It had to happen to Queensland eventually; the same thing that has happened to pretty much every great sporting side that has been together for a long time - the players get a little bit older and a little bit shitter every year, until they're just being picked based on what they have done or what they could do, or just being selected out of loyalty because they deserve a good send off.
Then one day, they aren’t selected, maybe due to injury or lack of fitness, personal reasons, off-field indiscretions, the birth of their child, a religious holiday, whatever it is, they’re just not there. So then you have that group of players who have always been on the cusp of representative glory, those guys who have always been just outside the best team in the comp, but everyone has agreed that they are the "next generation" to lead the team to glory.
The problem is that they are not the players that they replaced, despite having been touted as superstars of tomorrow or future captains of their country for however long. And all of a sudden, they get put into a whole new level of sporting performance in front of a crowd who have grown accustomed to winning, and pit against another team who are already a decade into their “rebuilding” phase.
Cooper Cronk joined Thurston in the halves to fill the gap left by Lockyer, which should have been illegal to start with. They're called "once in a generation" players for a reason, and to have three players of this calibre is just plain nonsense. However, with JT out and Cronk looking to retire, QLD will have to bring in their “next best” players – players whose paychecks match their potential but do not reflect their performance: Milford and Daly Cherry-Evans will be mixed with Ash Taylor and Corey Norman over the next few years in a classic case of “remember when NSW changed their halves pairings every fucking year? Let’s try that, maybe it’ll work for us.”
Over the next year, Smith will be winding down, Slater is already on the out, a decade of service from Thaiday is coming to an end, O'Neill and Chambers combined aren't as good as Inglis (who may never play again), Guerra has played his last, Nate Myles has outstayed his welcome by about three years, and Matt Scott’s future is undecided.
Some hard decisions are on the cards. Kevvie Walters has come into QLD Origin at the worst fucking time possible.
Melbourne Storm ($1.14) vs Newcastle Knights ($6.05)
No one is really giving Newcastle a chance in this one – and probably for good reason. Hopefully the Storm’s attack can finally click and they’ll put on about 90 points. They should all be well-rested after doing fuck-all on Wednesday night anyway.
Parramatta Eels ($1.67) vs NZ Warriors ($2.30)
This could either be the highest scoring game of the year or the lowest. Either way, it will probably be one of the worst.
St George Dragons ($1.32) vs Wests Tigers ($3.55)
Jimmy Tedesco will go back to his regular club form and not try at all during this game. He has proven so far this year that not playing well during the year has any influence on representative selection, so he will continue to rest on his reputation. Dragons are specials for this game, and should notch up at least 30 points.
Sydney Roosters ($1.69) vs Brisbane Broncos ($2.17)
It’s a classic game of “who the fuck is that guy?” as both teams will be heavily affected by players backing up from Origin, resting from Origin, still being drunk from Origin, couldn’t give a fuck because Origin, did I ever tell you about the time I won Origin. The Chooks have been playing some pretty ugly footy this year, so it wouldn’t surprise me if Brissy get up, actually. But they probably won’t.
North QLD Cowboys ($1.52) vs Gold Coast Titans ($2.60)
I wonder if the Good Cowboys or Bad Cowboys will turn up? I wonder if the Good Titans or Bad Titans will turn up? Two teams completely incapable of playing in Townsville to battle it out in what is bound to be one of the most inconsequential games of the season.
Manly Sea Eagles ($1.91) vs Canberra Fucking Raiders ($1.91)
The Raiders are yet to beat a quality team this year. This game could determine if either of these sides are, in fact, quality sides in 2017. A year-defining game that no one should miss.
Canterbury Bulldogs ($2.05) vs Penrith Panthers ($1.80)
With Moylan moving into the half-line and Josh “Mansauce” Mansour back on the paddock, things are finally looking up for the Pennies. Here’s hoping that the Doggies can get up by about 22 points before losing this week. It’s always a nice little side-game to play.
|Why I don't play football: I don't want to be murdered by this guy|