After four straight State of Origin series losses, this season’s City v Country clash has extra significance for New South Wales hopefuls. <br><br>Every year someone debates the purpose and relevance of this clash – but try telling Robbie Farah and Michael Ennis their ongoing rivalry won’t count here. Try telling youngsters like Lachlan Coote, Josh Dugan, Jamal Idris, Kris Keating, Trent Hodkinson, Kade Snowden, Tim Mannah and Tim Grant this progression in their careers is second rate or an ‘exhibition’. <br><br>Try telling the reformed Todd Carney, Greg Bird and Willie Mason this isn’t a form of redemption. And try telling a veteran like Luke Burt that this isn’t just reward for years of hard work.<br><br>For all you Queensland fans out there, rather than feel the game doesn’t apply to you, why not take a closer look at the pool of players the Blues will pick from to try to wrestle the shield back below the border.<br><br>So what do the stats say about the individuals matching up against each other?<br><br><b>Fullback:</b> Lachlan Coote (City) v Josh Dugan (Country)<br><br>Both Coote and Dugan have been awesome this season and both look like Test and Origin candidates of the future. What better chance to prove themselves than this match. Dugan has averaged 157 metres a match this year, has six line-breaks, one line-break assist, two try assists, 65 tackle-breaks and two tries. Coote is at 137 metres a match, with four line-breaks, a try assist, 44 tackle breaks and an impressive 10 tries.<br><br><b>Wings: </b>Anthony Minichiello & Michael Jennings (City) v Michael Robertson & Luke Burt (Country)<br><br>The City boys lead the way in metres gained, with Minichiello averaging 100 metres a game and Jennings at 98 metres compared to 68 metres for Robertson and just 32 metres for Burt. But Burt has seven tries, Robertson five; while Mini and Jennings have scored just three tries each. <br><br><b>Centres:</b> Beau Champion & Chris Lawrence (City) v Jamal Idris & Timana Tahu (Country)<br><br>For the city slickers the big plus here is line-breaks. Champion has eight for the year so far and Lawrence has five. Idris matches the five breaks of Lawrence but Tahu has just three line-breaks. The Country boys have nine tries between them (five for Idris, four for Tahu), the same number of four-pointers Champion has scored alone. Lawrence has also scored five tries of his own. Idris is a genius under the high ball and can offload but both he and Campion have defensive issues, being ineffective almost 30 per cent of times.<br><br><b>Halves: </b>Kris Keating &Trent Hodkinson (City) v Greg Bird & Brett Kimmorley (Country)<br><br>It’s the rookies versus the veterans. The City kids have been kicking longer than their older counterparts in the NRL this year (Keating 179 metres, Hodkinson 262 metres, Bird 101 metres, Kimmorley 235 metres) and have also matched them for try assists. Keating and Kimmorley have four each and Bird and Hodkinson have two apiece. Kimmorley has five line-break assists, Keating four but only Bird has a great offload amongst this group. Experience will be invaluable… but youthful enthusiasm can be infectious. <br><b><br>Props: </b>Bryce Gibbs & Keith Galloway (City) v Kade Snowden & Brett White (Country)<br><br>The main focus of the big men up front is making metres. Gibbs averages 111 metres, Galloway 100 metres, Snowden 103 metres and White 88 metres so far this season. Defensively the City pair needs to lift. While the Country duo are only ineffective in defence around 10 per cent of the time, Gibbs is running at 15 per cent ineffective and Galloway at 22 per cent. Snowden (29 offloads) and Galloway (13 offloads) do have the ability to promote some good second-phase play.<br><b><br>Hookers: </b>Robbie Farah (City) v Michael Ennis (Country)<br><br>The big battle of the match. The two shared Origin duties last season and each desperately wants to be the Blues’ dummy-half for the entire series and beyond. Farah is kicking more (218 metres v 182 metres), has two line-breaks to Ennis’ one, has four line-break assists compared to Ennis’ two and has five try assists while the Bulldogs rake has just two. Ennis has scored twice compared to Farah’s one four-pointer. Farah also averages 10 tackles more a match.<br><br><b>Second Row: </b>Mark Minichiello & Trent Waterhouse (City) v Ben Creagh and Glenn Stewart (Country)<br><br>All four of the starting second-rowers are workhorse-style players, guys who defend their behinds off and take the hard yards when the props need a break. Waterhouse and Creagh are renowned as edge runners who can be utilised wisely as both runners and decoys but Minichiello is no slouch with the ball, as his three line-breaks and 35 tackle-breaks suggest. And Stewart has scored three times this year, proving he can contribute more than just in defence. <br><br><b>Locks: </b>Luke O’Donnell (City) v Anthony Laffranchi (Country)<br><br>O’Donnell is fresh after his recent suspension and averages 123 metres a match, plus he has two line-breaks, while Laffranchi is punching out 112 metres, has six line-breaks, four tries, a line-break assist and a try assist. O’Donnell hits harder in defence but Laffranchi tackles more often and rarely misses. <br><br><b>Bench Utility:</b> Joel Reddy (City) v Todd Carney (Country)<br><br>Reddy is averaging 78 metres, has four line-breaks and three tries. He can play centre or wing (and perhaps lock or second row at a real pinch). Carney can play fullback or in the halves. He’s averaging 101 metres this year, six line-breaks, four line-break assists, three try assists, 37 tackle-breaks and five tries.<br><b><br>Bench Forwards:</b> Tim Mannah, Tim Grant & Ryan Hoffman (City) v Tom Learoyd Lahrs, Willie Mason & Dean Young (Country)<br><br>The City boys average 107 metres (Grant), 89 metres (Mannah) and 88 metres (Hoffman) while the bush boys tally 116 metres (Mason), 70 metres (Learoyd-Lahrs) and 61 metres (Young). Hoffman runs a great edge line and has two line-breaks, while Young plays like another ball player on occasions and has three line-breaks, two try assists and two tries. <br><br>Now all that’s left is for the two sides to line up and earn their stripes. Bring it on boys!
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