For just the second time in 14 years, NSW are heading into an Origin series as the defending champs.
The Blues didn't handle that pressure in 2015, losing the series 2-1.
But this time they won't be looking over at Cameron Smith, Greg Inglis, Billy Slater, Johnathan Thurston or Cooper Cronk.
Those Origin luminaries have passed the baton to a new generation of Queensland stars, who will be hellbent on avoiding back to back series losses.
The Maroons are on home soil for game one before the series shifts to Perth for game two and then on to Sydney for what could be a deciding third game.
Both sides confirmed they will run out 1-17 as initially named, with Queensland debutants Moses Mbye, Joe Ofahengaue and David Fifita to come off the bench while Cody Walker, Nick Cotric, Cameron Murray, Jack Wighton and Payne Haas will make their Origin debuts for NSW.
The Hunt v Cook clash will be crucial, as will Cherry-Evans v Cleary, Chambers v Mitchell and Ponga v Tedesco. But this game could easily come down to a single match-winning play from one individual and there's a good chance it will come from the opposing No.6s. The Maroons will turn to Cameron Munster for that little piece of magic, while NSW will bank on Origin rookie Cody Walker to answer the bell in crunch time as he has done all year for the Rabbitohs.
For the Maroons to win
They haven't been allowed to utter a word about the Blues to the media as Kevin Walters attempts to work his side into an us-against-the-world type frenzy, but the Maroons have to ensure they don't lose sight of the old adage 'work smarter, not harder'. The forwards have to contain their Blues counterparts, while the likes of DCE, Ponga, Munster and Morgan need to prove that Queensland remain in safe hands after losing so many stars to retirement in the past two years.
For the Blues to win
It'll be up to the senior players to keep five Origin debutants calm and focused without disregarding their own responsibilities. Walker has a lot on his plate in his first Origin appearance, as do the three rookies on the bench. Mitchell has to rise to the occasion like he did last year, while Tedesco and Cook loom as major threats to the Maroons. Last but not least, Nathan Cleary has to justify the selectors' faith to stick with him.
Queensland have won five of the past six games at Suncorp Stadium, though the Blues have won game one in Brisbane at their last two attempts (2014 and 2017). The Maroons have lost the penalty count only once in the past eight games at Suncorp. New South Wales have won the past two series-opening games, while the Maroons have lost only one series after winning Game 1 in Brisbane (2005).
And another thing ...
The Wally Lewis Medal has been awarded to the best player in the series since 2004. Prior to that, the medal was exclusively awarded to Queensland's player of the series. Craig Fitzgibbon was the first recipient from either team in '04, while Cameron Smith was a four-time winner before his retirement from Origin in 2017. The only other multiple winner is Billy Slater, who received the medal last year and in 2010.
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