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For & Against: Will Queensland win Origin again in 2021?

The Maroons' stunning Origin upset in 2020 has ensured the 2021 series will be one of the most highly anticipated in many years.

Will Wayne Bennett return to chase a sixth series win and again sprinkle some magic dust on a Queensland side which thrives on being written off?

Or can Brad Fittler right the wrongs of the 2020 campaign and make it three series victories in four years?

Every Origin series provides intrigue and controversy but on the back of the "worst Maroons team in 40 years" sledge and the Blues hierarchy copping plenty of heat for their selections, next year's interstate showdown will take the drama to a whole new level.

In this week's For & Against, NRL.com reporters Chris Kennedy and Martin Lenehan debate whether the Maroons can maintain the rage and defend their title next season.

Match Highlights: Maroons v Blues

Will Queensland win Origin again in 2021?

For - NRL.com reporter Chris Kennedy

I have to put my hand up and admit I didn’t give the Maroons much of a chance in 2020.

With a host of injuries, including to some of the real superstars of the game like Kalyn Ponga, David Fifita and Michael Morgan, an already skinny side was up against a powerful Blues side gunning for three straight.

Even when Queensland ground out a shock win in Adelaide, the Blues just seemed off their game and with another young backline star in AJ Brimson rubbed out of the series I thought NSW would roar home.

DCE delivers cheeky sledge and lifts the shield

That looked on the money after game two but the decider shows why you can just never rule Queensland out.

With four more debutants including Harry Grant producing one of Origin’s great first games, the Kangaroos halves running the show and Wayne Bennett proving he is still the wiliest coach going, they were too good.

So what's stopping them next year? With the injured cohort including Ponga, Fifita, Brimson, Morgan and Corey Oates, among others,  back and available and all those debutants blooded, where does the Blues' improvement come from to reverse the result in 2021?

Many thought that once the legendary Maroons squad – Smith, Thurston, Cronk, Slater, Inglis and co. – finally retired that Queensland would have years in the doldrums.

But with Munster, Cherry-Evans, Ponga/Brimson and now Harry Grant, they already have a better spine to choose from than the Blues and they showed in the series just gone that even with fewer good forwards to choose from, the forwards they do have will do the job.

Maroons played to Queensland standard says Bennett

The fact they were also able to completely dominate in the third game should give NSW cause for concern. The fact they also had a far more effective game plan should also be a worry.

But once next year rolls we will remember that anything can happen in Origin so of course either team can win. But Queensland will rightly start favourites and the Blues have work to do.

Against - NRL.com senior reporter Martin Lenehan

There seems little doubt that NSW underestimated their opponents in this year's Origin series and paid the ultimate price.

Brad Fittler has now been on the wrong side of the two biggest upsets in Origin history - as captain in 1995 against "Fatty" Vautin's no-names and coach in 2020 against Wayne Bennett's underdogs - and he'll be hurting big time.

He will take full responsibility for the questionable selection decisions which saw the Blues play the entire series with a five-eighth and a fullback in the centres and four forwards on the bench in Games 2 and 3 while Ryan Papenhuyzen cooled his heels in the grandstand.

If Origin returns to the middle of the season in 2021, Fittler and his men need to wait only seven months for a shot at redemption.

Fittler left fuming after Blues shock Origin series loss

First order of business will be to drum into every potential Blues player that Queensland are never to be taken lightly again.

Second order of business is to move Jack Wighton to five-eighth where he can play the same dominant role that Cameron Munster played for Queensland and get Panthers young gun Stephen Crichton into the centres.

Third order of business is to pull Nathan Cleary aside and guarantee him the job as halfback for at least the next five years.

The Panthers No.7 may have come up short in the grand final and the Origin decider but this kid is made of the right stuff and he's the man to lead the Blues back to the top.

The pain of losing to a side dubbed the worst in Maroons history will sting all summer for Fittler and his men and you can bet every member of that squad as well as those with designs on breaking into the team will come out firing when the NRL season kicks off in March.

There's nothing like an embarrassing and unexpected loss to light a fire in a team and the Blues have all the ammunition they need to restore lost pride in 2021.

They have too much at stake to let the Maroons get one over on them again.

 

The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARL Commission, NRL clubs or state associations.