NRL Round Table: Are the Blues going to dominate or not?

Each week ESPN's resident NRL experts will take a look at the burning issues in rugby league and try to come up with the answers. Their opinions might not match yours, but they should certainly spark further debate on the latest conundrums facing the game we all love.

Are we facing a dominant State of Origin era for New South Wales or not?

Lucie: Bluewash or not, New South Wales' triumph marks the start of a new dynasty in State of Origin because this team is only going to get better. Not only do Brad Fittler's Blues have the talent and desire, but they also have youth on their side. Wally Lewis Medal winner Tom Trbojevic is only 24 years old, the same as Latrell Mitchell and Jarome Luai. Nathan Cleary and Cam Murray are 23, while dancing winger Brian To'o is 22. This cohort has a bright future ahead and just imagine how successful they could be with more time and experience in hand. I don't think Wednesday night's loss taints this because the Queensland side that strung together eight in a row, only had one whitewash in that period. And remember, these NSW stars grew up watching that. They have a bone to pick. The Maroons boasted the likes of Cameron Smith, Billy Slater, Greg Inglis, Cooper Cronk and Johnathon Thurston in their dominant era and now the tables have turned. The Blues have the lion share of elite talent and beat Queensland by a combined 94-26 this series. That's no small feat. Yes, a lot has to fall in their favour for a dominant run - for instance the cost of losing halves pairing Nathan Cleary and Jarome Laui was evident in Origin III - but with all fit and in form the Blues will blossom.

Darren: After a combined 76-6 score line over the first two games of the 2021 series it seemed fairly apparent that the Blues were at the dawn of a new era of State of Origin dominance. Everything clicked, from the mobile forwards, to the slick new Panthers halves paining, to the electrifying outside backs. There seemed very little Queensland could do to prevent a clean sweep and a decade of seeing the shield in the hands of the New South Welshman. That was until the Penrith pair had to miss Game 3 through injury and the Maroons had a couple of key changes to their own line-up. All the spirit in the world wasn't going to help Queensland in the first two games, because they were simply outclassed. The return of Kalyn Ponga at fullback and the selection of Ben Hunt at hooker made a big difference to their attacking potency for the final game. Their narrow victory gives them plenty of hope moving forward. With Harry Grant to return next year and players like Reece Walsh and Sam Walker waiting in the wings, the future is not so bleak. If the Blues can name their best squad, they'll still take a lot of beating, but it seems unlikely they will ever match Queensland's fabled eight in a row.

Do you agree with Tom Trbojevic receiving the Wally Lewis medal?

Lucie: Without taking away from what Tom Trbojevic produced this Origin series, I think Latrell Mitchell should have edged him on this one. No doubt the Wally Lewis Medal was a race between the NSW centres and I don't envy the Kangaroos selectors' job of separating the two. Both scored four tries and were lethal in attack, while their defence also caused the Maroons headaches. Trbojevic had that try-saver on Xavier Coates in Game II, while Latrell had the one-on-one strip and intercept try. But on Wednesday night the former was kept relatively quiet, with the record-levelling fifth try eluding him as he ran 166 metres (in comparison to 215 in Game I and 180 in Game II). Mitchell shone in all three and played what I think was his best football to date. His fleet-footed dance over the line made the Maroons look silly in Game III, where he also took on the goalkicking duties in the absence of Nathan Cleary. I can't help but wonder whether if he had converted that last penalty, could he have piped his teammate for the Man of the Series award? Without the voting numbers it's hard to tell, but I do think he was unlucky not to complete his storied return to Origin with the medal for the series' best.

Darren: The Wally Lewis Medal was only ever going to go to one of three players after the way New South Wales dominated the opening two games of the 2021 State of Origin series. The trifecta of Blues fullbacks were the best performing players on the field for either side, it was just a matter of picking between James Tedesco, Latrell Mitchell or Tom Trbojvic. I would have been happy for either Trbojevic or Mitchell to win the medal, but I think they probably went with Tommy after his devastating performance in Game 1. All three were a little off in the final game, with Trbojevic and Mitchell not seeing as much clean ball from the new halves pairing and Tedesco trying to do too much in and around the ruck to help out. Through his absence in Game 3 Nathan Cleary might have proven himself the most valuable player to the Blues, as it became pretty clear that all of their quality attack starts with the Panthers' halfback.

Which coach is under the most fire in the final rounds of the season?

Lucie: With Wests Tigers needing a miracle to avoid extending the longest finals drought in NRL history, Michael Maguire is under fire to turn their season around and fast. I've backed Madge all the way through this stuttering campaign, but it seems as though the Tigers are just getting worse. They've lost three on the trot to a dismal total score of 144-50, headlined by the Storm's 66-16 thrashing on the Sunshine Coast. Fans hoped that would have been the team's wake-up call, but it was a similar story in the first half of their next match against the Rabbitohs at Leichhardt Oval. Since then, there have been reports of a player revolt with some not taking kindly to Maguire saying he "needed men". Whether the issue is with Madge or the lack of men, the club needs to move forward in some form for 2022. I don't think the Tigers should show Madge the door just yet with their history of a coaching carousel, because if anything the club needs some stability. That could come with the return of Tim Sheens as head of football, but until then Madge has to find a way to get the best out of his current cohort. He has eight rounds to do so, with Sunday's clash with the Broncos likely crucial to his future at the club. It's a winnable match for the Tigers, who sit 13th, and they should also take heart in playing the Bulldogs twice to close out the season. Those matches will be vital to turning the tide of their campaign, the players' attitudes, and the coach's future.

Darren: There are a number of coaches that should be under pressure, but they are in the very early stages of their tenures and need to be given more time. To be specific; Trent Barrett at the Bulldogs, Nathan Brown at the Warriors, Todd Payten at the Cowboys and Kevin Walters at the Broncos are all in charge of underperforming clubs, with little real improvement to show for their short time at the helm. The fact they are all in their first year relieves some of the immediate pressure, but fans and boards only have so much patience. If they haven't improved their teams by this time next year, the axes could start to be sharpened. Michael Maguire is in his third year at the Tigers and they are still struggling. In his favour is the club's reticence to sack yet another coach after the revolving door treatment the position has received in recent years. Also under pressure would be Ricky Stuart who appears to have lost the playing group in Canberra, in a rapid fall from runners-up status in 2019. He would still have some credit banked from that performance, but it is rapidly running out. If the Raiders don't make a late charge at the Top 8, Stuart's coaching tenure could be the most under threat.