After regaining the title last year, the Maroons head into this season as outsiders in the first match but favorites to take out the title overall for the second consecutive year and the 10th time in the past 11 years. Having two matches played in NSW is an advantage to them, however they will still have to overcome the class and quality that lies within the Maroons team. There was plenty of debate leading up to (and after) selection of the two sides and with several surprises named, there is a degree of uncertainty as to how this series will play out. The Maroons squad has remained relatively the same, although they have a new coach and 2 players having their Origin debut in the team; compared with the Blues, they have 5 players debuting and new combinations needing to be formed within their “spine”. Drama and tension is always high but both teams are quick to remind fans of the potential of their opponents and heading into Wednesday’s contest, you would think that neither team considers themselves as favorties. Game 1 is traditionally a close contest and defensive structure is a focus for both teams in the lead up; especially the Blues after they were pounded 52-6 in the deciding Game 3 at Suncorp Stadium last year. There is more than enough motivation for both teams in this match and by the time they run out onto ANZ Stadium, nerves will have to be put aside in the biggest match of the Rugby League calendar kicks off once again.
1. Moylan 2. Mansour 3. Jennings 19. Morris 5. Ferguson 6. Maloney 7. A. Reynolds 8. Gallen 9. Farah 10. Woods 11. Jackson 12. Cordner 13. Bird
Interchange: 14. Fifita 15. Tamou 16. Klemmer 17. Walker
As expected, Laurie Daley has taken a youthful approach. There is (again) a new halves pairing, while Jackson and Cordner get their first chance to start an Origin match. Dylan Walker, coming of the bench, was the biggest surprise; with his role likely to revolve around mirroring Moylan when he takes the field and providing another support and ball playing option at the line. The Blues have plenty of power coming off their bench and they will be certain to test out the Maroons forwards in the middle. There is no love lost between the two packs of forwards and the intensity between the two will be relentless over 80 minutes. With new faces in the side, there is plenty of uncertainty about how this team will perform.
FTS and/or LTS
Best selection = Blake Ferguson @ $11 – With Maloney and Reynolds in the team, Ferguson will be a threat and in the air. Mainly the latter, with both pinpoint with their attacking kicks. Ferguson can fly too so look for him to put himself in a fortunate position.
Roughie = Matt Moylan @ $17 – Moylan has demonstrated his attacking ability for the Panthers. He is great in support and will be looming up hoping to build of the back of one of the forwards offloads. If he cant capitalize here, expect him to also be a threat close to the line.
Best selection = Matt Moylan @ $13 – Moylan is a leader within his own club and will only thrive at the next level. Expect big things from him in this game and he is going to rise to the occasion and prove that he belongs here.
1. Boyd 2. Oates 3. Inglis 4. O’Neill 5. Gagai 6. Thurston 7. Cronk 8. Scott 9. Smith 10. Myles 11. Guerra 12. Gillett 13. Parkers
Interchange: 14. Morgan 15. McGuire 16. Thaiday 17. Papalii
Panic was sent around the Maroons camp on Friday when Cooper Cronk rolled his ankle at training. The plan to cover for him in to promote Morgan to the starting side, which would reignite his successful halves pairing with Thurston and Jacob Lillyman would come onto the bench. Everything else remains consistent with recent reams, with Boyd to play fullback in the absence of Billy Slater and Corey Oates debuting on the wing. Justin O’Neill also gets his chance to cover for Justin Hodges in the centres. The forwards will create majority of the momentum for their team and while they’re getting older, there is plenty to like about the experience they bring and the power they will create in the middle, it will be a strong challenge to how they fair against a youthful Blues pack.
FTS and/or LTS
Best selection = Corey Oates @ $9 – Oates has come into the team in form and will look to capitalize on the fact that he’ll be playing outside Inglis. Boyd benefitted from this in the past and now Oates will be the Maroons attacking threat out on their left edge.
Roughie = Cameron Smith @ $34 – Smith doesn’t score many tries but he has a great knack of popping up in support and on the back of kicks. These odds given are too high for a player of his quality who aims to lead with his actions.
Best selection = Matt Gillett @ $26 – Thurston ($5.50), Smith ($9) and Cronk ($10) are the obvious selections but for some value, the forwards is where the game will be won. It has been no secret that Gillett has been one of the best forwards in the league in 2016. Expect another big game from him in this match as he proves how he is apart of the Maroons next generation of stars. A little note though, perhaps Michael Morgan ($26) is also worth some though if Cronk is ruled out.
With uncertainty around the Blues and how they’ll play, the Maroons may find this game tougher than they are perhaps expecting. The Blues will come out firing and do not want to give away their home ground advantage to their opponents easily either. The real battle will take place in the middle of the field, where the two packs are expected to relentlessly pressure each other over 80 minutes. The kicking game of Adam Reynolds may just put NSW in a better position on the field to continually build pressure and the Maroons may not know the best way to attack their opponents until they see them play together. That is not to completely overlook the Maroons, but with a new coach, aging team and a halfback that may be unavailable, the time is right for the Blues to strike. It will be very tight and difficult for them to do this but the expected conditions may also favor them. Rain is predicted, with this only working to limit the attacking raids of their opponents. As stated above, Game 1 is always a tight contest; with the average margin of victory being 5.5 point in the past 10 matches. This is too good to overlook investing in either team to win by a converted try, while whichever team wins would do so by a 1-12 margin. For the sake of making a selection, I would recommend the Blues until we see what they offer over 80 minutes.
Either team under 6.5 Points @ $2.40