NSW coach Laurie Daley will phone a select few Blues in the next couple of weeks – a good four months before game one of the State of Origin series – to tell them that, barring injury or an incredible drop in form, they’ll be a part of their state’s campaign.
Daley said the calls were about providing the players with clarity, saying it was unnecessary for them to guess whether they’d be in the squad which had to stop Queensland from winning another series.
“There’s a few players, who, in my mind, don’t need that uncertainty hanging over their head of whether I’m in the team or not in the team and I’ll tell them that over the coming weeks,” he said. “As long as they’re fit, of course, and ready, they’ll be there.
“I’ll do that because it will mean they’re clear in their thought process; they’re not worrying about it. I want them to feel comfortable knowing they’re a part of the team.”
Daley’s decision to phone the players so far out before a ball is even kicked in anger, is an indication he intended to do things his way and that he also saw an informed player as someone who could commit himself to what’s going to be a monumental challenge.
“Obviously my role as coach is to share my experiences and my knowledge of Origin football; how I think we need to prepare for Origin,” he said. “Origin is completely different to NRL. I think, at times, you need a different psyche in State of Origin to club footy and hopefully players will understand what is required.
“NRL teams get five months during the off-season to train and work on things, an Origin team gets eight days and you have to get it right. You’re not going to get the players fitter, you’re not going to get them stronger, improve their skills or things like that. It’s a matter of getting them to be aware of what’s required, how we’re going to go about it and to understand what we’re looking for and go from there.
“Ricky Stuart [his predecessor] has done a wonderful job of that over the last couple of years, it’s important for me to build upon that and continue with our momentum.”
Daley, 43, is remembered as one of the code’s most gifted players who excelled for Canberra, NSW and Australia in a career which spanned 1987 to 2000. He was as revered for his leadership as he was his flair and deft skills.
“I can’t make any promises [to the NSW public] at all,” he said. “I can’t guarantee victories but we need to continually improve because we know Queensland will.
“It’s going to be hard. Just because we have come close the last two years doesn’t guarantee us anything. We’ll work hard, we’ll prepare well and we’ll have to improve, otherwise it’s the same result …
“Our guys played well over the last couple of years and while they’ve tasted defeat they’re still hungry for success and they see it as a monumental challenge. They know we have to play well. It’s one of those situations where there is no magic formula; there’s no magic game plan that’s going to blow Queensland apart or dissect them.
“It won’t happen like that but we’ll be confident the team will be prepared well and will go out there and perform at their best. If they perform at their best they give themselves every opportunity.”
His old Raiders teammate Mal Meninga, who coached Queensland to each of their past seven series triumphs, said Daley would already appreciate it was often moments that won matches.
“A bounce of the ball, a bit of luck here and there, some refereeing decisions … you have to make the most of opportunities when they arise,” he said. “You have to get into the grind, there’s not a lot of stoppages; keep hanging in for as long as you can and never give up. When those opportunities come your way you need to grab them.”
Daley admitted in previous years he had thought the Blues sometimes struggled to finish the job off when Queensland appeared to be there for the taking.
“We just have to learn when we have our times and our moments we have to make the most of it,” he said. “There’s been periods when we haven’t quite grabbed the bull by the horns and gone on with the job when we’ve been in positions to do so. We’ve relaxed and Queensland have then hit back straight away. We find it hard to regain momentum when they do that. I think it’s making people realise that to be successful – to win – we’ve got to be switched on, we can’t afford any lulls and we have to work hard for one another and to be part of a team that wants success, and be one that will go about it in the right fashion.”
Robbie Farah, the Blues’ best in last year’s gripping series, said his “numerous” discussions with Daley suggested the Blues had a leader committed to victory.
“When Ricky took on the job at Parramatta we obviously needed a replacement and I don’t think we could’ve got a better person than Laurie because he knows State of Origin football inside out,” Farah said.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.