Daley has one eye on NSW Origin future

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – unless you are NSW coach Laurie Daley, it seems.

Queensland were the team tipped to launch a succession plan.

The knives were out after their record-breaking eight straight State of Origin series winning-run came to an abrupt halt last year.

They may have been great players but they were too old, the cynics said.

They needed to rejuvenate, critics argued.

They were called Dad’s Army – again.

Yet it was the Blues who opted for change ahead of the 2015 Origin series opener at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium on Wednesday.

Daley had finally struck upon a winning formula that eluded predecessors Graham Murray, Craig Bellamy and Ricky Stuart since the Maroons’ remarkable series streak began in 2006.

And he still tinkered with it.

In all, six changes were made to the NSW side that was thrashed in the 2014 game three “dead rubber”.

Of course, NSW skipper Paul Gallen (hip), bruising veteran Greg Bird (eight week ban) and fullback ace Jarryd Hayne (NFL) were unavailable.

But Daley showed real desire to regenerate the Blues side by overlooking Test veteran Luke Lewis and looking to a new breed of forwards.

Bulldogs Origin rookies Josh Jackson (age 24) and David Klemmer (21) have been thrust into a beefed-up pack that looks to make up in sheer size for what they lack in Origin experience.

Overall, Queensland (265 games in total) boast a stunning 160 games more Origin experience than NSW (105).

And there are no prizes for guessing how Daley reckons he can counter this in game one.

The burly all-forwards bench may be a giveaway.

Then there’s Daley’s halves.

The procession of NSW pairings appeared to finally end when no-frills Trent Hodkinson proved the perfect foil for his livewire Bulldogs buddy Josh Reynolds in 2014.

Yet Daley again rolled the dice ahead of game one, picking Sydney Roosters halfback Mitchell Pearce out of position at pivot to partner an out-of-sorts Hodkinson.

Pearce admitted he had not played five-eighth since schoolboy football.

If that tidbit had not raised a chuckle in the Maroons camp, a “highlights” reel of Pearce’s Origin gaffes uploaded on YouTube before the season opener surely would have.

To put Pearce’s past Origin frustrations in perspective, the footage goes for six solid minutes.

He has never featured in a winning Origin series.

If that was not damning enough, it has emerged Pearce has achieved just two line breaks despite touching the ball 616 times in his 12 previous Origins.

A more mature Pearce is back after being overlooked for the 2014 series following his involvement in a Sydney nightclub incident leading up to Origin I last year.

Daley opted to tamper with a winning formula at the NSW camp, too.

The Blues mentor loosened the leash, relaxing his no-booze ban that seemed to work so well last year.

And Queensland?

They may be likened to the Dad’s Army TV show but their Origin approach is best summed up by a movie. Groundhog Day.

The Maroons again played the loyalty card, giving the veterans the chance to win back an Origin trophy they once seemed to own by right.

They picked just one debutant for game one – Broncos prop Josh McGuire – until forced into another when bench utility Daly Cherry-Evans was ruled out, to be replaced by either Cowboys livewire Michael Morgan or hard-hitting Dylan Napa.

The team’s average age is 29 compared to NSW’s 26 – a number pumped up by their spine of Billy Slater (31), pivot Johnathan Thurston (31), halfback Cooper Cronk (32) and hooker Cameron Smith (31).

Maroons centre Justin Hodges – 33 this month – has announced he will retire from representative football at season’s end.

However, the sense of deja vu in the Queensland camp may not end any time soon – especially in the coach’s box.

Maroons mentor Mal Meninga celebrated his 10th year at the helm by re-signing for another three years.

It remains to be seen if Daley’s bold approach or Meninga’s tried and tested formula provides the Midas touch in 2015.

But one thing is for sure, it seems. The more things change in NSW, the more they stay the same in Queensland.

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