Cobbo selection masterstroke key to Maroons victory

Joel Gould |

Selwyn Cobbo has starred off the bench in an opening-game Origin win for Queensland in Sydney.
Selwyn Cobbo has starred off the bench in an opening-game Origin win for Queensland in Sydney.

Queensland coach Billy Slater and his fellow selectors have pulled a masterstroke by choosing outside back Selwyn Cobbo on the bench.

It will go down as one of the wisest and most astute decisions in State of Origin history after the Maroons’ 38-10 win over NSW in Sydney on Wednesday night.

When fullback Reece Walsh was knocked senseless and ruled out of the match with a category one HIA in the eighth minute, and NSW’s Joseph Suaalii sent off, it was Cobbo’s time to shine.

He shone like the brightest sun at centre in a display that had shades of legend Greg Inglis about it. Starting centre Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow switched to centre and carved up in a three-try extravaganza.

Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow.
Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow crosses for one of his three tries at Accor Stadium. (Mark Evans/AAP PHOTOS)

From the first day of Maroons camp through to game day Slater, his coaching staff and players were peppered with questions about the thinking behind selecting Cobbo on the bench. Evan Maroons great Paul Vautin questioned the move. Slater did not flinch and said there was a plan in place.

“He will get on the field at some stage,” Slater said on several occasions.

It turned out Slater was well ahead of the curve.

At his first press conference Slater made the point that in the previous six Origins the Maroons has lost an outside back on four occasions.

That statistic now stands at five from seven. This time, as opposed to the previous occasions, Queensland had a contingency.

The Maroons have been able to count on veterans Daly Cherry-Evans and Ben Hunt to deliver in Origin in recent series. 

Cherry-Evans had another stellar captain’s knock, setting up the first try for Hunt with a scoot down the short side and landing a 40/20 when his side needed in the second half. He iced the game with an intercept, a break and kick for Xavier Coates to score.

Hooker Hunt supported his captain with valour. He backed him up to score his first try and broke the Blues’ backs with an individual effort in the second half.

Hunt and Cherry-Evans are now Origin legends in their own right for the Maroons.
They have not lost the opening game of a series under Slater’s tenure. It says plenty about their stellar preparation, albeit against a 12-man NSW side for 72 minutes.

Queensland have been masters at recognising past greats and making the players aware of the immense legacy they represent and must honour as torch bearers. 

During camp the players were shown highlight reels of late Maroons powerhouse forward Carl Webb. Prop Reuben Cotter said he got goosebumps watching the clips and added that the players were ready to “run through brick walls” as a result. They did exactly that.

AAP