NSW coach Brad Fittler and the Blues will be eager to atone for allowing the Origin shield to be snatched from their grasp in 2020 by a Queensland team tagged by some as the Maroons' worst-ever squad.
Fittler, who had brought the pride back to NSW with series wins in 2018 and 2019, admits he was out-coached by wily Wayne Bennett and is determined to ensure the Blues make good on their favourites tags this time around.
Both teams have been hit by injuries and suspensions with Fittler forced to go with a new-look back row and Maroons boss Paul Green gambling on the fitness of 75 per cent of Queensland's spine.
NSW are powered by the unbeaten competition-leading Penrith and will be hoping more than a little bit of the Panthers' magic will rub off in Townsville on June 9.
Match: Maroons v Blues
Game 1 -
Venue: Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville
Maroons: Dane Gagai missed two field sessions due to illness but he is fine to play.
Back-up hooker Reed Mahoney was released from camp to play for the Eels against Newcastle on Sunday but suffered a shoulder injury and is out of action for a couple of weeks.
St George Illawarra skipper Ben Hunt took Mahoney's place on the extended bench. Hunt will be the 18th man with Cowboys forward Coen Hess omitted from the squad an hour before kick-off.
Cameron Munster has been cleared to play as has Titan AJ Brimson, who will take up the bench utility role.
Veteran back-rower Felise Kaufusi beat his tripping charge at the judiciary and is free to play.
Blues: Payne Haas (knee bone bruise), James Tedesco and Josh Addo-Carr (both hip pointer) were the only slight injury concerns for NSW in the lead-up to game day.
NSW will start three debutants in their match-day 17 with Panthers five-eighth Jarome Luai being joined by club teammates Brian To'o and Liam Martin in pulling on the sky blue for the first time. Their introduction should be eased by the presence of fellow Panthers Nathan Cleary and Isaah Yeo.
Penrith hooker Api Koroisau will be the 18th man with Rabbitohs duo Campbell Graham and Keaon Koloamatangi omitted from the game-day squad.
Match: Maroons v Blues
Game 1 -
Fullback for Maroons is number 5 Valentine HolmesFullback for Blues is number 1 James Tedesco
Winger for Maroons is number 2 Xavier CoatesWinger for Blues is number 2 Brian To'o
Centre for Maroons is number 3 Kurt CapewellCentre for Blues is number 3 Latrell Mitchell
Centre for Maroons is number 4 Dane GagaiCentre for Blues is number 4 Tom Trbojevic
Winger for Maroons is number 18 Kyle FeldtWinger for Blues is number 5 Josh Addo-Carr
Five-Eighth for Maroons is number 6 Cameron MunsterFive-Eighth for Blues is number 6 Jarome Luai
Halfback for Maroons is number 7 Daly Cherry-EvansHalfback for Blues is number 7 Nathan Cleary
Prop for Maroons is number 8 Christian WelchProp for Blues is number 8 Daniel Saifiti
Hooker for Maroons is number 9 Harry GrantHooker for Blues is number 9 Damien Cook
Prop for Maroons is number 10 Tino Fa'asuamaleauiProp for Blues is number 10 Jake Trbojevic
2nd Row for Maroons is number 11 Felise Kaufusi2nd Row for Blues is number 11 Cameron Murray
2nd Row for Maroons is number 12 David Fifita2nd Row for Blues is number 12 Tariq Sims
Lock for Maroons is number 13 Jai ArrowLock for Blues is number 13 Isaah Yeo
Interchange for Maroons is number 14 Alexander BrimsonInterchange for Blues is number 14 Jack Wighton
Interchange for Maroons is number 15 Jaydn Su'AInterchange for Blues is number 15 Junior Paulo
Interchange for Maroons is number 16 Moeaki FotuaikaInterchange for Blues is number 16 Payne Haas
Interchange for Maroons is number 17 Joe OfahengaueInterchange for Blues is number 17 Liam Martin
Reserve for Maroons is number 21 Ben HuntReserve for Blues is number 18 Apisai Koroisau
- Referee: Gerard Sutton
- Touch Judge: Todd Smith
- Touch Judge: Phil Henderson
- Senior Review Official: Ashley Klein
Kurt Capewell v Tom Trbojevic: The Panthers back-rower not only missed the last NRL round because of a head knock but has to try and fill in at centre against one of the hottest players in the competition - Manly's Tom Trbojevic.
Both have handled the switch to centre in the past but the Sea Eagles custodian's track record at Origin level and red-hot club form present a challenge several levels above that which confronted Capewell on his Origin debut in 2020.
There are fears that the NRL's high-contact crackdown's fallout will spread to the NRL and see the same sort of blowouts that are proliferating at club level. The Origin record for most points in a game is 72 (NSW 56 Queensland 16, Game III 2000) and the largest winning margin 46 (Queensland 52 NSW 6, Game III 2015).
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