Mate against mate in 'Roos v Kiwis
The mate-against-mate concept will always be synonymous with Origin, ever since a bloke named Beetson belted another bloke named Cronin despite having lined up in their Parramatta colours two days earlier.
But Saturday night's clash between the Kangaroos and the Kiwis packs plenty of familiar faces on both sides of the haka, and club loyalties will again be put to one side for 80 minutes with both teams hunting for a first-up win to kick off their Four Nations campaign, not to mention trans-Tasman bragging rights when the players return to their respective NRL outfits.
Roosters: Michael Jennings and Daniel Tupou v Shaun Kenny-Dowall
Should New Zealand start Kenny-Dowall on his favoured right edge, he'll line up directly opposite Roosters teammates and the NSW Origin pairing of Jennings and Tupou. And the feathers will fly if that's the case, with the strength and power of Kenny-Dowall against the speed and guile of Jennings making for an intriguing battle out wide. At 1.95 metres tall Tupou is also an obvious target for the aerial raids of the Aussie halves, but Kenny-Dowall is no slouch under the high ball himself, and does have the vertical leap to challenge his Chooks compadre.
Panthers: Josh Mansour v Dean Whare
The Kiwis have moved Whare around the backline in the last couple of years, often using him at right centre where he's done a sterling job containing Kangaroos superstar Greg Inglis. But with Kenny-Dowall in the mix and fellow Panthers powerhouse Mansour making his debut on the Aussies' left flank, the temptation would be strong to post his defensively sound Penrith teammate one inside veteran Jason Nightingale. Given Mansour's penchant for roaming wherever he sees fit, not to mention the 162 tackles he broke in 2014, Whare will probably still come across his formerly beared mate from the foot at the mountains at one point or another.
Sea Eagles: Daly Cherry-Evans v Kieran Foran
The brightest jewels in the Sea Eagles' crown and the most complete club halves pairing in the game go head to head for the first time at international level as their country's starting five-eighths. Cherry-Evans has been itching for a shot in the run-on 13 having played just 45 minutes in his last three Tests, and is likely to play a more similar ball-running role to Foran with regular halfback Cooper Cronk to call most of the organisational shots for the Kangaroos. Also worth a look is whether Cherry-Evans, in possession of one of the most deadly boots in the NRL, targets Manly teammate and New Zealand fullback Peta Hiku at the back, given Hiku did have his issues with both the grubbering and high ball in 2014.
Wests Tigers: Aaron Woods v Adam Blair and Martin Taupau
This one should be a corker. A couple of Tigers with plenty of bottle about them in Woods and Blair will come together from the kick-off, with big Marty Taupau to be thrown into the fray from about the 20 minute mark. Woods in particular will be keen to make a statement in his first green and gold jumper after finding his feet at Origin level in 2014, and he could do worse than follow the lead of Taupau, who made a hell of a dent in the Kangaroos defensive line during his first outing in the Trans-Tasman Test back in May.
Storm: Melbourne Kangaroos v Melbourne Kiwis
Craig Bellamy has no less than six of his charges turning out on Saturday night, with Cooper Cronk, Ryan Hoffman and Cam Smith in green and gold lining up against some familiar faces in New Zealand prop Jesse Bromwich and back-rowers Kevin Proctor and Tohu Harris. Hoffman and Proctor in particular will be seeing plenty of each other given they occupy the same edge, with Proctor likely to be directed in Cronk and Hoffman's direction hard and often in a bid to wear the Aussie playmaker out in defence and blunt his offensive influence. Look for Smith to also be trying to slow down the play more often than not whenever Bromwich trucks it up, as the Storm skipper knows how effective the big man is if he gets a quick play-the-ball and gets the Kiwis on a roll.
Bulldogs: Dave Klemmer v Greg Eastwood
We're unlikely to see this match-up unless one of the Aussie forwards rolls an ankle in the warm-up with Klemmer being named on Tim Sheens' extended bench, but we can still dream of two of the Dogs' biggest and most damaging ball-runners coming together in the Test match arena. It's a tantalising prospect to say the least, with Klemmer's fire and brimstone approach a fair match for Eastwood's bullocking carries and deft ball-playing, but Eastwood will come across his former Brisbane teammates Sam Thaiday and Corey Parker at some point in the middle.