Wednesday night will feature the final Origin game for 2014, with this one unfortunately a dead-rubber. It seems like an age ago since the victorious NSW Blues grinded out a hard fought 6-4 victory over the Maroons and in the process broke their 8-year winning streak. At the conclusion of that match, a whole host of emotions followed, as players interacted with the fans on the sidelines and soaked up the electric atmosphere. The Queenslanders were very gracious in defeated too, as the entire night was a fantastic advertisement for rugby league. Now that the dust has settled, many fans have been left wondering just what is in store for this match. There are numerous questions about how competitive the game will be and who has more to play for. Taking a look at the contest, the Maroons are playing for pride on their home turf, aiming to avoid an embarrassing 3-nil whitewash in the process. That would hurt their confidence more than anything and send a loud message that the Blues are back on track. The NSW players have been vocal about their desire to hand Queensland that fate, as nothing would please them more than finishing off the job and lifting the trophy triumphantly at the end of this match. Fans have to remember, Paul Gallen and the Blues have not done that yet and no one wants to lift a trophy for a series win after losing the final game. On top of that, this match could be the opposite of the first two, with attack taking priority as the pressure has been lifted on both teams. Defense is always important, but with the series decided either side may want chance their hand with the ball and build useful combinations for the 2015 series. Either way, regardless of whether the series is decided or not, an exciting game of rugby league is sure to occur. Not only that, but it is a great chance for punters to add to their bank balance and make the game a little more interesting throughout the 80 minutes.
New South Wales
1. Jarryd Hayne 2. James McManus 3. Josh Dugan 4. Josh Morris 5. Daniel Tupou 6. Josh Reynolds 7. Trent Hodkinson 8. Aaron Woods 9. Robbie Farah 10. Paul Gallen (c) 11. Ryan Hoffman 12. Beau Scott 13. Greg Bird Interchange: 14. James Tamou 15. Trent Merrin 16. Boyd Cordner 17. Luke Lewis
The make up of the Blues changes slightly, although not to a level whereby they are going to be overly disrupted. Josh Morris comes back into the team in the centres, covering for the injured Michael Jennings, who hasn’t played since Game 2. The Blues selectors sprung a surprise last week, when they named Knights winger, James McManus, as a replacement for the injured Will Hopoate, who also hasn’t played since Game 2. The starting halves and forward pack remains the same, undoubtedly Hodkinson and Reynolds will desire the same contribution from their pack to create greater attack room. Those two players came of age in their last match and will need to again be on their game to steer their team to victory. On the bench, Trent Merrin features despite being out for the past two weeks with an injury and Boyd Cordner, who has recovered from an injury and replaces the suspended Anthony Watmough, joins him. The Blues are riding a wave of emotion and confidence at the moment, but they need ot ensure that they set a strong platform for this squad and state to build off for the next few years.
FTS = Daniel Tupou – He was very quiet in Game 2, but now he will take the field unopposed by the experienced Tate. Playing outside Morris will only enhance his chances, as a player of his ability generally attracts two defenders to him when he is in possession. Not only that, he is a threat in both the air and on the ground.
1. Billy Slater 2. Darius Boyd 3. Greg Inglis 4. Justin Hodges 5. Will Chambers 6. Johnathan Thurston 7. Cooper Cronk 8. Jacob Lillyman 9. Cameron Smith (c) 10. Nate Myles 11. Sam Thaiday 12. Aidan Guerra 13. Corey Parker Interchange: 14. Ben Te’o 15. Matt Gillett 16. Dave Taylor 17. Daly Cherry-Evans
The Maroons have an aging team at the moment and with the series decided, many were suggesting that there would be a few changes in the team that was named. Mal Meniga and the Queensland selectors have remained loyal though, resisting the temptation and only making the necessary changes to cover for injured players. Will Chambers comes into the team on the wing and will want to put an “interesting” start to this camp behind him as he attempts to fill the void left by Brent Tate. The most notable inclusion to their team is halfback Cooper Cronk, who has retain the playmaker duties after recovering from a broken arm that he suffered in Game 1. It was an unfortunate injury for him to receive and the Maroons attack should have a different shape with him at the helm. This has pushed DCE back to the bench and into a utility role, covering for the injured Chris McQueen. If there is a whitewash, expect a few players to be looking over their shoulders next season, ensuring that the players that will take the field will have a point to prove. Regardless of how the first two matches players out, this team is one that always has to be respected due to the talent that they possess.
FTS and/or LTS = Darius Boyd – His record at Origin level speaks for itself and you only have to cast your mind back to Game 1 to see how dangerous he can be at Origin level. Cronk and Thurston will aim to make the most of a sweeping backline movement and coming up against the inexperienced McManus only swings the odds further in his favor.
This game is going to be freer flowing than the past two matches. Both teams are playing with a will to win, mixed in with a reduced amount of pressure. Forget the fact that the result of this game apparently means nothing; it does to the players involved and to the fans of both states. It would just rub salt into the wound if the Blues were to sweep the Maroons in the same year that they broke their stranglehold on the series. On the surface, the Maroons appear to be the team to beat and the odds are favoring them heavily. That is no surprise considering that they have Cronk returning to their team, increasing their attacking threat. Nevertheless, they are without a few other players that on the surface do not seem essential to their success, but underneath it they are. On the other side, the Blues will take confidence away from their series win and will want to carry that over here. It seems crazy, but expect the unexpected in Origin and go for a Blues victory and sweep of the series. Not a lot has been written about the failures of the Maroons, but they have been outplayed in both matches. It has been suggested that they are going to be highly motivated, yet they would’ve had the same in the first two matches. Ultimately, they will need to create an improved game plan that targets the weaknesses of the Blues, as opposed to relying on individual brilliance that has worked so well for them in the past. After all that, go the Blues in a tight, but high scoring contest that will keep fans excited for the entire 80-minutes.
Blues +4.5 @ $1.90
All of the above are the opinions of the author and are not recommendations or advice. The author may not be taking every bet listed above. Bet at your own risk.
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