By Ricky Stuart, The Sunday Telegraph
THERE’S a story I like to go back to from time to time.
It’s about a boxer, an old middleweight champion named Vito Antuofermo, and the night he fought a fighter called Cyclone Hart.
Hart was a big puncher and a big favourite. Everybody expected him to win.
But sometimes when you go looking for a winner you have to go deeper than that. You have to understand there are some things you can’t measure, what we like to call the intangibles.
You can measure how fast someone can run the 40m dash. How much they can bench press. You can measure how hard a fighter can hit.
But you can’t measure his heart. Or how much punishment he is willing to endure to get the win.
So in the fight against Hart, Antuofermo was taking all sorts of punishment. He swore to himself that the next time Hart landed a shot good enough he was going down and he wasn’t getting up again.
Then Hart would land and Antuofermo would say to himself just one more. One more and then I’ll go down.
Then came the fifth round, and when Antuofermo landed one of his own Hart went down and didn’t get back up.
After the fight the two fighters were in the dressing room, separated by a curtain, and Antuofermo told his corner how he wanted to go down and was waiting for Hart to land one more clean punch.
At that point he heard sobbing behind the curtain.
Hart had listened in to Antuofermo’s story and suddenly realised how close he had come to winning.
More, he realised that if he had persisted a little longer, had been prepared to withstand a little more punishment, he could have landed the blow that would have won him the fight.
If this Origin series was a fight, where would the Blues be right now? What round would it be?
Both teams were tired in Wednesday’s game. Both were hurt. Both were injured.
NSW won because they were willing to endure more.
If the Morris twins were Queenslanders they’d have their statues up already at Suncorp Stadium.
Throughout the game the message kept going down to Brett Morris from the Blues coaching box to give them “five more minutes”.
His shoulder dislocated, that five minutes never ended.
He finished the game with a try-saving tackle on Darius Boyd.
Then we saw the image of his brother Josh, the ligaments in his knee torn and the doctors checking him on the sideline.
Then he rose to his feet and took off downfield to bring down Greg Inglis.
There’s a telling statistic of the game, something we can measure.
Queensland dominated NSW in all the important statistics except two: try saves and tackle saves.
Try saves speak for themselves. Tackle saves are tackles that prevent a player from making a line break.
It’s an area Queensland have constantly dominated NSW over the eight years of their current winning streak and no doubt built their success around, but last Wednesday night that belonged to the Blues.
NSW saved 14 tries against Queensland’s nine.
Both sides look like they will be significantly different next time around.
Greg Bird will be back for NSW. The extent of injuries to Anthony Watmough and the Morris twins is still unknown.
Queensland have similar concerns. We know Cooper Cronk is out of the series, but they have a ready replacement in Daly Cherry-Evans.
Sam Thaiday will be available, some are pushing for the inclusion of Dave Taylor, and like NSW nobody knows the extent of injuries being carried by Cameron Smith and Billy Slater.
There is a lot of coaching to be done between now and the next game. Both teams are going to have to pick new players in new positions.
Queensland are up against it. The last time the Maroons lost the first game in Brisbane and then came back to win the series was in 1987.
That’s how important home games are.
I haven’t told Laurie Daley who to pick and I’m not starting now. I’m confident he won’t stray from what won him game one.
While he went in with a rookie halves combination, he surrounded them with players who were prepared to endure, prepared to weather whatever pain came their way.
Players who, like Vito Antuofermo, were prepared to suffer a little more than their opponent to get the result.
Ricky Stuart is exclusively managed by The Fordham Company.