Bring it in tight … the Blues are a team of brothers, literally and figuratively. While the side contains both the Stewart and Morris siblings, it is also packed with friendships forged over many years such as that of Michael Jennings and Tim Grant, who came through the ranks together at Penrith. Brett and Glenn Stewart.
Josh and Brett Morris.
EVER since the first game in 1980, State of Origin has been promoted as mate against mate, but one of the reasons behind NSW’s success this year is because many of the Blues are playing alongside their mates. And not just in the sense that they are teammates, but because, in many instances, they are the best of mates.
”We’ve got a group of players who are very close,” assistant coach Trent Barrett said. ”Mitchell Pearce and Todd Carney are virtually inseparable, the Manly boys are really tight – they have been through a hell of a lot together, particularly the Stewart brothers [Brett and Glenn] and Anthony Watmough – and we all know how tight Greg Bird and Paul Gallen are.”
Then there is Jarryd Hayne and Tony Williams, who grew up playing alongside each other at Cabramatta and in Parramatta junior representative teams, and the Morris twins, Josh and Brett.
You only had to spend time at the NSW team’s Brisbane hotel yesterday to see how close some of the players are, as they came and went in the above-mentioned groups on a day off from training.
Last night, the likes of Pearce and Carney and the Morris brothers presented each other with their jerseys for the series decider at a team dinner at which the players celebrated their mateship.
”It is good for us, it makes the coaching staff’s job a lot easier when the players get on so well,” Barrett said. ”You don’t have to work as hard away from the footy to get them all together because they all like each other.”
On the field, Barrett reasoned that the players are likely to dig even deeper when they are close mates with the player next to them – as Pearce and Carney are after previously playing in the halves together for Sydney Roosters. ”In 2010 they had a good run towards the finals and Todd and Mitch have played a lot of footy together so it is a huge bonus,” he said. ”It has been one of Queensland’s strengths. In the dying stages of games, because they are good mates, they have come up with results – and that is what we have developed here. We have got a team that will hang in. They are a tough team and they will do NSW proud.”
Gallen – the Blues’ inspirational captain, who rose to prominence alongside Bird at Cronulla – said the closeness of the NSW players had helped generate the confidence that would finally end Queensland’s six-year Origin domination.
”The self-belief and the bond we have got is great,” Gallen said. ”It has been like that since day one in camp. Everyone gets on really well and has confidence in each other’s ability. We have struggled to find combinations over the last six years but we have found some good combinations now and they all get on well and play well together.”
While Glenn Stewart was ruled out with a knee injury last Friday he has remained in camp and travelled to Brisbane with the team on Sunday.
NSW coach Ricky Stuart has resisted the temptation to partner the Morris brothers on the right edge and will play Brett on the left wing but Josh said he did not mind. ”I am just glad to see his face in the team and can’t wait to get out there on Wednesday night with him,” Morris said.
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