The final word on State of Origin – who will win and why, plus the stats of the series opener, the match of the round between the Roosters and Broncos and something that you may have missed.
What does recent history say about the Origin opener?
That it will be close.
Look at the winning margins in game one from the last three years. It was Queensland by two points last year and by one point in 2015. In 2014, the last time a series opener was played at Suncorp, the Blues got up by four.
There hasn’t been a first game decided by more than 10 points in the last 13 years. In three of the last four openers in Brisbane, the margin has been four points.
And as we all know, whoever wins tomorrow night is really in the box seat to take the series as has been the case in eight of the last 10 years.
If Queensland is to win, what has to happen?
I think this Maroons side has to lead. I don’t like their chances if they have to chase points. Making the running on the scoreboard will also plant some mental demons in the heads of the Blues players.
Anthony Milford needs to be a big contributor on debut and that means a lot of pressure on the young bloke. He’s an absolutely super player, but this is origin.
The bench for Queensland also needs to come on and make an impact. That puts a lot of focus on the likes of Aidan Guerra and Jacob Lillyman.
If New South Wales is to win, what has to happen?
No mistakes inside their own half. There's rarely much between the sides in the opening match of the series, so don’t present the Maroons with any attacking chances without having to work for them.
Discipline at marker defence has to be spot on to try and nullify the impact of the in-form Cameron Smith. There also needs to be pressure all night on Cooper Cronk.
And yes, there has to be a focus on the role of Mitchell Pearce. This is his time. His club form is great. Run the show.
What's the last word on Origin One?
I'm sticking with my forecast of last week.
I reckon New South Wales will win.
Lock me in for a 16-6 scoreline.
I like James Tedesco for man of the match and Jarryd Hayne for first try.
May the best team win.
What’s the match of the round this weekend?
It has to be the Roosters against the Broncos at Allianz Stadium on Saturday, and that's without even knowing who of the 11 Origin players across the two clubs will back up.
It's a tough period for both clubs with so many players involved in representative football, as last weekend proved.
And then when you look at the table, neither team wants to slip potentially six points off the competition lead here with a loss.
I can't wait to call this one on Fox League's Super Saturday. And I’m prepared to go beyond 80 minutes to determine a winner.
What’s this about a book?
Allow me one plug for my book released this week through New Holland Publishers.
I've called it Stuff You May Have Missed. It's a collection of stories, observations, first hand accounts and statistics that I’ve gathered in a lifetime of following rugby league.
From the story behind the Falcon, the Tigers mascot of '69 and the incredible tale of the Russian side at the 2000 World Cup, to Billy Idol, the best rugby league food, and the truth about Hazem El Masri kicking helium filled footballs on the Footy Show… I guarantee you'll be entertained.
Stuff You May Have Missed is on sale now for $29.95 at bookstores and online.