State of Origin has arrived and yet again, NSW are holding onto hope that they will be able to break the dominance, which Queensland have had in recent years.
Once the series was decided last year, Game 3 went to the Blues by 4-points and with that win, confidence was restored as a new set of players were rising to take control of a team that had long been dominated by incumbents and their opponents. Queensland are current holders of the shield, making it 2-consecutive years in 2016 after the Blues halted their 8-year Origin domination back in 2014. Game 1 is extremely important to the remainder of the series as the team that wins, generally goes on to win the best of 3 matches. This year, there will be two games in Queensland and the Blues must overcome their fear of winning at this ground. Amazingly, the Blues are favorites to win this game and the series, with many believing that a changing of the guard is about to occur within both camps. The signs are there that this could be possible, although the Maroons are not likely to let their Origin dominance slip away without a fight; they have worked too hard to build their status within this contest and will have learned from the mistake that NSW made in the early 2000’s. Dominance is one thing, winning a game of rugby league over 80 minutes (or more) is another factor altogether. Combine this with the intensity, emotion, passion and desperation and there is little wonder as to why this game is one of the best on the planet!
- Darius Boyd 2. Corey Oates 3. Will Chambers 4. Justin O’Neill 5. Dane Gagai 6. Anthony Milford 7. Cooper Cronk 8. Dylan Napa 9. Cameron Smith (c) 10. Nate Myles 11. Josh Papalii 12. Matt Gillett 13. Josh McGuire
Interchange: 14. Michael Morgan 15. Sam Thaiday 16. Aidan Guerra 17. Jacob Lillyman
There were two major surprises in the Maroons team, one somewhat unexpected and the other forced by injury. Most notably, they will be without Thurston in the team for the first time in 36 matches. They were going to give him every chance of playing, although that was halted on Thursday as news broke that he would be officially out of this game. His replacement, Anthony Milford, has plenty of talent to offer this year; nevertheless, he is an unknown factor at this level and he will undoubtedly be tested. The other omission involved fullback and Billy Slater missing out on selection. Darius Boyd has kept this spot, as has Corey Oates on the wing; they have earned their spots, although it is surprising that a spot could not have been found for a player with the caliber of Slater. Milford and Napa are the only two players debuting in this team, with Napa expected to offer plenty of power to the Maroons pack that is without Matt Scott.
First Try Scorer/Last Try Scorer
Best option = Dane Gagai @ $13 – Gagai scored 4 tries in 3 matches last year, taking his overall tally to 5 in 4 matches. He has been one of the best for his club this year and will cause plenty of headaches for the edge defenders of the Blues. Expect him to go very close at one stage or another.
Outsider = Cooper Cronk @ $21 – Cronk has scored 5 tries this year at club level and while he is expected to be creating the tries, he is also fantastic with his support play. If a player breaks through the line, you can be assured that Cronk will be close by with support.
Matt Gillett @ $15 – Gillett was named MOM for the recent International and he is a key member of this team. His work rate in defense is extremely high and he is powerful when carrying the ball. Others such as Cronk ($8) and Smith ($6) are more fancied, yet the value here is too much to overlook.
New South Wales
- James Tedesco 2. Blake Ferguson 3. Josh Dugan 4. Jarryd Hayne 5. Brett Morris 6. James Maloney 7. Mitchell Pearce 8. Aaron Woods 9. Nathan Peats 10. Andrew Fifita 11. Josh Jackson 12. Boyd Cordner (c) 13. Tyson Frizell
Interchange: 14. David Klemmer 15. Wade Graham 16. Jake Trbojevic 17. Jack Bird
It is a new era for the Blues with several players either retiring or overlooked for selection, leaving some new players to the fold, as well as some old faces returning. Jarryd Hayne was name in the centres, although there is a question mark over his defense in this area at club level; Origin will offer a new challenge here altogether. Nathan Peats will debut at hooker and brings a new edge to this pack, as does captain Cordner, who will relish the opportunity to lead this team. Mitchell Peace has been given another chance to prove himself at this level; his club form this season has been outstanding and many are hoping that this can carry over into this game. He will resume his partnership with James Maloney, with the two enjoying time together back in 2013 when the Roosters won the Premiership. Some players are lucky to find themselves in this team, most notably Aaron Woods and David Klemmer. These two players have played well previously at this level, yet their 2017 form has been questionable. With Paul Vaughan left out of this side, they need an influential performance to keep the noise around his omission quiet.
First Try Scorer/Last Try Scorer
Best option = James Tedesco @ $11 – Tedesco featured in Game 3 last year and averaged 10.8m per carry. He was everywhere on the field and more importantly, popped up at numerous times in support of his ball carriers. With forwards such as Fifita, Woods and Frizell who are great at offloads, expect Tedesco to be hovering around, building momentum and finishing for a try.
Outsider = Tyson Frizell @ $26 – Frizell scored 2 tries in Origin in 2016 and despite being scoreless in 2017 at club level, there is little wonder as to why he is a threat close to the line. He will undoubtedly be steaming onto the ball throughout the match and if the Blues get close to the line, expect the Maroons to have a difficult time stopping him.
James Maloney @ $13 – Maloney was MOM last year in Game 3 when the Blues were victorious and he will need to be at his best if the Blues are to win this match. Maloney has the ability to take pressure away from Pearce with his game and will not be afraid to take the ball to the line and take a hit if it means a player breaking the line.
Overall = Maroons 58 Draw 2 Blues 48
At Suncorp Stadium = Maroons 63% Blues 35%
The Blues head into this game despite having just a 35% win record at Suncorp Stadium; to make matters worse, the Maroons have won 7 of the past 10 Game 1 matches. Before even going into who will win and why, recent history is extremely important to this game; the average margin of victory in the past 10 matches is 5.6 points, with the largest margin being 10-points back in 2009. Of the past 10 matches, the average of the total scored is 29.6 points, with last years total of 10-points being the lowest in the recent history. One thing is for sure, this match should be extremely close! As for the teams, the Maroons have again picked a strong side. Losing JT has hurt their chances somewhat; being the first game he has been absent in 36 outings casts doubt on the pressure that will build on the shoulders of Cronk and Smith. The Blues will be aware of this and you can expect extra pressure to come their way on both sides of the ball. On top of this is Milford and the impact that he will have on this match; that is a large unknown, yet his talent has been there for all to see. Just how he fits into the Maroons structure will be the telling fact in the opening 20 minutes or so. That of Mitchell Pearce equals Milford’s inclusion; he is a player that is in form yet doubt is cast over him at this level. His most recent efforts have been pleasing and perhaps a more mature player will deliver and improved performance. Fortunately for the Blues, he already has a familiar combination with Maloney and they have shared success in the NRL together. There is also doubt around the impact that Hayne will have; his attacking flair is bound to be on display but it is his defense that could determine the outcome of this match. At the end of the day, there are just too many question marks lingering over the Blues to take them with any confidence. Investing on the Maroons in this contest if favorable, although with the recent history, taking this game to be low scoring and close appears to be a better option.
Either Team Under 6.5 Points @ $2.25
Total Points Under 33.5 @ $1.90