NSW not too blue
A FAMILIAR sound is in the air coming from south of the border, as there seems to be every year about this time.
It is New South Welshmen bickering about State of Origin, ahead of Monday's announcement of teams for game one in Melbourne on May 23.
From Ricky Stuart complaining about the venue to former players and a host of club coaches weighing in on selection issues, it seems nothing has changed.
The whining from south of the border echoes even louder because of the lack of noise north of the border.
When great leaders make way, in football and politics, it usually creates a void that takes time to fill.
However Queenslanders may well be asking Darren Who, given the ease with which Johnathan Thurston filled the number six jersey in the Anzac Test match.
But former Origin great and Ipswich product Kevin Walters wasn't fully buying into the 'Blues in turmoil' routine.
"Queensland is not without its dramas after a few injuries at the weekend," he said.
"The NSW selectors have a harder job than Queensland but I don't think it's going to affect them too much."
Walters did not think Stuart's rant about giving away home ground advantage in Origin I was a sign of a panic either.
"Maybe it's a ploy from Stuart," Walters said.
"Perhaps he's trying to create some diversion in the NSW team.
"It's still a strong squad. I've never seen a weak NSW team.
"It's a huge advantage for them if NSW can win the first game."
If they do, it could be then that the Queenslanders start to miss Lockyer.
"Locky's leadership will be missed, and his presence," Walters said. "But the guys in there are very experienced.
"We won't miss too much in leadership with blokes like Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk in there.
"And players like Sam Thaiday, Justin Hodges and Ben Hannant are all playing good footy."
While speculation surrounds who NSW will pick in the halves and at hooker, Walters does not think those are the areas this year's series will be decided.
"Queensland have dominated in the last few years because of their forwards," he said. "Hope- fully they can again this year. They allow Slater, Smith, Cronk and Thurston to do their stuff."
That doesn't mean forwards making breaks, creating offloads and pulling off spectacular shoulder charges. Rather, it is doing the little things well from start to finish, in spite of the pressure and exhaustion.
That's what marks an Origin player from the rest, according to Walters. "The intensity of the game and the pressure is definitely different to anything else you'll experience," Walters said. "It is about handling that as an individual.
"Queensland have won so many times over the years on the final play of the game. So while the first play of the game is very important the last play of the game is just as important.
"You don't have to be a superstar to be a good Origin player.
"Players like Dallas Johnson and Ashley Harrison knuckle down and get the job done."