Corey Norman in action during Queensland State of Origin training at Langlands Park in Brisbane, Friday, July 5, 2019. Queensland are preparing for the 3rd State of Origin against New South Wales to be played in Sydney on Wednesday, July 10. (AAP Image/Darren England) NO ARCHIVING
Corey Norman in action during Queensland State of Origin training at Langlands Park in Brisbane, Friday, July 5, 2019. Queensland are preparing for the 3rd State of Origin against New South Wales to be played in Sydney on Wednesday, July 10. (AAP Image/Darren England) NO ARCHIVING

Corey Parker: The ratbag who will save Maroons

There's few more special times in a rugby league player's career than when they get a phone call to tell them that they're set to make their State of Origin debut.

For players like Ben Ikin, Israel Folau, Laurie Daley and Brad Fittler the call came early in their careers when they were still teenagers.

But for some, like 28 year-old Queensland debutant Corey Norman, the call comes later.

When Kalyn Ponga was ruled out of the State of Origin decider the drums were beating on who would be his replacement, but for me there was only one player capable of filling the void.

When you look back on the history of State of Origin football there's one thing that the best players have in common - the likes of Allan Langer, Brad Fittler, Johnathan Thurston and Andrew Johns - they're all ratbags.

I use the term ratbag with the utmost respect because the above mentioned men are not only some of the greatest Origin players of all-time, but they're some of the greatest players of all-time full-stop.

Being a ratbag doesn't mean that you're a dirty player nor does it mean that you're out there to deliver cheap shots or are constantly in the referee's ear.

There's a great saying you'll hear around Rugby League circles that goes "don't take your divots with you" and that's exactly what ratbags do.

Corey Norman will play a huge role in the decider.
Corey Norman will play a huge role in the decider.

Having played with and watched Norman play over the last nine years I can tell you that he's never taken a divot with him.

Ratbags play what's in front of them, they take their opportunities when they arise and if and when they make a mistake they don't kick stones, they pick themselves up, dust themselves off and get on with the job.

There aren't many players in the game who walk with the same air of confidence or play with the same amount of swagger as Norman does.

Most players would be packing bricks at the thought of making their State of Origin debut, in a decider, on enemy soil, in the most important position on the field, but not Norman. The ratbag in him will make sure that he's not overawed by the occasion.

At 185cm and 91kg, Norman won't be the most intimidating or athletic player on the paddock tonight, but like all ratbags he's football strong.

Norman will make his tackles, will run with purpose, has a strong passing game and possesses a strong left foot kicking game.

His confidence in his own ability is second to none and from what he's shown with the Dragons this year it's more than warranted.

In Round 3, Norman returned to his old stomping ground at Suncorp Stadium and with the game on the line, chief playmaker Gareth Widdop in the sheds nursing a dislocated shoulder and a pro-Broncos crowd baying for blood, Norman stepped up to the plate and knocked over a 35m game-winning field goal like it was nothing.

And that's what the ratbag in Norman allows him to do. Norman is never phased or overawed on the paddock.

Norman won’t be overawed.
Norman won’t be overawed.

You can't beat around the bush, the task for the Maroons tonight is one of the toughest in Origin history.

The Blues were absolutely outstanding in Game 2 led by the king of the ratbags, James Maloney, and will take some serious beating on their home track.

Maloney will partner with another ratbag, Mitchell Pearce, in the halves for the Blues, a man he has won a premiership and three minor premierships with.

The Blues ratbags will be up for the challenge tonight, yes they'll make mistakes, but they won't let them rule their performance, they'll take their opportunities when they arise and put the Maroons under enormous pressure.

Queensland will start the match as rank outsiders with no one born south of the Tweed giving them a chance to win, but it's in these conditions that ratbags thrive.

If the Maroons forwards can hold their own in the middle and give Norman some room to weave his magic, his debut could be the greatest ratbag to riches story in Origin history.

I'm tipping Queensland by six with Norman to win the battle of the ratbags.

 

Don't miss NRL 360's State of Origin review with Kevin Walters and Greg Alexander, Thursday night at 6.30pm on FOX LEAGUE and streamed on Foxtel Now

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