By Stephen Gallagher
New South Wales V Queensland – ANZ Stadium – 22.15NZT
The much hyped, much anticipated and much watched event will have Aussies raring to go, and Kiwis staying up late to see this epic display of rugby league.
To use the old adage of “State against state, mate against mate” – this game is going to light up and deliver like it always does. Lets break down this clash.
Six rookies make the cut this year, with New South Wales picking the electric Matt Moylan at fullback.
What an exciting time for this youngster. After an injury ravaged time to finish last season and to begin this – his confidence and vision for Penrith has been a key to their success this year.
Josh Mansour – Another exciting addition to the Blues side, his power, strength and try-scoring ability is second to none for this Panther.
Adam Reynolds – if Origin was built for one player, it was built for Adam Reynolds. This nugget of tattoos has been a solid player for years now, and coach Laurie Daley has waited the perfect amount of time to unleash him.
Dylan Walker – I can’t wait to hear everyone use the infamous ‘Walker’s On!’ for Dylan. An odd selection off the bench in my opinion, but his X Factor is world class.
Corey Oates – This Queenslander is a phenomenon. The rangey second-rower-turned-winger has been impressing in every game since his NRL debut. I hope he gets some space because he can run!
Justin O’Neill – The Stormin’ Cowboy has been making waves in the centres, and is about to be put out to show his talents in the biggest game of his career. What an opportunity for this solid selection.
The Blues brothers of Moylan, Maloney, Reynolds, Farah are a mix of rookie nerves and experienced cool heads.
There’s going to be a lot of pressure on all four of these players, and how they are going to shape to cause Queensland headaches on Wednesday night.
Moylan’s natural ability is going to be tested, and if he gets a couple of early touches it will be a good sign for him.
Josh Mansour is a try scorer, and a physical one. If he can suck some defenders because he is hard to tackle, it may open up some space in the middle for the big blokes to crash over. His kick returns will be crucial.
Maloney and Reynolds both have solid kicking games, but I think despite this being his first occasion at Origin level – Adam Reynolds has to take charge. His decision making for the Rabbitohs is one of the reasons why they’ve had such success over the last four years.
The Canetoads of Boyd, Thurston, Cronk and Smith are also the national level spine. If that doesn’t already say enough – then let me elaborate.
Darius Boyd may not be the right selection at fullback, but he always performs in a rep jumper. Whether maroon or green – Boyd gets his hands on the ball more often than not, and something can happen because of it.
I’m not even going to bother to say anything more about Thurston and Cronk than this: Given any more time than they need, they will carve up the Blues. Players that relish with space.
Cameron Smith is a beast. 35 State Of Origin appearances and keeps getting better. That’s impressive. The Captain is the man to lead this Queensland side to another series win, and his vision at dummy half is sensational.
Paul Gallen and Aaron Woods take on Matt Scott and Nate Myles up front.
Gallen lives and dies by the sword. The leader of the Blues side will once again prepare for battle – using his actions on the field to help motivate this team.
This guy can go 80 minutes, and loves clocking up metres. In what may be his last Origin series, I know Gal is not going to let himself, or the team down.
Aaron Woods is a hairy, hairy man. His work ethic matches his body hair – and gets to work straight away.
The first few hit ups by Woods will be crucial. A confidence player that needs a strong pack around him to get that extra 10% out.
Matt Scott is a stalwart. Been there, done that, got the trophy. The fact is though, Matt Scott is a warrior. A guy that doesn’t get too many headlines for his on-field trench warfare, but a guy who will happily toil away and get the job done. Leaving imprints in the opposition, hard to tackle and a hard tackler.
Nate Myles is very much of the same mould. His head is a bit bigger than Matt Scott’s, but when he puts that noggin to good use he gets through the line and sets up support players.
Known for a cheeky offload, he packs a certain punch of unpredictability when it comes to attack.
Andrew Fifita, James Tamou, David Klemmer and Dylan Walker have a job to do. The downfall of New South Wales has been a lack of impact over the years when the interchange players take their place on field – something that needs to be righted this year.
Fifita is having a bumper season backed on the success at club level Cronulla are having. An influential member to this New South Wales team – he will look to add his mark on the game when Woods comes off.
James Tamou may not be authentically from New South Wales – but he doesn’t let that stop him. An enforcer on defence. He will tighten up the ruck with his physicality, just what they will need.
David Klemmer is like a box of snakes. Open it up and all hell breaks loose. He is the player that can turn the match with a big hit, or a sledge. Klemmer bleeds blue and will be ready to spill some if need be.
I touched on Dylan Walker before, but I know he will be ready. From the bench means he will be able to output twice as much energy in his short spell. Darting and stepping his way with ball in hand.
Michael Morgan, Josh McGuire, Aidan Guerra, and Josh Papalii are all men who know what needs to happen.
Michael Morgan just loves to win. A guy that’s come on leaps and bounds over the last two full seasons has the calibre off the bench to win the game for the Queenslanders in an arm-wrestle situation. His decision making is spot on, and has plenty of confidence.
Josh McGuire is a Samoan with some super strength. His Australian debut last month showed just how much impact he can have. A man to fear with ball in hand too. Not too many people can wrap him up one on one.
Aidan Guerra is not your average second-rower. A big of height on the lad and a bit on the lean side, but still is worthy of his spot on the bench. If you fail to tackle Guerra ball and all, you will fail to stop Queensland. Simple as that.
Josh Papalii is a beast. Have you ever seen Papalii and the Hulk in the same room together? Didn’t think so.
Trying to slow him down is like trying to slow down time. Give him some ball and watch him soak up the defenders.
Look, I think this is New South Wales’ game to lose. At home, a new ‘era’ (again) and a squad picked on form (for once) means that things are turning in their favour.
Plus I want to cast your minds back to Game 3 last year, where players who were in this side were obliterated by a maroon juggernaut. That hurts as a fan, and must bloody hurt as a player. This side is better than that – and those players have to prove it.
I’ll take a Josh Morris try to open up the scoring, and New South Wales to win by 8.
If they underestimate the Queenslanders however? It could get ugly. The ‘Cane toads’ feed off that.
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