Panther power puts odds in Blues' favour

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Call it intuition, call it combinations or just call it a mental edge.

Whatever it is, the numbers show that when Penrith's six State of Origin stars run out together on Wednesday night, the odds will favour NSW.

Of the past six times NSW have picked at least half a dozen players from the one club for a State of Origin game dating back to 1985, the Blues have won five of those games.

Queensland's most recent era of success was also built on club combinations, with Melbourne players often dominating the spine and key positions.

For NSW, such club combinations have been rare in recent seasons.

Penrith are the first NRL team since St George Illawarra in 2011 to field six or more players in a NSW side, with the Dragons having seven Blues for Game I that year.

Like the Panthers, the Dragons of 2011 were into their third straight big year and were sitting at 11-1 in their premiership defence before entering camp.

"It definitely helped me because it was my first Origin series," Dragons half Jamie Soward told AAP.

"Having so many Dragons guys, it took the pressure off everyone else to accept me.

"The other guys who didn't know me had probably formed opinions.

"People would say I was soft and only kicked, and all that. So to have guys in the team who trusted me forced other guys to trust me."

Soward's 2011 team did not lift the Origin shield, with coach Ricky Stuart playing five Dragons in Game II and four in Game III.

But after the dominant Queensland team had torn NSW apart between 2007 and 2010, they did go some way to putting the Blues back in Origin reckoning with a win in Sydney forcing a decider.

"I just remember going in there with a team that had finished minor premiers twice, won a comp," Soward said.

"And we had eight guys there who knew how to win in those big games.

"Gaz (Mark Gasnier) and Beau (Scott) had been there before, but the familiarity around how I played as a playmaker definitely helped me.

"Penrith will have that with the way they've played the last couple of years.

"They have the best halfback in the world (in Nathan Cleary), one of the world's best five-eighths (in Jarome Luai) and the best lock in the world (with Isaah Yeo).

Defence also looms as one of NSW's biggest advantages.

Cameron Smith told Sydney radio on Monday of how Queensland had spent early days in their Game I camp working out their defensive structures.

NSW have had it far easier in that facet, with the Panthers who regularly defend together at club level complementing 13 players backing up from last series under Brad Fittler.

It was another thing Soward did not take for granted in 2011.

"I had Beau (Scott) who was looking after me at the Dragons, so it was a plug-and-play situation with those guys," Soward said.

"We had a combination straight away defensively which is important. And they had GI (Greg Inglis) and (Billy) Slater swinging around the back."

Stuart's thinking in 2011 was no doubt borne out of his own career.

He spent the majority of his Origin days playing alongside Laurie Daley in the halves, with fellow Raiders Brad Clyde and Glenn Lazarus in the middle.

It was a time when NSW enjoyed their most success in Origin, thriving off the Canberra club combination and stability around the selections.

"When I played with Loz, I knew where he would be," Stuart said.

"I didn't have to hear him.

"Instinctively we knew one another's games and he knew what my role was at the ruck and he knew what he had to do outside the football to receive it.

"That comes through repetitive practice and muscle memory. That's the beauty of picking players whose combination becomes instinctive."

Penrith players are also well aware of the upside.

Think Yeo in the middle, linking with Cleary and Luai on the edges or going short to Liam Martin.

Or the combination Cleary already has with Martin when he comes on the field, together with Luai having regularly played and defended next to Stephen Crichton and Brian To'o.

"It's nice, you don't have to worry about building relationships there," Yeo said.

"We have been building them over the past five or six years, so that is pretty cool.

"You know how each player gets the ball, you know how they like it.

"Having played so much footy together, I think it helps in games like this. It is so helter-skelter, so fast, you can't hear yourself think.

"That's where I feel like that helps."

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting