We have a decider!!! Ever since the whistle blew for fulltime in Game 2, attention has been focused towards the deciding match of this epic series. The Maroons have their opponents just where they want them too, heading to Suncorp Stadium for Game 3. The task, which lies ahead of the Blues, is nothing short of demanding and they have to overcome plenty of challenges and history in order to win the match and take out the series. In many ways, the current situation which they find themselves in, is due to their inability to score points in the second half three weeks ago. As players from the Maroons were struggling and NSW headed into the break ahead 16-6; the try just prior to HT appeared to be just what they needed to break their opponents momentum. This wasn’t the case and a combination of desperation and class from the Maroons, as well as poor execution of a game plan from the Blues, lead to a magnificent achievement from the Maroons to win 18-16. A 76th minute try to Dane Gagai leveled the scores, with JT stepping up to convert the goal from wide out. The fairytale for the Maroons is being written as we speak, although the Blues will want to have some input to the outcome of this match. There were positives from them to take away from their last match; they had a better completion rate (81% v 78%) than the Maroons and missed less tackles (34 v 42). Furthermore, the issues that need to be fixed within their team moving ahead are performance related and can be controlled within the team with a higher level of execution. The Maroons also have their issues to overcome, mainly related to player availability and ongoing injuries. One thing is for sure, the proud Queenslanders will not want to give up their home ground advantage easily and will be out to ensure their rivals are not lifting the trophy up at the conclusion of this match.
- Billy Slater 2. Valentine Holmes 3. Will Chambers 4. Michael Morgan 5. Dane Gagai 6. Cameron Munster 7. Cooper Cronk 8. Dylan Napa 9. Cameron Smith (c) 10. Jarrod Wallace 11. Gavin Cooper 12. Matt Gillett 13. Josh McGuire
Interchange: 14. Ben Hunt 15. Josh Papalii 16. Coen Hess 17. Tim Glasby
Injuries have forced the Maroons to make more changes to a team that has already appeared differently over the 3 matches. Darius Boyd and Johnathan Thurston are key omissions, with Michael Morgan shifting to the centres, Cameron Munster making his debut in the halves and Ben Hunt debuting from the bench. There was plenty of hype around the omission of DCE from this team, with many believing he had earned his chance at returning to Origin level. The Maroons have chosen to go a different way, with the successful spine of the Melbourne Storm translating over to this team, as Munster is set for a baptism of at 5/8. His job will be vastly different to the contribution of Thurston, with the future immortals impact missed in Game 1. Pressure will increase on the other key players in the team, yet they will relish the opportunity. The Maroons will need to improve the contribution of those coming off the bench, neither Game 1 nor 2 featured any of note and the Blues could look to expose this and tire out the starters as much as possible.
First Try Scorer/Last Try Scorer
Best option = Dane Gagai @ $13 – Gagai is a player that is in form in 2017 and it has taken exposure at Origin level for him to showcase his talents. He scored 2 out of the 3 tries in Game 2 and was always an attacking threat on the right edge. Expect plenty of possession to come his way, with the Maroons aware of how well it worked for them in their last outing.
Outsider = Will Chambers @ $21 – Chambers has unusually high odds for a centre and that is largely due to the fact that he doesn’t score that often. What is happening is that Chambers is in the best form of his career and is appearing as dangerous as ever with the ball. These odds for a player that has his exposure to the try line are almost too good to refuse.
Cooper Cronk @ $9 – The stage is set for the ultimate Maroons fairytale in the absence of Thurston; Cronk’s form this year at club level has been outstanding and it has been adequate in Origin. We are still yet to see his best here and he will grow in confidence heading back to Suncorp. Not having JT at 5/8 will add some pressure, this is somewhat addressed with the inclusion of the familiar face of Munster. If the Maroons win, Cronk will have a large say in the outcome.
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
For the first time since 1996, the Blues have named an unchanged team for the series; the stability, which this offers a previously unstable team, is valuable and undoubtedly increases the player’s confidence. Whether or not this is the same team that feature in this game is another factor; some players are racing the clock to be fit for the game, with majority of the concern surrounding captain Boyd Cordner. He has assured the camp that he is 100% ready to go and wouldn’t be taking the field unless he could get through the match; on top of this, Tedesco, Dugan and Frizell has all had their issues but have been cleared for this game. From last match, Mitchell Pearce and James Maloney will need to take greater control of this match; they were clearly disappointed with the way they finished the match, while the entire squad took responsibility for the missed opportunity of winning the match. Blame from the media has pointed the finger at several players but they will be out to bounce back here and prove a point.
First Try Scorer/Last Try Scorer
Best option = Jarryd Hayne @ $13 – Hayne has scored 2 tries in the series already, as the Blues continually expose the weaker right edge of the Maroons. The movement of Morgan, a noted half, increases their likelihood of attacking this area and hand the ball to one of their most threatening players. After a questionable second half in Game 2, Hayne will also head out with a point to prove in the decider.
Outsider = James Maloney @ $21 – Maloney’s support play is one of the best in the league and has already delivered a try in this series. If a player makes a break through the line, expect him to be looming up in support. It is also worth noting that Mitchell Pearce ($23) does a similar job and it also a threat.
Andrew Fifita @ $13 – He will be out to replicate his efforts in Game 1, whereby he was awarded this accolade on one of the best performances from a Blues forward in recent memory. Ironically, two Blues forwards have won this honor so far this series. Much like other key players, if the Blues win, he will have a large impact on the outcome. His impact with limited time on the field is set to be increased through the middle, while Nathan Peats ($17) is again worth some though with his work around the ruck.
Overall = Maroons 59 Draw 2 Blues 49
At Suncorp Stadium = Maroons 33 Draw 1 Blues 18
Given that the Blues have had their chances in either match to win, they head into this game as favorites. Many would think that their playing the game on enemy territory and against a team with the class of the Maroons would make people worried; yet, the Blues have a different feel about them this series. They have pressured the Maroons in ways that have been inconsistent in the past; despite the class evident within their team, they will have a difficult time matching the performance of the visitors. As mentioned above, each bench holds the key for their team and the Blues have a stronger set of players to inject into the game. If the home teams chances would be dramatically different had they been fortunate enough to have some of their stars available for selection; if this were the case, the betting markets and outcome could be vastly different. The speed at which the Blues have played at in both games around the ruck has caused some issues for the Maroons, with this flowing on to pressure the right edge of their opponents. As for the history of Game 3 deciders, the Maroons have won 6 out of the past 7 matches; you have to go back to 2005 when the Blues were victorious and thankfully for them that result was at Suncorp Stadium. Majority of those games were during the Maroons dominance from 2006-2016 whereby they won 10 out of 11 series, the likes of which may never be seen again. During the last 7 games, the average margin of victory sits at 12.7 points with just 2 blow-out matches over 13 points (QLD 52-6 in 2015 & NSW 32-10 in 2005); take those two matches out of the equation and the average over the next 5 matches sits at just 3.4 points. Based on the last match, it would be surprising to see a blowout on the scoreboard similar to Game 1; the Maroons had the balance of the team wrong in that fixture and this is a better representation of their state. Nevertheless, the Blues appear primed to take out the series and end the 2-year dominance of the Maroons.
NSW 1-12 @ $2.75