IF Queensland axe Corey Oates for Origin I, the Maroons have lost their marbles.
Any suggestion Oates should be stripped of his Queensland jumper was blown away as the Broncos hulk and Anthony Milford carved up the Tigers in Brisbane’s 36-0 cakewalk at Suncorp Stadium.
On match eve, a man no less esteemed than Test coach Mal Meninga called for the relegation of Oates to the Queensland bench at the expense of Kangaroos flyer Valentine Holmes.
But with Queensland coach Kevin Walters watching on, Oates settled the debate to catapult Brisbane to their sixth straight win.
The incumbent Maroons winger terrorised the Tigers, creating Brisbane’s opening try before Milford joined the party, setting up three others as Brisbane charged to a 24-0 halftime lead.
“Corey carried the ball well,” Broncos coach Wayne Bennett said. “He lost a bit of concentration in the second half, but my position (on Oates being picked for Queensland) hasn’t changed since yesterday.”
The only downside for the Broncos was the loss of hooker Andrew McCullough, who was ferried off in the 59th minute after a sickening head knock attempting to tackle Kyle Lovett.
Play was stopped for several minutes as medicos from both clubs attended to McCullough, who was later cleared of any serious head trauma.
But with or without McCullough, the Broncos were never going to be headed against a strife-torn Tigers side which struggled to cope with Oates’ size and Milford’s magic.
Granted, Oates wasn’t flawless. With Brisbane coasting at 30-0, he grassed a pass with the line wide open and dropped the ball cold in the final quarter.
But by then, intensity had dropped. When the sting was still in the contest, Oates was consistently bruising, making three tackle busts and two line breaks as he amassed a game-high 189 metres from 14 runs.
Milford also made an Origin statement, but Bennett stood firm on his refusal to release his Broncos pivot unless he is guaranteed to make Queensland’s starting 17.
“My position is extremely firm,” he said. “I don’t know what’s going on with Johnathan Thurston (shoulder injury) but they have Michael Morgan there.
By fulltime, Walters was breathing easy. All of Brisbane’s Origin contingent — Oates, Sam Thaiday, Matt Gillett, Josh McGuire and Darius Boyd — finished the match unscathed ahead of the naming of the Queensland team on Monday.
It was a clinical performance by the Broncos. Given the soap-opera enveloping the depleted Tigers, Brisbane were expected to win in a canter and they executed with professionalism to enter the turbulent Origin season with a slick 8-3 win-loss record.
“I was pleased. We got the job done,” Bennett said. “The margin didn’t matter ... we kept our tryline intact and picked up some points on the way through.”
It took 13 minutes for the Broncos to unlock the Tigers and the attacking trickle soon became an offensive flood as Brisbane posted four tries in 24 minutes.
Nikorima kickstarted the rout, releasing Oates with a sublime ball for Tautau Moga’s opening try. And when Milford had a hand in tries to Alex Glenn (23rd), Sims (34th) and Jordan Kahu (37th), the Broncos slipped into cruise control.
Fulltime BRISBANE 36 (A Glenn J Kahu A Milford T Moga K Nikorima K Sims tries J Kahu 6 goals) bt WESTS TIGERS 0 at Suncorp Stadium. Referee: Gavin Reynolds, Grant Atkins. Crowd: 21,197.