Queensland's Origin grip to tighten - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Queensland's Origin grip to tighten

By Steve Jancetic 07/07/2011 02:41:41 PM Comments (0)

The gulf separating NSW and State of Origin champions Queensland could take on Grand Canyon proportions in coming years with the loss of Darren Lockyer unlikely to quell the Maroons' interstate supremacy.

While Lockyer's standing as one of the best players to lace on a boot let alone a Maroon jersey is undisputable, his departure could make Queensland an even stronger beast.

As he bowed out of Origin with a sixth-straight series win on Wednesday night, Lockyer endorsed Cooper Cronk as his natural successor - the deadliest club combination in the NRL of Cronk, Billy Slater and Maroons captain-in-waiting Cameron Smith to be showcased in the Origin arena.

The Blues meanwhile are in a state of flux as they sweat on the future of coach Ricky Stuart, with any progress made by NSW in 2011 endangered should he take on an NRL assignment.

Stuart has made little secret of his desire to coach in the NRL again and has been mentioned as a possible replacement for under-fire Canterbury coach Kevin Moore, his situation in contrast to that of opposite Mal Meninga who is poised to take on an even broader role with the Maroons.

Either way, Lockyer couldn't see the Maroons giving up their crown any time soon, Smith to assume the reins on the back of a man-of-the-series performance.

"(Smith's) a great leader and next year Cooper Cronk - he's been champing at the bit - he'll be ready to go next year," Lockyer said.

"They're still going to have the team to win and having Cameron leading them is going to make them very difficult to beat again."

Certainly NSW players didn't see the Maroons losing too much in the absence of Lockyer.

"He'll probably leave a void in leadership skills but they've got blokes who will step into that role," Blues five-eighth Jamie Soward said.

"(Johnathan) Thurston, Smith, Slater - they've all been there for six or seven years now.

"They won't have any lack of leadership there."

While they clearly failed top execute on the night, Stuart claimed after the loss that the Blues had over the course of the series found the culture and gameplan to end Queensland's six-year winning run.

But continuation of that development probably depends on Stuart being there, with Soward unequivocal in his support of the coach.

"His passion has turned around how NSW will play for the next five, 10, 15 years," Soward said.

"Ricky's got the passion out of the players now and everyone wants to be in a Blues jersey.

"He's put a lot of hard work into this and we wouldn't want anyone else coaching us.

"We're behind him 100 per cent, I'm not going to hide my thoughts on that.

"He'll be coach next year, we want him to be coach next year, he deserves to be coach next year.

"I wouldn't have anyone else coaching NSW."

What appears certain is that Stuart will not share the role of state and club coach again, despite having done the dual roles with success in 2005.

"I said to Craig (former NSW coach Craig Bellamy), it is so much easier as a fulltime gig because you can actually have some downtime in camp where you don't get downtime where you've got a club duty as well," Stuart said.

"For Craig to do both the last few years, I think it's a disadvantage really. Queensland got it right with appointing Mal (Meninga) as fulltime coach all those years ago."

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