My NSW Origin team did not fare well and for that I hope the players I would have picked did not bank on actual selection. I had 11 out of 17 selections correct. As I said last week, there has many cases put forward for those players who were not selected.
In essence, NSW are on a hiding to nothing when you read the Queensland Origin I team.
When you look at the Maroons bench comprising Ben Hannant, Dave Taylor, Dave Shillington and Matt Gillett, the word "formidable" must be an understatement.
NSW have selected an athletic, mobile forward pack. There are many minutes in the legs of the forwards which suggests that Ricky Stuart will demand a high-tempo game.
"High tempo" can mean keeping the ball in play, very aggressive line speed in defence, quick restarts and lots of players in motion while in possession of the football. Glenn Stewart, Greg Bird, Luke Lewis, Paul Gallen, Ben Creagh, Tony Williams and Jamie Buhrer can all play 80 minutes at club level.
Obviously not all will in Game One, but if they play a style that is high tempo then there will be no petrol left in the tanks at the conclusion of the game. This tempo coupled with Todd Carney’s ambition to play skilful footy at any point of the game are the key elements to NSW getting a victory.
Queensland’s forward pack is nowhere near as athletic but they are huge in body mass. The bench has a combined weight of about 450kg while Petero Civoniceva, Matt Scott, Nate Myles, Ashley Harrison and Sam Thaiday add another 540kg to the mix. Queensland will be more provocative and direct than NSW and on occasion will send a lone runner with the ball to conserve energy.
The Maroons also have a huge advantage in experience at Origin level in the forwards, with a combined total of 125 games to the Blues' 44. If the architects of your team are Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston, then you need space and time for these to operate. Queensland have won six series in a row so the old "if it is not broken, why fix it" philosophy still holds true for the Maroons.
The respective backlines are miles apart. The Maroons currently occupy the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 6 and 7 in the Australian Kangaroos (if Jharal Yow Yeh were not injured they may also have had the 5). Their backs are all in form and very experienced. They boast arguably the best player in the world in Billy Slater, in addition to regular Origin man-of-the match contenders Johnathan Thurston and Greg Inglis (at his best, he is the most talented player in the game in my opinion). The NSW backs will have to be better than most who have ever played before to stop them.
Game One is in Melbourne. I understand that Ricky Stuart is not happy about giving away a home advantage for a game in this series. In 2011, Queensland had two home games and NSW one. NSW won their home game last year and could have considered themselves a strong series chance in 2012 if we had two fixtures with 80,000 parochial Blues supporters.
I like the idea of taking one Origin game to a neutral venue each year. But it must occur every year so both NSW and Queensland have one home game each. Melbourne has very strong rugby league support, and committed support from the stakeholders with deep pockets. Rugby league needs to build its 'war chest' so the Australian Rugby League Commission can make decisions which can be aggressive, flexible, altruistic and loyal.
I know NSW have little chance on paper, but the game's not played on paper.
My prediction: NSW to defeat Queensland 24-22.
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