NSW Blues avoid ultimate State of Origin humiliation to put questions on hold Apkmusk

Tedesco had just sealed game three of the 2023 State of Origin series with a customary – if unlikely – try assist for debutant Bradman Best, just as Wednesday night’s contest clattered towards a conclusion. Continuing his form from the preceding two matches, all night he had looked more cabbage-patch doll than Teddy. Getting bowled over by Divid Fifita for the Maroons’ first try. Beaten comprehensively by a Murray Taulagi step in the second half. And unable to make the most of several half-breaks.

But the Tedesco of old returned when the match entered its decisive stage. As the Blues desperately protected an eight-point lead, Tedesco defused a critical Queensland bomb. Then seconds later the Blues’ number one ran off the shoulder of the impressive Cody Walker in midfield. He glided through the Maroons’ right edge, then freed his arms to put Best through and over.

That the Blues’ veteran set up the debutant Best for the crucial try in a dead Origin rubber presents the match’s enduring significance: two phases both in sync and at odds. The match had promised to be the final go-around in the Tedesco Origin era, as well as that of his coach Brad Fittler. A Maroons’ victory would surely have closed the book for the pair. Fittler himself said as much, admitting afterwards “the consequences of getting beat by 30 would be different”. But the Blues’ flowing first half attack and resilient second half defence – as well as the words that came after – suggest it might be too soon for the New South Wales Rugby League board to return to the bookstore.

The Women’s World Cup will take over the venue at Homebush as of next week, handing the Matildas the nation’s spotlight for the eagerly awaited tournament. Blues five-eighth Cody Walker ensured Sam Kerr would have to wait her turn. The Rabbitohs number six – 33 in calendar years but playing like a man with a future – was universally lauded as the difference maker.

His performance, Tedesco’s resilience and the reluctance of Fittler to move on leaves Blues fans with few hints of the essence of their future team. A defeat might have triggered a complete rebuild, from coach, to captain and down. But with the win, there’s no longer momentum for wholesale change. After all, there’s the likely return next year of injured halfback Nathan Cleary, and with established gamebreakers Latrell Mitchell and Tom Trbojevic certainties if fit. Bradman may have been one of his team’s finest performers, but Best’s generation next, including composed edge forward Keaon Koloamatangi, are set to wait a few more years to claim the Blues’ team as their own.

The outcome – as frustrating as some may find it – is no surprise. Famously, there hasn’t been a clean sweep in State of Origin in 13 years. The state-versus-state, mate-versus-mate mythology demands a losing team work themselves into such a frenzy after two defeats that the ensuing motivation delivers an inevitable win. Five times since 2010 has a team had a chance to whip out the brooms. But in not one case were the players able secure rugby league’s ultimate humiliation.

That tradition was upheld, as the score ended 24-10 in front of 75,000 Blues fans. Yet it was hardly a furnace of footy hatred. The first paper aeroplane landed in the lower tier, not far from the Maroons bench, midway through the first half. In the second, a Mexican wave broke out and completed several laps even as the match hung in the balance.



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