State Of Origin game one kicks off at roughly 22.10NZT on Wednesday, June 9th.
The mind games have been thrown out over the last week. Queenslanders under injury clouds, New South Welshmen training out of position. It’s what we the public have grown accustomed to seeing.
The biggest wool pull would be the Covid-19 outbreak in Melbourne, which led to Townsville putting in a $15M bid to host game one, meaning the Maroons play two games in a row at home. Unheard of.
The Sydney media build up Queensland as the worst team in Origin history in 2020, and they ate those bitter words with Daly Cherry-Evans hoisting the shield above his head with all his team mates behind him. Those scenes will be haunting the Blues who let the series slip while the Canetoads deserved the series win.
With all eyes on Wednesday, it’s often said if you win the first game, you win the series. I believe with two home games in a row, it’s Queensland’s series to lose.
Queensland are likely to have only one player on debut in game one, with Kyle Feldt more than likely securing a spot on the wing, with Valentine Holmes the obvious choice at fullback with Kalyn Ponga failing a fitness test days after being named in the squad.
While New South Wales will blood three in the seventeen, the Penrith trio of Brian To’o, Jerome Luai, and Liam Martin. Apisai Korisau will be 18th man, and could make his origin debut pending foul play.
Paul Green also makes his head coaching debut for Queensland, and gets the opportunity to play game one in Townsville where he spent many years coaching in the NRL.
One major talking point is the inclusion of seven Penrith Panthers players. Sitting top of the table and only suffering one loss this season (where all seven players were missing due to Origin commitments) there’s no doubting the six Blues and one Maroons player will make their Western Sydney club proud.
The form they’ve shown over the last two seasons is nothing short of remarkable, and fans from all across the competition are admiring what is happening at the foot of the Blue Mountains.
The media has thrown some question marks over club form, and will that stand up in one of the games biggest arenas, but you have to think that there’s no fluke these players have been called up to represent their respective states in 2021.
Queensland’s halves pairing are a one-two punch approach. Cameron Munster and Daly Cherry-Evans are up there with the best game managers in the last ten years.
The way Munster can control a game by purely being on the field, and the way he can marshall the troops is fascinating. Paired with the Manly halfback, DCE is one of those players you’d love to play with, but hate to play against. A solid kicking game, and with the C to his name once again, he will rise for his state when needed.
Jerome Luai and Nathan Cleary have been playing football together since they were in their early teens. This pairing has a significant amount of potential that’s still yet to be unlocked, but what we have seen so far at NRL level is fascinating.
Cleary’s worked really hard on running the ball in 2021, but can still dictate the game with his solid boot.
Luai’s never been a player short of confidence, and close to the line provides a tough competitor to break down and stop.
The Maroons are bolstered with Ben Hunt as a late inclusion to the squad, and at time of writing this, will probably be named off the bench in the 14 as a utility. He’s played dummy half and in the halves for his state and has done the job, and moves to be a genuine utility. That’s no shade on Alexander Brimson, who did what was asked of him in the backline as a series winner last season.
One player in the Cockroaches ranks that could call himself lucky making the squad is Jack Wighton. It’s been a tough season thus far for Wighton and his Raiders, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t up for the job.
However, I have no doubt in my mind that Ryan Papenhuyzen would have made his debut this game is it wasn’t for a sickening concussion he suffered against the Dragons only three weeks ago.
On paper, New South Wales have named a team that is in form and hot to trot, and the hurt of last season could be a leading factor in wanting to get the result here in game one.
Coach Brad Fittler won’t have to remind his players that leading at half time in game one last series counted for nothing, as the Blues bombed the game and ultimately the series becasue of it.
I said earlier on in the piece that this is Queensland’s series to lose. That’s a bitter statement to make as a New South Wales fan, but I stand by it.
This isn’t about some sort of reverse psychology to help Fittler and his crew to win. He’s not reading this.
It’s about the influence two home games in a row could have on the outcome of this series.
The Blues have a poor record at Suncorp Stadium, so heading in Brisbane on a Sunday in the second installment could spell curtains for the Cockroaches against the Canetoads.
In saying that, would the Melbourne Cricket Ground been a harder ground to win at because of the capacity, and majority of fans in Victoria screaming for Queensland based on the Maroon-heavy influence of the Melbourne Storm?
New South Wales knew they underestimated Queensland last series, and they won’t want to head in to game two trailing in this series.
I see the game being won around the ruck. We’ve seen Harry Grant decimate sides at club level around the ruck with his speed. Will the lack of games through injury play a part in slowing him down? I doubt it.
And with Damien Cook not playing his best footy, he’s got a lot to prove in the nine jersey for the Blues.
Will loyalty help or hinder their chance? I think a ball running Cook is a Cook you need to have in your side.
Whoever can make the most out of the dummy half may well and truly get a roll on and help their side to a win.
I’m not going to go on about it, because the media already has, however I’d like to see the on field rules around head highs be called wisely. I’m not saying don’t penalise players and teams for putting a high shot on, I just want the calls to be made smartly, and correctly. If it’s a game that’s officiated well, then it’s a game that’s played well.
I reckon we’re likely to see Kurt Capewell or Dane Gagai score first, and the Queenslanders to win by 2. 28-26.
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