• Tom Trbojevic is congratulated by Josh Addo-Carr after scoring a try during game two of the 2019 State of Origin series. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images) (Getty Images AsiaPac)Source: Getty Images AsiaPac
OPINION: Timana Tahu says Women’s State of Origin deserves a larger platform, NZ rugby league can greater embrace young Maori talent, and credit to NSW men’s team who’ve set up a massive Origin game three
Timana Tahu

Over the Black Dot
25 Jun 2019 - 1:55 PM  UPDATED 25 Jun 2019 - 1:55 PM

Origin is such a great spectacle and we’re set for what should be a thrilling game three in Sydney in two weeks’ time.

NSW played well in Perth on Sunday and Queensland didn’t come out ready to go.

All credit to the back three of NSW too and I’ll be taking a good look at why NSW won so well, on Over the Black Dot tonight on NITV.

We’ll get back to the men’s game shortly, but another huge highlight of the weekend was the Women’s State of Origin on Friday night.

NSW won but I’d love to see a three-game series and it’s time we saw more women’s Origin matches, even if it is a two-game home-and-away series.

The game has grown so much and I’m big fan of and advocate for women’s rugby league.

Both of my daughters play and if there’s a future for them in the game, hopefully there are professional opportunities for women because it would be awesome to see a sport like rugby league provide those opportunities.

For young girls and youth to see Women’s State of Origin on TV, it brings a hype and it gives kids a vision, knowing that these girls are on TV and they’re playing at the highest and elite levels.

They deserve the platform too.

Being around my girls’ sport and running tackling drills or whatever we’re doing, when I coach the girls you can see the hunger and they want to be fed more information every time. It’s quite different to some of the boys, who are used to it and are expecting to be trained, whereas the girls listen more intently and they absorb the information so much more readily and deeply.

It’s a real pleasure and thrill to coach these young girls and the women coming through. Hopefully the sport becomes a professional path for them because they deserve it.

Even just from a Koori Knockout perspective, it’s so important for those opportunities and pathways. For the young girls to be able to go to a Knockout and to see Origin players and Australian players playing in the Knockout, and then next they’re seeing them on TV playing for their state and country.

On Sunday in Perth, NSW came out with great intensity and just beat Queensland in defence. Queensland were too slow initially and couldn’t get a roll on.

In game one there was a lot of pressure on Queensland ahead of the match because there were a few players who were injured and looking at the teams on paper everyone thought NSW would dominate.

They ended up winning game one convincingly and Freddy made a lot of changes and he was under the pump all week. But it goes to show he knew what he was looking for in his gameplan and it worked out.

It was a strong performance from the back three at Optus Stadium too and Blake Ferguson had a blinder. His kick returns were awesome and he’s known for that. I had him in my side for game one and his involvement for game two was a big one and a really good change.

Tom Trbojevic was another one who helped change the game.

‘Turbo Tom’ was always going to be in the NSW side when he got fit and back on the field so they just had to work out where to put him. He’s Manly’s fullback and played in the centres but he was like a second fullback.

A lot of his plays were supporting plays and that’s just his natural instinct to be there.

He is a superstar and everyone on those teams are superstars, so I’m not taking anything away from him and the game he played, but as a centre, he didn’t really do the things a centre usually does. It was his fullback skills that came into it which made the difference and helped in him scoring his tries.

The standalone representative round was great on Saturday night too.

It’s just awesome to see the Tonga community and how they gather around their team and the atmosphere that they bring when they play.

Tonga missed Andrew Fifiita on Saturday but they came up against a Kiwis team that needed to go out there and prove they’re still an elite team and a force to be reckoned with.

Like Origin, we’ll look more deeply at the Pacific Tests on Over the Black Dot tonight, but for New Zealand, during the World Cup they underperformed and lost to some teams they shouldn’t have been losing to.

Some players are starting to go back to their home country as well, which is great because of the growth those players help foster, but tough for New Zealand.

Martin Taupau went back and played for Samoa on the weekend and a few of the boys in the Tongan team are ex-Kiwi players such as Jason Taumalolo.

But the Kiwis looked really good on the weekend, although they still need to do more in developing players and I’d like to see more done with Maori rugby league.

We need to start looking in our own backyard as well and developing those kids. Especially over here in Australia. There are a lot of kids who are half Maori and half Aboriginal such as me, or half Maori and another heritage or descent.

Mark Horo was a Test player with New Zealand and also with Parramatta and a couple of others in the NRL. He does a lot of work with the New Zealand Maori community in Sydney and my son got an opportunity to play with the NSW Maori last year in a sort of Pacific Nations Cup in Western Sydney.

It’s a really encouraging area of development for the game and something New Zealand rugby league can embrace even more, because a lot of these kids can be the future of the sport.

Timana Tahu is a former rugby league, rugby union player and dual international, husband, father and a vegan advocate and panellist for NITV's Over the Black Dot

Over The Black Dot airs Tuesdays, 8.30pm on NITV (Ch. 34).