By Stephen Gallagher
STATE OF ORIGIN: GAME 01 – New South Wales Blues V Queensland Maroons – Wednesday, ANZ Stadium. 20.05 local time, 22.05 NZ time.
LAST TIME: A Cooper Cronk field goal was enough to retain seven-series wins in a row. Queensland beat New South Wales again. 21-20.
THIS TIME: Origin always is the best time of the year for me, despite being a passionate New South Wales fan and saying “This year is our year” I love Origin. New South Wales have a brilliant squad this year, and with Roosters halves pairing Mitchell Pearce and debutante James Maloney at the helm they have a lot of momentum to work with. A brilliant forward rotation will mean that they can last the eighty, and no excuses of falling short with ten to go.
Queensland have named once again a world-beating team that has enough legs to do this. A bench that may raise a few eyebrows, but Mel Meninga is a quality coach who brings the best out of his players no matter what the situation. An Kangaroo based side with all the fitting keys still working, the Maroons first challenge is to defeat the Blues at home.
WHAT TO EXPECT: Confidence to be oozing out. A team that has plenty of players who have been in their career-best form this season coming on the the paddock as one. I believe the halves combination will offer a lot of options for the Cockroaches, and will keep them down the other end of the field. It’s going to be tough, but that’s a given.
Canetoads will be ready as always, even in the tense of times I believe their Origin team can create something out of nothing. It’s the togetherness and experience they show for the entire eighty minutes which is a scary juggernaut. With ten seconds to go, don’t rule out anything.
THE BATTLE OF: Flying fullbacks. Jarryd Hayne has been a leader as a player on and off the field for a few years now, and back in blue will see him rise again. A player who can break a game open, never rule out anything when it comes to Hayne.
Billy Slater is the world’s best. Deny it all you want but his class on the field is something to only watch in awe and never to be replicated. Freakishly talented, Slater pops up everywhere and puts his body on the line when it counts.
KEEP YOUR EYE ON: Blake Ferguson – I feel he is the most under pressure in this match. Talented and his form this year for Canberra has been devastating, but will be extremely nervous on debut for his state.
Matt Scott – I think he’d agree he hasn’t been his best this year for North Queensland, but every player grows in capability when it comes to these sorts of games.
PREDICTION: Blues, in Sydney, the first game of the series. It doesn’t get more crunch time then this. If they don’t win this they can kiss this series goodbye I feel. This series relies on this game for New South Wales. 26-16 in their favour.
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