Tedesco’s Origin blinder worth the weight
For Jake Trbojevic it meant a few secret sauna sessions. For James Tedesco it was jibes from the coaching staff that he needed to drop a couple of kilos.
The outcome was a streamlined Blues team that was fitter and faster than any of their predecessors.
For Brad Fittler it was years of watching Queensland players looking more streamlined than the Blues.
“I noticed how Cam Smith and Cameron Munster had these tight jumpers on and wondered why we didn’t do the same,” Fittler said.
It’s believed when Fittler got hold of the jumpers he had a friend take them in. Jake Trbojevic was busted doing hot room shredding to fit into his. Tom Trbojevic could only wear his as a midriff top it was so tight when he first put his on. In his finest hour as a player, Tedesco said it was the skin-tight jumper which gave him an edge.
The conversation which inspired Tedesco to focus on his fitness and weight was a simple one at the start of camp. ‘‘What weight are you?’’ Fittler asked. “Ninety-eight kilograms,” Tedesco said. ‘‘Is that your best weight?’’ “No, 96,’’ Tedesco replied.”
Nothing else was said between coach and player but it was enough to have Tedesco monitoring his fitness and it produced a result like never before. Tedesco reckons it was the jumpers.
“Freddy got us the tighter jumpers and got them taken in,” he said. “There was times when I thought they’d grab me but they got nothing.”
In the lead-up, Tedesco had to hold off Tom Trbojevic for his place. “I didn’t want to think about the pressure I was under coming into this game but I knew it was there’’ Tedesco said.
‘‘I knew I had to fight for my spot. I just wanted to play what I saw, and I wanted to have a clear head. I backed myself and trusted the opportunity. I want this jumper long term.
‘‘I don’t think I have played any better. I didn’t go out there with the thought I had to play my best game. ‘‘I just had to back myself and the biggest thing was I had to learn to trust myself.
That’s something my mentor Joe [Wehbe] has been telling me – to trust myself – and that’s been a breakthrough.
‘‘He has told me that I have the ability, it’s just things like trusting that I can do it which has delivered that kind of game. He said that game would come for me and it did. I trusted myself and I got the reward.”
No worries for Blues’ sunny Jim
Walking through the bowels of the MCG close to midnight with a group of her kids, including their newborn baby, Jess Maloney, the wife of James, had a smile on her face that was as much about relief as it was about joy.
‘‘He just doesn’t get worried about anything – which is a pretty good thing,’’ she said about her husband, the NSW five-eighth, who had a hand in tries for both teams in Origin I.
That was the reason Blues coach Brad Fittler picked Maloney and also the reason he nearly didn’t.
‘‘The intercept pass [which resulted in a try to Valentine Holmes that shifted the momentum of the match] wasn’t the first thing he mentioned to me when he got off the field,’’ Fittler said.
‘‘He came up to me and said, ‘what about all the tackles I made’. That’s Jimmy. He’s hilarious. Not many people can do that [make a key mistake] and then steer his team to a victory.’’
In 80 minutes Maloney set the Blues on the path to victory, backing up Damien Cook’s bust to put James Tedesco over for a try. He then threw the intercept and a forward pass that gave Queensland a try and the field position to score another. But he brought the team home by kicking for a Tom Trbojevic try and throwing the final pass for Josh Addo-Carr’s try.
The Blues camp had one fear going into game one and it had nothing to do with the 11 rookies doing their job: it was whether Maloney would stick to the game plan or go rogue.
In the lead-up to the game the normally extroverted Maloney was focused, providing much-needed guidance for the rookies around him.
When Craig Bellamy talked to the Blues he told stories about Maloney; how he’d be shovelling yoghurt into his mouth during video sessions and be more focused on getting the last bit out of a the tub than the tactics that were being talked about. He is just someone who marches to the beat of his own drum – and that was the Blues’ worry.
It was why Luke Keary was so close to selection but, in the end, the overriding thought that the Blues had was this: ‘‘Jimmy wins.’’
After the game a beaming Fittler said of Maloney: ‘‘I nearly didn’t [pick him], but I’m glad that I did.’’
Maloney was asked if he was glad to have repaid the faith that Fittler and Blues assistant Greg Alexander showed in him.
‘‘I don’t know if it’s about repaying him,’’ he said. ‘‘You get picked for a reason and you have a job to do. It’s not just about repaying Freddy – he has picked you and shown faith in you – but you are representing NSW and the seven million people who live there.’’
Maloney was, as always, calm about the intercept pass. ‘‘We still had 70 minutes to go,’’ he said. ‘‘It wasn’t ideal, but we had time. I knew it wasn’t going to be a defining moment and I had a lot of time to change it. I wasn’t happy about it, but I didn’t even see Val [Holmes]. He came out of nowhere. But I knew the artillery I had around me, so Iwas confident. The speed we had in this side gives you confidence.’’