Kevin Walters, NRL.com
Both State of Origin teams have been picked for game two and while there are only two changes, I am expecting a totally different game to the one we saw in Melbourne. Game two of an Origin series is always a better quality of game; the combinations are better and the skill level steps up another gear with the series on the line. Considering how good the opening game was, we could be set for an absolute belter in Sydney.
Each game in an Origin series is very different. The teams are largely the same, but each game is a totally different prospect. The surface makes a massive difference to the way the game is played; ANZ Stadium is a lot more slippery than Etihad Stadium. It is a lot dewier, so I think there will be a lot more play through the middle of the field in the second contest.
Given the skill levels of both teams, you still expect the ball to be used expansively because the players can handle it even if the surface is wet or slippery, but there will definitely be less ball movement than what there would be at Suncorp Stadium or even down at Etihad with the roof closed.
Even though Queensland has a massive pack, the game being played up the middle doesn’t necessarily give them the edge. The Blues have a lot of forwards that can utilise quick footwork, which will create problems for the Maroons, especially if they keep turning them around up the middle. It should be a classic contest – big forwards versus mobile forwards.
Big forwards doesn’t equate to one-way traffic; they will have to work extremely hard and play well to get the advantage there.
Looking at the NSW side, I have to say they look stronger this time around. They have a better balance in their team, which will make Queensland’s task a bit more difficult. I certainly believe that hooker Robbie Farah answered his critics last start and will play the full 80 minutes. Todd Carney will be much better for the run also. Origin games are all difficult, but your first taste is definitely the toughest. He will be much better after getting that debut under his belt.
There is a lot of pressure on the Blues going into this game so that may weigh in Queensland’s favour, but NSW managed to win at ANZ Stadium last year and keep the series alive so there will be a confidence in the squad. It won’t be new for them. They should feel comfortable in front of a packed home crowd.
Speaking of playing at home, I believe the home ground advantage is worth 10 points, even at Origin level. It can be a very intimidating place to play for the travelling state; the whole crowd is baying for blood and will be giving the Blues an extra push.
It is quite difficult playing at ANZ Stadium. Before the success of the current Maroons team, we found it very tough to win there. Frankly, our record was abysmal at the venue. It is a very hard place to go to and to beat the Blues at their own ground.
Looking at the game, I don’t think there will be much separating the two teams. I think there will be two or four points in it. But I’m predicting Queensland will overcome the Blues and the crowd to come away with the win and the series, with Billy Slater taking out man-of-the-match honours. He had a quiet game by his lofty standards in the opening clash. He sets the bar very high, and you would expect him to return to that level for the second game. His performance for the Storm against the Warriors last weekend was back to what we know he can do. He creates plenty of problems for the opposition team and is a danger from the first whistle to the last. NSW be warned!
The key for NSW will be to maintain their intensity for longer periods. They were outstanding in the opening 20 minutes, but they didn’t make it count. They need to be relentless and not let up. The Maroons traditionally put themselves in a position to win games and are very good at converting opportunities late when the game is on the line. They did that again in Melbourne.
I have never seen a team that believes in themselves as much as this group of Queensland players. I have been involved in some pretty good football teams both as a player and as a coaching staff member, but none are better than this one. This team continues to amaze me even now as a supporter and their unique record supports my thoughts.
Go the Maroons.
Get State of Origin news, live scores, stats, match radio and video highlights for all three blockbuster games on your mobile. Download the FREE updated 2012 Official NRL app now.