It took a new era, it took a new coach, it took a new blue jersey, and it took the the changing of the Queensland guard for the New South Wales origin side to post their first series win since 2014 last year.
There was a lot of guts for the glory to shine.
The Cockroaches fell several times over the last decade, which is why their 2-1 series win felt so good.
It felt like their would be no need to change from the players who did the job last year, but with injury, form slumps, and the rise of a fresh blue crop – New South Wales have plenty of fresh faces ready to build the dynasty. For just the second time in 14 years, the Blues head in to an origin series as defending champs.
Queensland have their fair share of new faces too, and deservedly so. The retirement of their best players will hurt of course, but as they build this new squad under coach Kevin Walters, a few of these blokes really have nothing to lose.
The mind games began early last week, as Kevin Walters told their players not to mention New South Wales, or answer any media related questions about their opposition.
Speaking of the media, the sensationalism of it all has played out over the last six weeks.
With every potential candidate put through the harsh ringer, every limp, every wince, every injury making unnecessary “breaking news” coverage across both sides of the Tasman.
The Canetoads get the chance to defend their turf in this first match up. Suncorp Stadium, often toted by fans as the best ground in Australia will be lit in maroon.
The walk up from The Caxton Hotel will be a torrid of banter between bitter rivalries, mixed between beer breath and pie stains as the punters get ready to do their bit.
What will happen on the field though, is where it will really count.
There’s a lot of pressure mounting on Ben Hunt, forced in to the hooking role for the Maroons due to injury concerns. I thought Eels rake Reed Mahoney could have found himself in there, but Hunt’s experience for big games will be vital.
Not your traditional hooker, Hunt will use his trademark boot from dummy half to get his side out of their own half under pressure when the Blues come calling.
He’ll also form part of a spine that is a mixture of raw talent, aggression, and skill.
Linking up with Daly Cherry-Evans who hasn’t played any football since April, Cameron Munster who leads the Daly M Player Of The Year standings, and fullback Kalyn Ponga who over the last month has been nothing short of sensational.
These four blokes have what it takes to defend their turf, and create some chances for their side.
Munster’s vision is unprecedented. Learning his trade from Cooper Cronk will turn almost anyone in to a representative player with such game-reading abilities.
If he can build a solid partnership with DCE, then I think the Maroons will really be a threat.
Then compare that to the spine of the Blues. Premiership winner James Tedesco at the back, who’s size and strength has caused issues for Queensland many times before.
The incumbent Nathan Cleary gets the go again. Obviously there’s been a lot of talk about whether he would make it back. Penrith have been terrible this season and he’d be the first to admit that.
I personally haven’t thought he’s been too bad. It’s just the fact the Panthers haven’t been winning games. That’s where the chat and the pressure comes from.
He sits alongside the form player of the competition. Cody Walker. In my years of watching league, rarely have I seen a player in the rich vein of form as Walker.
In comparison to other five-eighth’s in the competition – it’s like he’s been fired out of a cannon. That’s how far ahead he is.
He’s electric. Scoring tries, laying them on for his outside backs, and his formidable partnership with Damien Cook will really keep the Queenslanders on their toes.
Cook’s ability to tear defence apart around the ruck is mesmerising. There’s almost nothing you can say. The way he runs the ball, and the way he creates opportunities is phenomenal.
I’m excited to see how all eight debutantes go in this arena.
Queensland’s Moses Mbye has been strong for the Tigers for the last two years, Joe Ofahengaue is a monster in the making, and David Fifita much the same.
New South Wales present Nick Cotric, who loves scoring tries and stopping them at the other end. Cody Walker will do his part to set the scene on fire, Jack Wighton, Payne Haas, and Cameron Murray are also in such form they could never be denied their shot this season.
Wednesday can’t come soon enough, to be honest. I love State Of Origin, and this match has a lot riding on it.
Can Queensland write their own story? They’ve been talked out of this game despite it being at home.
Never write them off. Time and time again their spirit at the back end of tight matches gets them home. They know just how to win games, and that will always be part of who they are.
New South Wales need to think about what’s ahead, and not to pressure themselves about going back to back. They have the talent, and the players in the right spots to get the job done. They just have to believe.
Not to mention the battle up front. Felise Kaufusi versus captain Boyd Cordner.
Josh McGuire and his eternal fire against Jake Trbojevic and his endless skill set.
And youngster Jai Arrow running full steam at Newcastle’s David Klemmer. Exciting stuff!
I’m picking the Blues to get the job done by 8 points.
I think coach Brad Fittler has found the right balance in his side to get the job done. He’s picked the players who can really push to another level when the pressure is one
Josh Morris to score the first try, and Cody Walker to win man of the match.
Final score; 28-20. First blood to the Blues.
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