Andrew Bryan, NRL.com
It is being described as the biggest game in State of Origin history and it isn’t only Mal Meninga and Ricky Stuart who are feeling the pressure. There are over 33,000 Origin Dream Team coaches who are competing for ultimate glory when the two sides clash at an emotion charged Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday, July 4.
These Origin coaches are certainly keeping us guessing, NSW have named 19 players, while Queensland won the first victory of the build-up, naming 20... Both could be accused of shenanigans by naming their sides in alphabetical order.
How are your nerves? Are you the type of coach who stays ‘loyal’ to your team, or will you totally reshuffle, loyal only to those who posted big scores in Game Two?
It is a good thing we have up until kick-off to change our teams… Apparently so does Big Mal and Sticky. Keep your wits about you Dream Team fans, make sure that come kick-off you are fielding a full complement on the field.
What to make of it all?
It was reported on Thursday night that Billy Slater would be ruled out of the decider and that Greg Inglis would indeed step into the fullback role.
If this isn’t some cloak-and-dagger move from north of the border and Inglis is indeed picked at fullback, you’d be mad not to put him in your team. He has been an irresistible force since shifting there for the Rabbitohs and is showing the form that earned him the Golden Boot award. More than that, at fullback, he is forced to get more involved and that is good news for Dream Team coaches, nightmare stuff for New South Wales defenders.
Inglis has been quiet by his standards in the first two games, so I’m expecting a big performance regardless of where he plays, but put the No. 1 on his back and watch-out! He is one of the most destructive forces in Rugby League, and if he is moved to fullback, the sleeping giant will truly be woken. At the back, he’ll gets his hands on the ball nearly every set and have plenty of open spaces to run into. Also he is free to ‘roam’ around the field and could bob up anywhere, that means a potential massive score in Dream Team and heartbreak for the Blues.
Is this a formality?
It is important to take note from the coaches, Dream Team isn’t an exact science, you have to go with your instinct.
Mal Meninga is quoted as saying that he didn’t pick Ben Barba, because he didn’t have the experience required to take on a fired up NSW. Us coaches like to read into every little morsel of information and this quote is a fascinating insight into Meninga the coach. Matt Bowen was seen as the safer option. He has wound back the clock this season and is in scintillating form in his own right. His combination with Johnathan Thurston was also seen as a mouth-watering prospect for the Maroons. When I originally wrote this article, Bowen was still a chance of playing, but it looks like Inglis is officially playing fullback now.
For NSW, you could pick Brett Stewart or Brett Morris if you think the six year streak is coming to an end. Someone has to score the points for the Blues and these two would be on top of any list of potential try-scorers…
But make sure you keep checking back as details come to hand. You can change your team as many times as you like right up until kick-off. Make use of that Dream Team coaches!
The other big decision for us coaches is the hooker position.
The undisputed king of NRL Dream Team for years, Cameron Smith, is averaging the second most points in Origin Dream Team. A very healthy 57.5 points per game. That is nothing to be sneezed at. The only problem for Captain Maroon, is that his opposite number (Robbie Farah) has played out of his skin in the first two games, averaging a whopping 73.5 points per game.
Can Robbie do it one more time?
Farah has answered every question asked of him this series, he has been an absolute workhorse in defence, but that hasn’t stopped him being at his creative best out of dummy-half. His toughness was questioned in the media leading up to the series. It looked like Queensland made it their personal mission to give him a final examination, running in his direction relentlessly. Farah answered every question thrown his way by the big Maroons forwards and every time he did, Dream Team coaches chalked up another point. Cha-Ching!
You can expect Farah to get a lot of traffic directed his way again in the decider, so he is going to score a whole heap of points in tackling alone. After two games, I’ve finally decided to bring him into my team, sorry Cam, don’t take it personally, but I think Farah is in for a massive game in Dream Team land.
Remember, this is your team, the article is just there as a guide to help you. You make the tough calls and then cheer as your team racks up the points. Playing Dream Team is just a new way to watch and interact with the great game of Rugby League.
Also – if you have enjoyed playing Origin Dream Team – why not sign up and play Toyota NRL Dream Team? It is never too late to start your own league against your mates. It really is, the greatest game of all.
*Disclaimer - I have re-written this article several times due to team changes and likely outcomes, highlighting the uncertainty around the decider, sit back and enjoy!
Follow Andrew Bryan on twitter: @AndrewBryan321
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