Kevin Walters put his passion out for all to see. Image: AAP Image/Darren England
Kevin Walters put his passion out for all to see. Image: AAP Image/Darren England

Kent: Blues can’t fall for Maroons’ propaganda

His name is Ikin and his profession is underdog.

When Jai Arrow hobbles off the training paddock last Thursday, and his injury looks serious, an avalanche of text messages fill the air with, admittedly, mixed concern for Arrow and Queensland.

The response from Ikin is swift: "All the pressure on Blues now …"

So with Arrow out injured the pressure is on the Blues, now up against an understrength Queensland. Just like it was before Arrow was injured and still available and then, as we saw on Monday, after Arrow was passed fit and named for Queensland.

Throughout it all Queensland managed to remain underdogs. As they do annually.

 

Queensland wasted no time with the usual lines. Image: AAP Image/Darren England
Queensland wasted no time with the usual lines. Image: AAP Image/Darren England

 

Something happens when you try to wrestle the underdog tag from Queensland. Relations strain, the indignity scales a little higher.

For half a dozen years the Maroons trotted out a spine of Cameron Smith, Johnathan Thurston, Billy Slater and Darren Lockyer, sometimes with Greg Inglis thrown in the mix, and each time Queensland took great insult at any suggestion NSW might be underdogs at any point in a particular series.

In 2012 the Maroons faced their first series without Lockyer after six straight series wins and they fought hard to maintain position.

"They are looking at us as a team in transition with the retirement of Darren Lockyer, and I think they believe us to be a little frail with our captain and five-eighth now gone," wrote Queensland coach Mal Meninga in his column in FOGS (Former Origin Greats) Queenslander magazine.

Because these blokes were always underdogs … Image: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
Because these blokes were always underdogs … Image: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

"I heard their coach Ricky Stuart recently discussing how well they went last year, and how they will be much better prepared this year, with much better, more experienced players at their disposal.

"I have to say I agree with him."

Stuart might or might not have even said it but no insult can be too small for a Queenslander it can't be imagined.

At best Stuart was battling to build confidence in a team already showing signs of post-traumatic stress.

Meninga, well, he and his Maroons were about to replace Lockyer with Cooper Cronk. So a little frail? It is unlikely.

Former coach Meninga knew how to play the Maroons’ tune. Image: Renee McKay/Getty Images
Former coach Meninga knew how to play the Maroons’ tune. Image: Renee McKay/Getty Images

But the underdog mentality is there to serve Queensland who even, on the odd occasion, can still legitimately believe it.

The lesson the Maroons have learned is that even if they are not sold on their own propaganda, the narrative still serves Queensland well.

It puts pressure on NSW.

The Blues began to fall for it again this year with the debate around Nathan Cleary and James Maloney in the halves.

Half the audience, Blues greats, championed the pick and stick policy; select those who got the job done last year even if they are no longer in form.

It was a nod to Queensland's continued success.

NSW’s doubt in Ivan Cleary is doing Queensland’s job for them. Image: AAP Image/Joel Carrett
NSW’s doubt in Ivan Cleary is doing Queensland’s job for them. Image: AAP Image/Joel Carrett

But half the audience pointed out NSW coach Brad Fittler won last year's series only because he was brave enough to pick form players and to go away from the considered choices. The Blues halves this season, that lot argued, were far from in form.

No consensus was agreed upon. Either way the Blues were going to be favourites.

Yet it all took a bold twist on Monday when Queensland coach Kevin Walters stood in front of a friendly press group and emotion got the better of him. It was inevitable, it just came early.

"I'm ready, we are ready - this is war," he said.

Walters is an emotional man. He would cry at an insurance seminar if there was a Maroon tinge to it.

He tried his best to maintain the underdog narrative but he lacks the cold blood of a Meninga or even a Ben Ikin, who is as adept as all of them at presenting a Queensland truth.

It is a hot rage that lives in Walters.

Kevin Walters put his passion out for all to see. Image: AAP Image/Darren England
Kevin Walters put his passion out for all to see. Image: AAP Image/Darren England

So when his thoughts threw forward to next Wednesday's game the words poured out as the tears welled in his eyes.

"This Queensland team is going to be so well prepared for this match," he said.

"We are playing at home and we are going to put on a performance everyone will be proud of, including the players, fans and sponsors.

"We will win game one … it's on."

It was a staggering comment, made without prompting. All the more staggering as it goes against everything Queensland is built on.

The underdog con, which confuses the Blues and ignites Queensland.

That Walters gave it voice on worries NSW more.

For him to say it so openly means only one thing; they must be up to something.