‘Robbed’: Origin controversy won’t die
JAMES Tedesco showed why he is best No. 1 in the game - maybe even the best player full stop - with a masterclass in the Blues' heart-stopping 26-20 win to seal a second-straight State of Origin series triumph.
Tedesco fittingly scored the match winner in the dying seconds to cap a stunning two-try display that earned him the Wally Lewis Medal as player of the series.
Asked if he thought Tedesco, 26, was the best player in the world, NSW coach Brad Fittler said: "You gotta say (so) at the moment, if you want to start a debate. But he's got a long way to go. He's young.
"He had a couple of big injuries early in his career. I could never see the player he is today at all. I just never saw it. (He's) proved a lot wrong."
Even losing coach Kevin Walters, who banned his team from saying the word NSW or talk about their players, couldn't help but praise the Roosters star. "He's had a great series for them, Tedesco. Probably been the standout … well he won the Wally Lewis medal," Walters said.
It was that honour in particular that drew plenty of jokes - and even after 12 months and two series wins some sour grapes on social media.
Tedesco was famously robbed of the Wally Lewis Medal after Queensland fullback Billy Slater was given the nod despite a NSW series win last year in one of the great Origin snubs.
Claiming it this year still wasn't enough for everyone.
WALTERS CONFRONTS COACHING RUMOURS
It didn't take long for Walters to end speculation that he would leave his Queensland post after a shattering series loss. In fact it took just five words for Walters to pour cold water on rumours he would be lost to the NRL in 2020 by boldly claiming: "I'll be back next year".
Walters had been tipped to take over the Gold Coast Titans reins from an under pressure Garth Brennan, ensuring he had to hand in his Queensland contract which does not expire until the end of 2020.
There were even reports former Maroons mentor Wayne Bennett was ready to take over from Walters as soon as next year.
However, Walters dismissed the speculation as he tried to get his head around NSW's stunning Origin III victory which sealed their first back to back series since 2005.
Asked if it was his last game as Maroons mentor, Walters said: "No mate. I'll be back next year. Have you been talking to someone?
"No, I'm a really proud Queenslander tonight. I'll be back next year. And I am really proud of these guys."
When pressed if he was interested in the Titans gig, Walters said: "No. I don't want to talk about that now. I want to talk about this great Queensland team and how proud I am of them."
Walters became the first Queensland coach to lose back to back Origin series since Michael Hagan in 2004-05 and just the fourth overall.
STATE OF ORIGIN III AT A GLANCE
RESULT: NSW 26 (James Tedesco 2, Paul Vaughan, Damien Cook tries; James Maloney 4 conversions, 1 pen goal) defeated Queensland 20 (Felise Kaufusi, Josh McGuire, Josh Papalii tries; Ethan Lowe 3 conversions 1 pen goal).
KEY MOMENT: NSW looked home and hosed up 20-8 with 10 minutes to play before Queensland came storming back into the contest and drew level. The Maroons had all the momentum but redemption man Mitchell Pearce chanced his arm on the final play and put Tom Trbojevic in space, who then found Blake Ferguson and James Tedesco was backing up inside to score the winner with 32 seconds left in the match.
MAN OF THE MATCH: James Tedesco. The Blues fullback was phenomenal all series and delivered another scintillating display in the decider. Tedesco sparked NSW into attack in the first half and scored a double in the second, including the last-minute winner. Nobody ran for more than his 222m.
QUOTE: Former Blues coach and commentator Phil Gould: "There are 83,000 people here at the ground, four million people at home, this is the biggest spectacle, this is what sells (rugby league) to the world, and they don't come to see how the referees referee, they come to see the players play."
TALKING POINTS: NSW halfback Mitchell Pearce finally lifted his first Origin shield after eight attempts. Pearce made his debut as a teenager in 2008 and then unfairly shouldered most of the blame for seven series losses. Maroons star Cameron Munster shifted from five-eighth to fullback for the decider and was outstanding in the No. 1 jersey. Munster was filling in for golden child Kalyn Ponga (calf) but the performance was so strong it will give Queensland coach Kevin Walters a headache as to who plays there next year.
KEY STAT: Referees Ashley Klein and Gerard Sutton blew a staggering 12 penalties in the first half which stifled the flow of the game. It was the most penalties in an Origin first half in 23 years. Somebody must have had a word with the whistleblowers at halftime because there were only two penalties given after the break and it finally allowed the game to flourish.
INJURIES: Queensland - Michael Morgan (concussion).
Tedesco has been INCREDIBLE this #Origin series. GIVE THE MEDAL TO BILLY SLATER— Anthony Sharwood ❄️🍉 (@antsharwood) July 10, 2019
Congratulations to Billy Slater on winning another player of the series. Thoroughly deserved. #Origin— Tim Barrow (@TheBarrow) July 10, 2019