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For & Against: Maroons will win Origin I

The sides have been named, the venue has been chosen and debate is raging as to who holds the aces heading into the crucial first encounter of the 2021 State of Origin series.

Defending champions Queensland are sure to thrive in front of a pro-Maroons crowd in Townsville, while Brad Fittler and his Blues will take a siege mentality into camp as they look to bounce back from last year's shock loss.

Will home ground advantage and the presence of last year's Wally Lewis Medal winner Cameron Munster be enough to get Queensland home and give Paul Green the dream start to his Origin coaching career?

Or can a little bit of the Panthers magic rub off on the Blues and get them across the line?

Renouf analyses Maroons team for Origin I

For & Against - Maroons will win Origin One

For - senior journalist Paul Zalunardo

If Cameron Munster, Kalyn Ponga and Harry Grant are fit for Origin I a winning start to the series should follow. 

The Blues will somehow start as favourites once again but the foundations of his Queensland side are stronger than what the Blues can offer. 

Munster has proven time and again in big matches that he is the best player in the NRL. Tough, inspiring and supremely skillful – this guy has it all. 

He was the difference between the two sides last year and provided he’s near full fitness Brad Fittler and his men face the arduous prospect of keeping him out of the action. Good luck. 

Ponga didn’t even play last year, with the Maroons using an array of fullbacks. If his silky skills are there for all three matches this year, he, Munster and Daly Cherry-Evans will form a playmaking troika more than capable of turning opportunities into points.

Munster cleared for Origin but doubts hover over key Maroons

As well as fullback, two other areas where Queensland should be stronger than last year is courtesy of the presence of both David Fifita and Valentine Holmes. 

While consistency hasn’t been the calling card of Fifita’s 2021 season, he’s turned in a few performances that were downright frightening.  

If Felise Kaufusi is able to make a successful trip to the judiciary on Tuesday night, the Maroons will find themselves superbly situated when it comes to their edge forwards. 

Few could argue Kaufusi and Fifita don’t hold an edge over opposite numbers Cameron Murray and Tariq Sims. 

As far as Holmes is concerned, after making a somewhat underwhelming return to the game in 2020 following an attempt to make it into the NFL, this year has seen a welcome return of the player we all remember. 

On the flipside, the unavailability of Josh Papalii due to suspension will hurt. Big Papa has been the mainstay of the Queensland pack in recent years. 

But the form of Christian Welch and the proven track record of Jai Arrow on the Origin stage suggests the Maroons won’t be found wanting. Maroons by 6 

Behind the scenes with JT

Against - senior journalist Martin Lenehan

The beauty of last year's Origin series being pushed back to November is that the Blues have only had to wait six months for a crack at revenge and the pain of that shock loss is still raw.

Sure, there's plenty of new faces in Brad Fittler's side for Townsville, but the coach and the players who were there at Suncorp Stadium on November 18 last year will be ramming home the fact that they went in as hot favourites and left in a cold sweat.

James Tedesco, Josh Addo-Carr, Jack Wighton, Nathan Cleary, Daniel Saifiti, Damien Cook, Payne Haas, Jake Trbojevic, Junior Paulo and Isaah Yeo were part of the Blues side in Game Three last year so their motivation should be through the roof.

The injection of in-form Panthers Jarome Luai, Brian To'o and Liam Martin and the return of Latrell Mitchell and Tom Trbojevic brings an extra energy to the group as they look to return to the winning ways of 2018 and 2019.

Fittler looking to unlock Wighton’s running game

For his part, Mitchell has had two years to ponder what went wrong in the 2019 series opener when the Blues lost 18-14 in Brisbane and he was dropped for the second game. 

The gifted Rabbitoh has worked his way back into Fittler's good books and has been handed a shot at redemption you just know he will grab with both hands.

Latrell has been lighting it up on the Bunnies' lethal left edge and that's where he'll be stationed for the Blues with Luai on his inside and the flying 'Foxx' outside him. If those three click, the Maroons won't know what hit them.

On the right edge the Blues have powerhouse Panther To'o on  the wing working in tandem with the mercurial Tom Trbojevic, who was one of the standouts of the 2019 series victory.

Trbojevic has been in devastating form for Manly since returning from a hamstring injury and the prospect of trying to keep him in check is sure to be giving rookie coach Green sleepless nights.

Because Origin isn’t motivated by victory, it’s powered by rivalry

And when it comes to players in form, Panthers supremo Cleary has taken his game to a whole new stratosphere in 2021.

His class and composure is a trump card for the Blues and his telepathic combination with Luai ensures plenty of opportunities will be created for the Fab Five of Tedesco, Addo-Carr, To'o, Trbojevic and Mitchell.

With so many attacking threats and a strong pack to lay the foundations up the middle, the Blues have all the ammo they need to kick the 2021 series off in style. Blues by 12

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