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The Sydney Morning Herald


Date: 26/05/1988
Words: 621
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: Sport
Page: 55
"There hasn't been a nuclear war, nobody's been killed and my wife hasn't left me. It's a football match - and we've got another chance next Tuesday night."

With the wryness and humour so characteristic of the man, John Peard went a long way towards chasing away the hysteria that followed NSW's defeat in State of Origin No 1.

The NSW coach has spent a week of self-searching and review, trying to pinpoint what went wrong for the Blues in the first game.

He has watched the video again and again, and pinpointed problem areas:

* The failure to cover Allan Langer's kicks.

* The tackles missed and half-made by NSW; the Blues missed 36 tackles in the game. The top tackler on the night, Royce Simmons (32), has been dropped.

* Queensland's kicking game was better.

* Queensland went forward with the ball all night - NSW did not.

* NSW made too many errors.

Peard said all the problems could be remedied.

The Blues coach seems relaxed and unfazed by the "World War III" headlines that followed the defeat, and he is working hard to provide the answers.

"My attention to detail wasn't as good as it should have been," he said.

"We can improve."

Two factors weighing heavily in favour of a vastly different NSW performance in the Lang Park colosseum next Tuesday are:

* The severe battering dealt to the NSW players' pride.

* The fact that Barry Gomersall will be in Mackay, or at least not on the paddock. Gomersall did NSW no favours, including allowing a try that wasn't a try to Alan McIndoe, permitting a skinny 5m in defence and letting pass a dubious scrum feed which led to Langer's critical try.

But there are still some features of the NSW side that worry.

The back five - the second-rowers, lock and halves - must surely be among the smallest ever to represent the Blues.

Size and weight were a problem for NSW in the first match, with players falling off tackles against the seemingly more robust Queenslanders.

Les Davidson, pitched into the front row in a questionable decision by the selectors, looked a stone lighter than usual. And Wayne Pearce and Peter Sterling were kilos below their normal playing weight.

It's to be hoped that Sterling, who is battling the flu now, and "Junior"Pearce will be back in glowing health by Tuesday.

Referee Greg McCallum flew home from Port Moresby late on Monday night, his head spinning with memories of the most extraordinary experience of his career in football.

Last Sunday McCallum refereed the Test between Great Britain and Papua New Guinea, in 38C heat and with fans clustered in trees and clinging to lights around the ground.

"It was unforgettable," he said.

Spectators in the 14,000-strong crowd clapped him on and off the field -itself an amazing event for a Sydney-based referee.

McCallum said he was "pretty impressed" with the British team, who won 42-22.

"They will cause Australia some worry, I'm sure of that," he said.

"I'm impressed with the whole outfit. Under Malcolm Reilly they are a highly professional squad. They are here to do a job."

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