Head to head: Ranking the Blues and Maroons benches
The final piece of NRL.com Stats' four-part series ranking the Holden State of Origin I teams concludes with the two all-important benches to discover which state can expect more of a lift once the interchanges begin.
The Blues bench contains three debutants while there is one for the Maroons. Both coaches have gone for two middle forwards, one edge forward and a utility who can do a job in the back row if required.
While Blues coach Brad Fittler has one specialist prop in Paul Vaughan to go with lock or prop Jake Trbojevic, Maroons mentor Kevin Walters has no specialist props – although both Josh Papalii and rookie Jai Arrow have played there.
Arrow is the one Maroons forward in either the starting side or on the bench whose 2018 club stats match up to the busy and in-form forwards selected by Fittler.
His breakout season may have been interrupted by back and rib injuries but it hasn't stopped him racking up a stunning 147 metres per game with 31 tackle busts and two tries to go with 31 tackles per game at a 91% effective rate.
The man in the equivalent role on the Blues' bench, Jake Trbojevic, isn't quite as tough to tackle as Arrow (136 metres per game with 13 busts) but he's the best defender on either bench (40 tackles per game at 94% effective) as well as having wonderful ball skills and support play with four tries this year.
Paul Vaughan hasn't quite replicated the massive numbers he was hitting last year but is still dynamic when starting games for the Dragons. His 131 metres and 21 tackle busts with 26 tackles per game at over 90% effective is a strong return.
Papalii has enjoyed a spike in form since being demoted to the Intrust Super Premiership in round five and in particular, a move to lock in round eight appears to have agreed with him. It has helped push his season figures to 125 metres per game with defensive figures on par with Vaughan.
The two edge forwards picked aren't dissimilar in style, although they are playing contrasting styles this year.
Angus Crichton is a bullocking edge runner, capable of muscling his way through the line and galloping into space.
He racked up a ton of busts last year and is still busting his fair share this year with 37 in 12 games to go with 126 average metres and 36 tackles per game.
Hess is more of a force close to the line and over short distances and isn't getting close to as many run metres (average 93 per game) but actually has more busts with 43; only Viliame Kikau (54) and Lachlan Fitzgibbon (45) have more among edge forwards this year.
His attacking game has been somewhat blunted by an uptick in his defensive workload (33 tackles at 89%) but he has been one of the few consistent performers in an inconsistent Cowboys team this year and still has six line breaks and four tries.
The two utilities are of somewhat contrasting styles – Peachey is a ball-playing back-rower who has started games at hooker and five-eighth and produced arguably his best games at centre. Wing, fullback, halfback and prop are probably the only spots on the field you'd be really reluctant to start him at.
His four tries and 40 tackle busts have been crucial to the Panthers' charge to the top of the Telstra Premiership ladder halfway through the season.
Morgan is more of a genuine playmaker whose only real spots in club footy are in the halves or at fullback, though he did an admirable job in the centres for the Maroons last year and can provide spark at edge back row or dummy half off the bench.
It's probably fair to say he has been down on form this year (certainly compared to his mighty finish to 2017) but has started to come good of late. Unsurprisingly, given he plays 80 at five-eighth or fullback, he is the best of the Origin benchies when it comes to try assists (eight) and line break assists (nine) and is the only one of the eight with a genuine kicking game.
Queensland are arguably better served than the Blues if there is an unexpected injury to a key playmaker but otherwise, Fittler should have an easier time finding a way to bring Peachey into the game than Walters with Morgan.
The Blues bench also looks slightly better equipped to handle a real battle of attrition in the middle that wears down the middle forwards although the presence of Arrow does square the ledger somewhat.
Verdict: NSW. The Blues bench boasts a near-perfect balance with most likely contingencies covered. However the make-up of the two benches are fairly similar and Queensland give up very little ground here.
Match: Blues v Maroons
Game 1 -
Venue: Melbourne Cricket Ground
- Nine Network
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