Can NSW break its Origin drought in 2013?
Photo: Getty Images
When the appointment of Ricky Stuart's replacement as NSW State of Origin coach was still up in the air, captain Paul Gallen was adamant it had to be either Laurie Daley or Brad Fittler, given the pair are familiar with the Origin culture being two of the Blues' greatest players.
Gallen had hoped that other contenders, such as newly-appointed referees' boss Daniel Anderson, would be overlooked as he didn't believe they had the understanding of what Origin was all about.
The problem Craig Bellamy had during his tenure as NSW coach from 2008-2010 was that he tried to coach the Blues like they were his club side the Melbourne Storm. It sounds great in theory, but Bellamy placed too much emphasis on tactical strategies more suited to club level football and not enough on raw passion that's required to be successful in Origin.
It was an area that Stuart, a former NSW halfback, improved upon when he took over as Blues coach at the start of the 2011 series. It became more about showing heart, passion and courage under Stuart than what drills to work on at training.
And while NSW lost both series under his tutelage, they closed the gap on Queensland significantly using that formula. It should be noted that under Stuart the Blues had the disadvantage of only one match in Sydney for each series. In 2011 the other two were played in Brisbane, and in 2012 one was played in Melbourne and the other in Brisbane.
The Maroons didn't beat NSW in Sydney in 2011 or 2012. For that, Stuart can take great credit. He talked up the rivalry between the states in the media, and in doing so added numbers, atmosphere and feeling to the Sydney crowd, turning ANZ Stadium into a fortress.
Gallen got his wish, and Daley was appointed as Stuart's replacement. There are strong indications Daley will use a similar coaching style as Stuart. The pair are close friends from their playing days at the Canberra Raiders and have been there and done it before as NSW players.
Even though Stuart has taken over as coach of the Parramatta Eels, Daley has said publicly he would like Stuart to still be involved on some level.
Whether Stuart is involved in an official capacity or not, you can guarantee Daley would have already picked up the phone to consult him, and that Stuart would have been happy to take the call because of their friendship and his love for NSW.
And the momentum NSW have built at home over the last two years has been well timed, given that in 2013 they'll be playing two matches in Sydney for the first time since 2010.
As great as Queensland's effort of winning seven consecutive series has been, their big three of Billy Slater, Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk all turn 30 in 2013. They may only drop off their game a fraction, but that might be all the Blues need to win the shield for the first time since 2005. After all, they lost the 2012 decider by the barest of margins.
Expect Daley to capitalise on the momentum built by Stuart to deliver the Blues a long-awaited series victory.
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