going to press players who have jumped camp so far this season have been Mitch Brown (Tigers to Bulldogs), Krisnan Inu (Warriors to Bulldogs), Anthony Mitchell (Roosters to Cowboys), Sam Perrett (Roosters to Bulldogs), Nafe Seluini (Panthers to Roosters), Masada Iosefa (Panthers to Tigers), Luke Kelly (Melbourne to Parramatta), Dane Gagai (Broncos to Knights), Sandor Earl (Panthers to Raiders) and Richie Fa'aoso (Knights to Storm).
And with a day to go, there could be more.
In another resentful swipe at Queensland's six-year domination, a Sydney newspaper this week listed a team of Origin Maroons not born in the Sunshine State. A mighty fine team it was too, with Greg Inglis, Sam Thaiday, Petero Civoniceva, Matt Gillett and Ben Te'o making the cut.
But, as this NSW-born scribe can attest, life in the north is wonderful and the envy of many. But in pre-State of Origin days, Queenslanders were forced to head south to make a living from rugby league. They then returned, in blue jerseys, to help whip their mates.
So in response to the NSW jibe, here is a team of Queensland's best exports who helped prop up past NSW teams: Kerry Boustead, John Ribot, John McDonald, John Rhodes, Lionel Williamson, John Peard, Duncan Thompson, Arthur Beetson, John Lang, Kevin Ryan, John Wittenberg, Kel O'Shea, Rod Reddy. Interchange: Elton Rasmussen, Harry Bath, Paul McCabe, Mark Harris.