Here it is folks, the first of three games that stops more than just the rugby league world and showcases everything that rugby league has to offer. It is always a special contest but this year (as in the past 6 years) NSW believe it is their time to stop the Maroons dominance. It has been a painful 7 years for Blues fans as they have watched the star-studded QLD side lift the Origin shield at the conclusion of Game 3. There has been a mountain of excuses in that time as well and they range from selection issues to coaching appointments and even referee blunders. In the meantime, Mal Meniga and his QLD squad have worn a grin from ear to ear that suggests they couldn’t be happier with the current predicament of their opponents. Why would they even care for the plight of their sworn enemy? At some stage though, the dominance does have to end but as it has been for sometime now, it will be an uphill battle for the Blues to overthrow a side that is full of Australian players and “possibly” future Immortals of the game. In amongst it all, there will be an opportunity to win some money on the game. Rather than follow the usual preview that I have given in every NRL match this season, I am going to take a different approach. Remember that this game isn’t like any other and I recommend that you explore all markets that are available and enjoy more than just the match you are watching, but get involved in it by possibly winning some money.
New South Wales
1. Jarryd Hayne 2. Blake Ferguson 3. Michael Jennings 4. Josh Morris 5. Brett Morris 6. James Maloney 7. Mitchell Pearce 8. Paul Gallen (c) 9. Robbie Farrah 10. James Tamou 11. Luke Lewis 12. Ryan Hoffman 13. Greg Bird Interchange: 14. Anthony Watmough 15. Trent Merrin 16. Andrew Fifita 17. Josh Reynolds
As they search for answers, the Blues have undergone several changes following the loss to the Maroon’s in Game 3 last year. The most immediate was the resignation of coach Ricky Stuart as he took up a coaching appointment with the Eels and thought that it would be in the best interests of the state side to stand down from his position. Straight away the task was to appoint a new coach and it was former great Laurie Daley who won the race to coach the side this season. Whether or not he is the best-credentialed remains to be seen and he will be judged on how he performs in this series. The next big hurdle for the NSW side was picking a team that could be molded around Daley’s game plan and what he wanted to implement. Daley probably shot himself in the foot a little when he came out very early on in the season and said that no matter what, Mitchell Pearce was going to be the NSW halfback. Since then, the Rabbitohs Adam Reynolds has been on fire and can probably consider himself a little unlucky not to be selected. Focus then shifted to the 5/8 role and it is James Maloney that will be one of three players to debut for the Blues. He has been playing very well but it was said by Daley that it helped that he played alongside Pearce in club football and he had a great influence over Pearce’s game. At fullback, Jarryd Hayne has won the race for the vacant spot that was a result of the injury to Brett Stewart. He was always going to find his way into the team and his move to fullback means that there is a position on the wing that has freed up for Blake Ferguson to make his debut. Ferguson had earned his position with his recent form but this is a different level of football and he needs to make sure that he is more consistent with his performances. The strength for NSW was always going to be in their forwards and there are little surprises with who they have named. When the opportunity occurred to name a replacement for Kurt Gidley, you thought that they would’ve named another prop but it was Josh Reynolds that was brought in to play the utility role. Given Farrah is likely to play 80 minutes, it will be interesting to see just how Daley chooses to use him on the day.
Best Chance = Michael Jennings – His form so far this season has been the best we have seen from him in sometime. The move to the Roosters has brought stability to his game and he will be dangerous on the edge. He will be coming up against Justin Hodges, who is prone to making the odd defensive error and Jennings’ speed may allow him to get around defenders and across the line first.
Outsider = Ryan Hoffman – The Storm love running to the line and putting Hoffman through to pressure the edge defenders and it will be a tactic that Laurie Daley will also want to employ. He has an uncanny knack of popping up as a FTS in big games as well so keep him in the back of your mind.
1. Billy Slater 2. Darius Boyd 3. Greg Inglis 4. Justin Hodges 5. Brent Tate 6. Johnathan Thurston 7. Cooper Cronk 8. Matt Scott 9. Cameron Smith (c) 10. David Shillington 11. Nate Myles 12. Sam Thaiday 13. Ashley Harrison Interchange: 14. Corey Parker 15. Matt Gillett 16. Ben Te’o 17. Chris McQueen
There were no surprises in the naming of the Queensland side, rather a puzzling situation around Darius Boyd. He was injured in the Knights game against the Warriors last week but is named here and will probably take the field despite Wayne Bennett saying that hey had a broken leg in his post-match interview. If he is ruled out, Justin O’Neill will take his spot on the wing. Unlike NSW, they will only have one player debuting and that will be Chris McQueen off the bench. He has been in some very good form this season for the Rabbitohs and has no doubt earned his spot in the side. His Rabbitohs team mate Ben Te’o will also start off the bench but unfortunately for the game, his selection has been clouded by an assault investigation and the QLD team managers have made sure that questions about that issue have not been asked at press conferences. The Maroons have named a very versatile bench and it opens up the possibility that when they come onto the field, they can attack a little wider and allow Greg Inglis to move closer to the ruck and play as a second fullback. That is enough to give any NSW fan nightmares leading into this game. It does mean that they do not have a front row replacement on the bench but Myles and Thaiday both play in that position for their clubs and can easily push up there during the game. There is some uncertainty around Thurston taking his place in the side as his wife is due to give birth to their first child sometime this week. He has said that regardless of the situation, he will play in the game but now it appears as though he has also been hit with a virus. He did not train in their final session before heading down to Sydney and Daley Cherry-Evans will be his replacement if he doesn’t take the field for whatever reason.
Best Chance = Billy Slater – Slater is the obvious choice given the freedom he has to move around the field in his role at fullback. He is a fantastic support player to the forwards and can pop up on the end of a kick with his chase.
Outsider = Cooper Cronk – Cronk will be steering the ship for the Maroon’s but he is also a chance to pop up for a try. Everyone is aware of his talent and it seems as though there is a generous price being offered by the bookies.
TAB Sportsbet = NSW $1.90 QLD $1.90
Centrebet = NSW $1.91 QLD $1.91
Sportsbet = NSW $1.95 QLD $1.88
Betfair = NSW $1.99 QLD $1.99
First Try Scorer/Margin Double = Lets face it, it would be very surprising to see the winning margin for either side get out to a 13+ margin. So if you’re having a FTS bet, you should also consider coupling it together with a 1-12 margin for either side.
Winning margin = If you want a little more value out of your margin bet, then contemplate being a little more specific on the actual margin. The game will fall between 1-12 points, but you can also narrow down that between 1-6 (both sides @ $5) and 7-12 (both sides @ $5.50).
Halftime/Fulltime Double = In an 80minute game, it would be difficult to see one team dominating the contest. It could even get to the point where both sides are locked up at halftime. Seriously consider taking either Draw/NSW ($13) or Draw/QLD ($13) depending on which way you think this game will go.
Tri Bet = Still can’t make up your mind but believe that it will be a tight contest? Then the option of “Either Team Under 6.5 points” @ $2.70 is a good way to go. Take it as fact, this will be a close contest and winning by more than a converted try would be fairly surprising to see.
Man of the Match = A good bet to consider as it offers small amount of value and there are only really certain players that are going to win it. For NSW, it is between Gallen ($11), Farrah ($7), Hayne ($8) and Bird ($11). The best value of those being Gallen and Bird; both play in the forwards and you would expect that they would be likely to play the entire 80 minutes. In the QLD camp, the obvious choices are Cronk ($8), Thurston ($6), Inglis ($7) and Smith ($11). At $8, Cooper Cronk is a value choice as he will be a central point of the QLD attack.
So after all of that, I guess we better settle on what will happen to make your choice a little easier. First and foremost, as is usually the case for Origin matches this will be a close contest. The Blues will have to battle against a star-studded lineup but it may be their determination from their last series that get them through this game. They certainly come into the contest as the game is played at ANZ Stadium with a lot more screaming blue fans than those wearing maroon. It is very difficult to go against the Maroons, but I am going to suggest that the Blues will win this one. After a Maroon win in Game 2, we will then head back to ANZ Stadium for a decider in Game 3. As for how that game will play out, you will have to wait for that preview. Let’s just get our head around this game and enjoy the spectacle that is State of Origin football.
I have followed Rugby League since I was young enough to watch it and growing up in Sydney, it was inevitable. I will always make it my business to watch all 8 NRL fixtures per week and follow it with more than just passion. During my playing career, I have played at several representative levels, with and against current players. I began writing previews on NRL games early on in 2012 and really found a passion within this. I enjoy listening to various people and their opinions on the game, and then forming my own. Coupled together with another passion, gambling, I soon learnt that there was a market out there for more than the rugby league diehards. Hopefully I can pass on my knowledge of the game to help you win some cash.
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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Photo By Pierre Roudier from Sydney, Australia (State of Origin II Uploaded by SpecialWindler) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons