State of Origin’s famous hate, the interstate loathing that launched Australia’s most bitter sporting rivalry, has turned into a love-in.
And it’s not Dave Smith’s fault.
Mutual respect between NSW and Queensland has been the overwhelming narrative in the lead-up to Origin I in Sydney on Wednesday.
The Blues and Maroons have offered nothing but positive appraisals of the opposition at their respective Coffs Harbour and Gold Coast training bases.
When asked if the Queensland forward pack was ripe for the picking given the underwhelming NRL form of Nate Myles and Aidan Guerra, NSW prop Aaron Woods played the straightest of bats.
“Not really. They are really good players. Blokes like Nate Myles, Matt Scott, Corey Parker – they are all playing unreal footy at the moment,” Woods said.
“Myles is a class player. I don’t think the criticism is due to him. I think he has been playing pretty good footy for Manly this year.
“You never underestimate your opponent and we respect them that much, we have to go out there and do our own job.”
Former NRL chief Dave Smith put an end to Origin’s infamous biff in 2013 when he issued his “one punch and you’re off” edict following a brawl between Myles and Blues captain Paul Gallen.
Smith wanted the game to appeal more to mothers and families. Hardcore fans said Origin would never be the same.
Perhaps they’re right, but perhaps the sanitised approach from the Blues and Maroons so far is a reflection of the personalities of their “good guy” coaches in NSW’s Laurie Daley and Queensland’s Kevin Walters.
On Thursday, Maroons back-rower Corey Parker didn’t want to discuss 2015’s on-field verbal battle with David Klemmer.
And on Friday, the Maroons had nothing but admiration for Blues rookies Adam Reynolds and Matt Moylan.
“He’s definitely one of the better kickers in the competition,” Maroons fullback Darius Boyd said of Reynolds.
“(James) Maloney is great, too, and Robbie (Farah) having the left foot makes it tough. We will have to do some homework.”
Boyd was gushing in his praise of Moylan, too.
“He’s one of the most skilful fullbacks in the game,” Boyd said.
“They have got some good outside backs, too. They will be looking for him to set up some options for them.”
Fans can only hope Wednesday brings some fireworks on the field.