This week we take a look back at State of Origin, where it all went wrong for the Blues and whether the brawling was really something we missed.
We tackle some of the big talking points in the latest edition of NRL Real or Not.
New South Wales just don't get Origin like Queensland do
REAL: You've heard it so many times, and the results on the field inevitably reinforce this line of thought -- Origin simply means more to Queenslanders. It seems they really do have more pride in their maroon jerseys; they do grow extra legs when running out to represent their state in the toughest rugby league arena on earth; they do live or die by their performances and leave absolutely nothing in the tank.
You will never see a Maroons coach drop proven, incumbent, Origin stars ahead of a series opener based on club form. You will never see a Maroons player talking about which country he would prefer to represent at the World Cup. You will never hear a Queenslander rule himself out of an Origin game to focus on his club. You will never see a Queensland star left out of a decider after returning from an enforced break. You will never see a Queenslander be the fifth player to arrive when a teammate is being set upon by two Blues.
These are all things that happened in the New South Wales camp this series, things that prove they are wired differently, not set up to be as ruthless and as determined to win as the folk up north. It's hard to see things changing under the current bare-footed, hand-holding, regime. Maybe it's not something you can coach into a player, maybe it is in the genetics of all Queenslanders.
Return of biff just what Origin needed
NOT REAL: There has been some fan support for the brawl that broke out between Dane Gagai and Matt Burton during the second half of the State of Origin decider at Suncorp Stadium. Many were happy to see the heightened passion of the night spill over into some real old-fashioned biff. However, on re-watching the video, it made the stomach of this traditionalist churn uncomfortably.
Queensland's Kalyn Ponga made a break down Burton's side of the field, and as he passed the ball inside he was knocked to the ground by James Tedesco. Burton, who was running back to get onside, had his eyes on the ball and couldn't avoid colliding with Ponga as he jumped to his feet across the path of the young centre. Burton kept going, until Gagai ran over and shoved him to the ground, feeling that he somehow needed to avenge the contact with his Knights' teammate.
Burton could have regained his feet and continued back into the line, but instead he pursued Gagai to sort out their differences. Gagai squared up and haymakers started flying, with most of Burton's way off the mark. With Gagai clearly ahead on points early, the exquisitely groomed Tino Fa'asuamaleaui joined the fray, grabbing Burton by the collar, holding him in a headlock and at one point tearing at his face with his hand. Not satisfied with this numerical advantage, the next man in was Queensland debutant Tim Gilbert, who dropped his shoulder into Burton to make sure he ended up on the bottom of the pile.
Fa'asuamaleaui was already on report for nearly decapitating Burton earlier in the match. While Gagai and Burton were both sent to the sin bin for ten minutes, Fa'asuamaleaui was allowed to continue. The three of them were charged by the match review committee but were only hit lightly with fines.
The whole episode was a sad reminder of the darker days of third-man-in merchants like Queensland's Sam Thaiday. Sure Origin is all about standing up for your mates, but there was a time when authorities tried to stamp out the third man in, the one that turns a scuffle into an all-in brawl. Seems these days, because no one is meant to be punching, having two, three blokes belting one isn't seen as an issue.
Brad Fittler is to blame for that series loss
REAL: If Brad Fittler and his off-the-wall, new-wave coaching techniques want to claim credit for Origin series wins, then he and his left-field selections can line up and take the fall for yet another loss of a seemingly unlosable series.
Go back to Game I where he dropped incumbent Origins series winners Jake Trbojevic, Josh Addo-Carr and Angus Crichton, because he had a feeling their club form was down a bit. He picked a debutante centre at No.14, he picked Tariq Sims and Ryan Matterson and untried centre Kotoni Staggs
After losing the opener, he made a world of changes and thought he masterminded the convincing victory. Well, yes he did, but more through his manipulation of the refereeing, with the Maroons run out of Perth through a mountain of "six again" calls and a costly sin binning after Fittler had spent two weeks whining about ruck speed.
In the decider, despite having his best player from Game I available again, he stuck with a young centre who contributed very little in Perth, apart from letting through one of Queensland's two tries, and who would go on to make some monumental blunders in Brisbane.
His use of Damien Cook from the bench was questionable and the gamble of including Siosifa Talakai backfired, as the Blues, missing Payne Haas, were a big man short. Junior Paulo did an admirable job, but he really needed another genuine prop forward in the engine room. The shortage of true grunt up front saw Fittler continuing with his strategy of having the outside backs do the majority of hit-ups inside their own 20 metre zone. There were some disastrous results as the Maroons defence swarmed to drive the likes of Daniel Tupou and Stephen Crichton backwards time and again.
It seems Fittler's job is safe for now, based on the series he has won, but it's back to the drawing board for him and his crew before facing the almost bullet-proof Queenslanders again.