Freakish Farah just might give NSW the bite to chew up old foes
May 23, 2012
Coming into this year’s State of Origin series, there was much debate around the make-up of the NSW team and the dummy half was one position receiving plenty of attention.
Danny Buderus was back from England and the coach’s first choice. Michael Ennis was the incumbent but apparently playing injured and out of form. And it was publicly stated that Robbie Farah was not suited to Origin football.
I believe NSW have ended up settling on the best option, one that worries me most as a Queenslander. Farah is one of the most complete players in the NRL and holds the key to NSW success tonight.
Farah is an interesting study. Serious but not arrogant, intelligent and a deep thinker. He is also one of the rare few who can best be described as a win-at-all-costs athlete.
Players like Robbie aren’t generally good company after a loss or a poor individual performance, such is their attachment to repeated perfection. Ironic, really, considering the personality of NSW coach Ricky Stuart.
Having watched the Wests Tigers dummy half for many years, I still marvel at his ability (like Cameron Smith) to make somewhere between 35 and 50 tackles a game while carrying the creative burden of his side. The mental toughness required to push through a mountain of work, yet still provide an attacking spark when tired is a trait not common.
There are those who can do one or the other, work hard but not have to think, or be the thinker but minimise the monotonous labour.
Farah is one of the sharpest in our game. His ability to employ changes of direction, smart passing and pre-rehearsed tricks with his forwards is as good as it gets. He unsettles opposition ruck defences with guile and urgency creating the time and space his outside men need.
Farah’s left boot is an invaluable part of his skill set, and his short kicking game can earn points. But it’s his ability to pick and choose when he takes the long kick that can put pressure on opposition sides. With Todd Carney and Mitchell Pearce both strong kickers, having Farah as the third option could cause headaches for the Maroons’ back three.
Farah is also a very competent defender. One criticism I can’t agree with is that his “catching” style of defence has no place in Origin footy. I admire the small men who make strong, low contact in the tackle, but the quick play-the-ball that ensues often corrupts the defensive set.
The modern game requires that defenders control the speed at which a ball carrier is brought down and gets to his feet. This requires that multiple defenders play a role, with the catcher, or grip defender, a very important component.
Funnily , Smith is the NRL’ s best exponent of this. And, as NSW try to limit the space given Queensland’s once-in-a-generation back line, quality grip defenders will be an asset.
Although unfair to suggest the result for NSW will depend on their hooker, it is imperative the Blues forwards buy into Farah’s creativity. Unless NSW are exposing of the Maroons’ defence around the play-the-ball, the halves pairing of Pearce and Carney will be dominated.
As Queensland seek their seventh successive State of Origin series victory, I see a NSW side that most critics haven’t rated all that highly standing in their way. And while superlatives fly around the Maroons, there’s an angry little dummy half plotting what would be the greatest upset in Origin history.
I hope he gets it wrong - go the Maroons!