Maroons again wear the ‘underdogs’ tag for Origin

\"\"Caption: Media and wagering icon Gerard Daffy, left, previews the TAB Queensland Winter Greyhound Racing Carnival with Queensland industry heavyweights Mick Zammit, middle, and Tony Brett, at the carnival launch. (Photo: Box 1 Photography)

 

TAB STATE OF ORIGIN HONOUR BOARD

2018: Queensland beat NSW 2-1

Sprint: Jury (Tony Brett, Qld).

Distance: Double Gee (Selena Zammit, Qld).

Match race: Mister Beluchi (Frank Hancock, NSW).

2019: NSW beat Queensland 2-1.

Sprint: Dam Slippery (Brett Hazelgrove, Qld).

Distance: Poco Dorado (John Finn, NSW).

Match race: Feral Franky (Jack Smith, NSW).

 

By TERRY WILSON

THE hopes of a home state win in the third staging of the TAB State Of Origin have taken a hammering over recent months yet hope is still high of a Maroon victory in the interstate challenge this month.

In typical Origin fashion (a history forged by the intense rivalry between Queensland and New South Wales in rugby league) the rival states are locked at one series win apiece since the first staging in 2018.

Queensland won that one 2-1, then in 2019 the Blues reversed the result. Last year’s SOO was not held because of the ravages of COVID-19.

This year’s interstate battle is set for Albion Park on June 17 with total prizemoney of $150,000 as the major lure for the top-flight runners set to do battle.

The Origin is decided over three races – the Sprint Challenge (520m), The Distance Challenge (710m) and a two-dog Match Race (520m).

The Sprint and Distance events carry $60,000 each, with $40,000 to the winners. The Match Race has $30,000 up for grabs with the winner to get $25,000.

Both the Sprint and the Distance will have four chasers from each state going for interstate glory.

One of three Queensland selectors to finalise a four-strong team to take on the best from NSW in three events is Brisbane Greyhound Racing Club boss Luke Gatehouse and he acknowledges a tough road ahead for the Maroons to claim victory.

At one stage a month or so ago Queensland looked set to parade a mighty team this time around, one headed by Victorian ‘recruit’ Simon Told Helen and Queensland Greyhound of the Year Oh Mickey.

Unfortunately, both of those dogs became unavailable. Oh Mickey broke down and was retired and the sad story is that Simon Told Helen, going along nicely for new trainer Tony Brett, died after sustaining a twisted bowel.

Still, Queensland hopes remain positive with the likes of Crazy Cool, Extra Malt, Sequana (if fit), Ninety Mile King and Rockhampton Cup winner Orchestrate to choose from.

“He was trialling sensationally and was going to be a headline act for the Winter Carnival,” said Brett of Simon Told Helen.

Brett also lost promising Sentenced, through injury, from his list of Carnival hopes.

On the prospects of a Maroon victory in the series, Gatehouse was optimistically confident.

“I know it’s going to be tough and talking with our team they’re not so confident we’ll be able to get up over New South Wales, but let’s hope we do,” he said.

“We missed last year (through COVID) so we’re trying to avenge our 2019 defeat.

“Interest in the Origin series is amazing again this year. All the New South Wales participants have come on board and they’re all trying to get into their Origin team.”

Gatehouse said outstanding performers such as Million Dollar Chase winner Handsome Prince, Jungle Deuce and a ‘whole heap of Zipping dogs’ are going well at the moment.

“And it will be interesting to see if Wow represents that state.”

Adding to a night of Origin fever are extra events – the Regional Origin Challenge (520m) and the Emerging Origin Stars (520m), both worth $11,200.

The Regional Challenge covers both Queensland and New South Wales with Maroons heats at Ipswich on June 11 and the NSW qualifiers at Casino on June 4.

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