By Guest Writer Stephen Gallagher
This side has been the best for the last six years of the State Of Origin as much as it pains me to hear that. Queensland will once again be the team to beat, a side which is dominant from 1-17. There are no flaws when it comes to Queensland, so New South Wales will definitely have a challenge on their hands.
Fullback: Billy Slater (Storm)
Part one of the Big Three, Slater is the best fullback this game has ever seen. Freakishly talented, you think he can’t get any better than pulls one out of the hat that’ll stun everyone. He has a worth ethic of a race horse and could run like one too. Slater is a game winning player that can make anything a possibility when the pressure is on. You can never write off Slater. He is a modern day footballing genius.
Wingers: Darius Boyd (Knights) and Brent Tate (Cowboys)
Boyd flourishes in this side. No matter what form he could bring in to Origin, he will become richer once the whistle is blown for game on. Brilliant footwork is the key to Boyd, this making his very hard to shut down. Darius Boyd is very powerful too, which works well in his favour in every situation.
Tate will play Origin, and after a horror run of injuries in his career he always seems to bounce back twice as good and picks up where he left off – with so much potential. Tate is the experienced head which will keep cool through this game. A rugby league brain on him which gives him the one up on most of his opponents it seems. Great with ball in hand.
Centres: Justin Hodges (Broncos) and Greg Inglis (Rabbitohs)
Justin Hodges has been electrifying for Brisbane. After only playing Game 3 last year due to injury he will have a point to prove in this one. The second best centre in the NRL, he has everything. Pace, physicality, strength, sidesteps. It’s hard to know just how to shut down Hodges, as when you close down one option he will give you another.
Now, the best centre in the NRL. Inglis is nothing short of a beast. That’s the only way I can describe him. The hardest man to put down, so devastating he can rip any team apart with a simple sidestep or a tackle bust. Impossible is nothing for Inglis. He is the game breaker for this outfit.
Halves: Jonathan Thurston (Cowboys) and Cooper Cronk (Storm)
Thurston is nothing short of world class. Every touch of the ball seems to be with ease. Has the best vision in the game and knows what to do in every situation. This makes him so very hard to stop when he is running the game.
Cooper Cronk, part two of the Big Three. Every time he plays I think he sees the game in slow motion because everything he does is always so right. Partnered up with Thurston in the ANZAC test, he will go with him in this one too. No Lockyer this season is not a worry for Queensland as they have perfectly moulded Cronk in to this role.
Props: Matthew Scott (Cowboys) and Ben Hannant (Broncos)
Matthew Scott was the best forward for Queensland in their sixth title in a row last year and will once again be up for the task. Having injury concerns the last couple of weeks will not be a problem for him. Scott relishes the chance to don the maroon jersey and is such a hard player he will lay everything on the line for his state and his team mates.
Hannant has been oh so good this season. It seems with every performance he puts on the field his stats increase. He is a valuable member to this team. Knows what his job is, and knows how to do it with the best of his ability. Hannant is hard to stop whether it’s the first minute, or the last.
Second Rowers: Nate Myles (Titans) and Sam Thaiday (Broncos)
Nate Myles always quietly goes about his work. Always making tackles and always making metres – Myles is a hard worker. It seems whenever he plays, he can make every tackle in a set of six. A workrate that is simply incredible and is a necessary cog in this rolling wheel.
Sam Thaiday is captain at his club, and for all the right reasons. A humble leader on and off the field, it’s what he can produce on that is the most influential. Wind him up and set him crashing in to the defence time and time again. He does not get tired. A true workhorse.
Lock: Ashley Harrison (Titans)
Ashley Harrison is a seasoned campaigner when it comes to Origin. Everything about his performances is a positive thing. No sign of weakness when running the ball, he has a lot of aces up his sleeve with an offload or tackle bust. Such a gutsy player that every team needs.
Daly Cherry-Evans (Sea Eagles)
So many times we saw Cronk come off the bench for Queensland in the shadow of the great Darren Lockyer and how it’s Cherry-Evans turn to mould in to a brilliant player. We all know how good he is, but this is the true test for him. Cherry-Evans will only grow bigger and better with this opportunity off the bench for his state.
Dave Taylor (Rabbitohs)
If someone learns how to control this animal, let me know. Every team needs a Dave Taylor. He is so hard to put down, and when you think you have he passed the ball 5 seconds ago and there’s a break up the field because of it. Never once lacked in confidence, this human steam roller always puts out a mammoth performance.
Jacob Lillyman (Warriors)
Despite only having played one game this season, Lillyman is made for this sort of contest. A solid defender, he has made the great transition to the front for playing for the Warriors which has seen him flourish and get given the chance to represent his state last year. Hits the line with plenty of force and loves the contact.
Corey Parker (Broncos)
This wise head made his Origin debut last season, and has become a richer player from the experience. Parker has an all round game equivalent to any halfback. Watch him with awe as he does everything right. Also can kick goals, another reason to keep him on this bench.
18th Man: Petero Civoniceva
I picked Civoniceva at 18th man because as he is retiring this season, he has already formed the way for the youth. Being included in this squad however will be enough for the man, and more than enough motivation for Queensland to make it 7 in a row.
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