How our Ori­gin stars have stolen fi­nals

An­other case of the Blues looms ... and we’re lov­ing it


QUEENS­LAND con­tin­ues to smash the Blues with just one Syd­ney rugby league team bat­tling it out against a mul­ti­tude of Ma­roon su­per­stars in this year’s NRL fi­nals se­ries.

Of the 27 play­ers used by Queens­land in this year’s three­game Ori­gin se­ries, ei­ther on the field or as 18th man, 22 are still in con­tention for an NRL premier­ship ring this sea­son.

And in­jured su­per­star Johnathan Thurston (shoul­der) con­tin­ues to spur on the Cow­boys from the side­line.

The NSW Ori­gin team will have just three of its 17 play­ers left to pull on a jersey this week­end.

Only three weeks ago, those south of the bor­der were crow­ing about how this year’s fi­nals se­ries would be­long to Syd­ney teams.

But when for­mer NRL boss Dave Smith called Queens­land the “heart­land” of rugby league, he prob­a­bly knew what he was say­ing.

Of the four teams left in con­tention for the 2017 ti­tle, just one hails from NSW, the Syd­ney Roost­ers.

Syd­ney sides have had their chances in the fi­nals but the Cow­boys have dis­posed of the Sharks and Eels, while the Bron­cos last Fri­day elim­i­nated the Pan­thers.

Not only are the Bron­cos and Cow­boys still well in the race, Queens­land’s next favourite team, the Storm, re­main hot favourites to lift the tro­phy.

The Queens­land surge in the fi­nals should come as no sur­prise as the Ma­roons have been so suc­cess­ful in the Ori­gin arena again this year. Queens­land rugby league great Gor­den Tal­lis said the state’s fi­nals dom­i­na­tion was no sur­prise to him, given the ex­pe­ri­ence of the Ori­gin play­ers.

While the Ma­roons had to blood eight debu­tants this year, Tal­lis said every­one who had worn the Queens­land jersey knew what it was like to be a win­ner and step up in the big mo­ment.

“This is why you want these guys play­ing Ori­gin,” Tal­lis said. “All these guys, they know how to

win the big mo­ments. This is the proof.

“Queens­land do­ing so well is no sur­prise … it’s what you want from the game. It’s the Na­tional Rugby League, not the NSW Rugby League. “This is what you ex­pect now.” The last all-Syd­ney grand fi­nal was in 2014 be­tween the Rab­bitohs and Bull­dogs, af­ter the Cow­boys and Bron­cos starred in the big dance in 2015 and the Storm fell to the Sharks last year. Many are hop­ing for a re­peat of the 2015 show­down be­tween the two Queens­land teams, a sce­nario that be­came very real af­ter the Cow­boys beat the Eels last Saturday.

Tal­lis said the Cow­boys had the po­ten­tial to de­stroy Syd­ney’s fi­nals hopes against the Roost­ers.

And it is Townsville-born sen­sa­tion Michael Mor­gan who Tal­lis be­lieves will get them to the grand fi­nal on Oc­to­ber 1.

“The real sur­prise packet for me this year is the Cow­boys,” he said.

“The way Michael Mor­gan has im­proved as a play­maker, he’s been ab­so­lutely bril­liant. He is a fu­ture Queens­land cap­tain.”

LOOK AT HIM NOW: Michael Mor­gan as a ju­nior and (inset) cel­e­brat­ing a try in the Cow­boys’ up­set of the Eels on Saturday night.

WARM WEL­COME: Ja­son Tau­malolo (cen­tre) and Corey Jensen ar­rive home in Townsville yes­ter­day, flanked by as­sis­tant coach Josh Han­nay (left). Pic­ture: Zak Sim­monds

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