Inside Sport - - HOT SHOT -

Has there been a more omi­nous warn­ing of what’s to come in the sec­ond half of an NRL sea­son than what we saw in this year’s State of Ori­gin se­ries? In par­tic­u­lar, the show put on by the new “Big Four” in Ori­gin III?

Af­ter all the con­jec­ture and spec­u­la­tion sur­round­ing Queens­land’s de­par­ture from its suc­cess­ful pick-and-stick se­lec­tion pol­icy of the decade just gone, that the Ma­roons would even­tu­ally field a “spine” of play­ers from the same club seemed like an ob­vi­ous so­lu­tion to a prob­lem many thought would take much longer – years maybe – to re­solve.

The Storm’s full­back, five-eighth, half­back and hooker com­bi­na­tion not only de­liv­ered Queens­land its 11th Ori­gin se­ries in 12 years, it ba­si­cally banged a “WATCH OUT” sign into the ground of planet rugby league on the eve of the fi­nals. Read­ing into this fur­ther, if that combo could beat an all-star team like NSW in such dom­i­nant fash­ion, what’s in store for that spine’s mere club ri­vals over the com­ing weeks?

Go­ing to print, the Storm sat pretty in pur­ple at the top of the NRL lad­der, their lat­est vic­tims the Manly Sea Ea­gles, who they de­stroyed 40-6 at AAMI on Cameron Smith’s 350th NRL ap­pear­ance. We all knew how well the Cooper Cronk, Smith and Billy Slater com­po­nents of the spine would han­dle things in the Ori­gin de­cider, but it’s the lat­est edi­tion to the killer quar­tet that has blokes like Slater ex­cited as the NRL fi­nals loom large.

“I don’t think I’m any more con­fi­dent than I was; I’ve al­ways been con­fi­dent in the play­ers around us at the Storm, in par­tic­u­lar Cam and Coop,” he says. “I think, if any­thing, that Ori­gin de­cider only built our col­lec­tive con­fi­dence in Cameron Mun­ster [below]. For him to per­form at that high level on that stage, that’s go­ing to do amaz­ing things for the way he ap­proaches his footy. He’s a tremen­dous player and I think he’s go­ing to ben­e­fit the most out of it.”

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