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I'd rather Chambers or Wallace than 'Statman': Walker

When the bright lights are shining in your eyes, it's easy to get blinded and distracted.

That's kind of how I feel about what happens to some supporters when State of Origin comes around.

It's such an event, such a spectacle, that it's tempting to get carried away, fall victim to a short memory and overlook what's really going on.

If I was to pinpoint a few areas where next Wednesday's game will be won or lost, the first thing I'd circle would be the match-up between Will Chambers and Latrell Mitchell.

With all the hype around Latrell, much of it deserved, people have been quick to unload on Will on social media and blame a heap of the team's woes on him.

Take a step back.

I see a guy who has been one of the game's premier centres over the past few seasons who still deserves to be considered in that category.

This is the same Will Chambers that helped Australia secure a World Cup at the end of last year; the same Will Chambers that had our back at key times when the series was in the balance in 2015 and 2017.

Will doesn't have a huge tally of tries in his nine Origin appearances to date, but he does a lot of things that his teammates love – like rucking the ball off our try line when everyone else is gasping for air.

He's deceptively big and strong, makes a dent and gets speed in the ruck happening from inside defensive territory.

We all know Will is a fiery character and he doesn't back down from a challenge, but he can also be skilful and graceful when the occasion calls for it.

I don't think people appreciate how rare it is to have all his attributes in combination.

In the match-up of Will v Latrell, if I was a business analyst, I see a premium asset that's perhaps underperformed for a brief few weeks up against a temperamental stock that is riding a wave, but has been known to fluctuate.

Don't get me wrong - Latrell can be a beast.

But I also know the saying about never betting against a champion.

The universe will realign at some stage.

Queensland has exposed New South Wales on the edges in both games of this series – particularly at the start of Origin II.

The execution hasn't always been there and some key chances that could have turned both games have gone begging.

But I feel structurally and physically, that Queensland have something to work with there.

Kevin Walters knows this and, again if fans take a backward step, they will see he has tried to implement a gameplan that exploits this fact.

It hasn't clicked completely yet, but there are points to be scored when it comes off.

People are sitting at home bagging our forwards for not racking up big metres, or for passing at the line instead of trying to ram through the middle.

I'm sorry, but that's a blinkered way to watch a game of footy.

Sure, we've got a guy like Dylan Napa who is an absolute tearaway and wants to destroy anything that comes near him, but there are guys like Jarrod Wallace and Josh McGuire that have subtlety to their game that should be utilised.

For the ball to get to the edges and to keep defenders in channels, you need big men attracting attention, then shifting the ball to someone with more space.

That means their stats column is not going to be flush with big digits.

Yes, the backs have run for more metres in both games, but that's actually an indicator the strategy is having some success.

I don't think stats ever tell the full story about a rugby league game. I honestly believe some stats are just invented to keep people in a job.

I've been to a few Origin dinners and luncheons lately and there's one former New South Wales player who keeps popping up in conversation – because he played for his own stats.

That's what his former teammates have been saying. It's not just heckling from wound-up Queenslanders.

There were games when the result was in the balance and he'd take two hit-ups with the clock running down and nullify the play.

He was taking blindside runs when his team was setting for a field goal or overcalling his half and making other blokes looks bad.

There's even a song about him doing the rounds – 'The Statman'.

Everyone out there who only cares about rugby league for 240 minutes of the year when State of Origin happens is free to go on and bag Will or Jarrod or even Kevvie as coach.

But those three men know what is what in this sport – and their teammates and true rugby league fans will appreciate everything they've tried to do to put the team first and in a better position.

Acknowledgement of Country

Queensland Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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