It is that time of the year again when the borders between New South Wales and Queensland become dangerous and your allegiances are tested. Continue reading for our State of Origin Preview and Betting Tips.
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Queensland no longer have Mal Meninga at the helm as Kevin Walters will take over for his first series as coach but with a very similar team as to the last decade, you can expect QLD to have a similar game plan. The injury to Will Chambers has seen Justin O’Neill called into the squad for his first taste of Origin whilst the retirement of Justin Hodges has given Corey Oates an opportunity on the wing.
Meanwhile there has been a lot of changes to the NSW squad with a new halves pairing of James Maloney and Adam Reynolds. Maloney has been recalled into the squad for the first time in three years whilst Reynolds will make his debut and will be under a lot of scrutiny. The Rabbitohs halfback was selected in the team for his ability to steer a team around the park, game management and solid kicking game. Reynolds has experienced Grand Final success and won’t be daunted by the environment. Maloney was recalled to the side for his great form for the Sharks that has seen them move to the top of the table for the first time since 2000. Maloney was initially dropped from the squad due to be caught out in defence, however he has improved in this area along with other areas and I am predicting this to be a successful halves combination.
NSW have a new Fullback in Matt Moylan and he will bring a lot of x-factor to the side as he will be used as a third ball handler. Moylan has a lot of skill and this was evident with his great tip on over the weekend against the Titans for fellow NSW debutant Josh Mansour. The incumbent fullback Josh Dugan will be moved to the centres and this could be where the game is won or lost. Dugan has little experience in the centre position but has played there in Origin before. Whether he can contain Greg Inglis will be the biggest question asked of him as despite Inglis’s poor form at club level, in the 15 minutes he played at centre for the Rabbitohs he tore them a part. Blake Fergurson will be defending next to Dugan on the wing and he is normally a centre at club level and has showed defensive lapses for the Roosters this season.
Queensland have the advantage in the back line with Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk steering the team around with the Australian and Queensland Cameron Smith at hooker. The combination between these three players is near perfect and Darius Boyd has showed a lot of improvement this season at fullback and has improved his ball playing and has racked up a lot of try assists in the opening 11 games. If Queensland earn the majority of the possession and field position, it could easily turn into an embarrassing loss for the home side.
However, the Blues definitely have the advantage when it comes to the forward pack as they have a mixture of experience and youth in their line up. There is also x-factor to come off the bench with Andrew Fifita selected after having a massive impact for the Sharks against the Sea Eagles. He definitely earned his spot after that match as he was at his damaging best and could be what the Blues need to crack open the Queensland defence with his ability to offload the ball and constantly breaks the tackle of the first defender. Paul Gallen and Aaron woods have a lot of experience and will start in the front row whilst Greg Bird makes his return at lock after missing last year’s series through suspension. He too will offer a lot in attack as he is a former five-eighth whilst his defensive is strong and will always have a bit of tough niggle in his tackles.
The Maroons forward pack is said to be aging and they have stuck loyal to Nate Myles despite him playing at a low level for his new club the Sea Eagles this year. Myles if a former player of the series and should lift for the occasion and he is partnered by the Australian front row forward Matt Scott. Their back row is three more tough forwards that will hit the ball up strongly but Corey Parker offers a bit more in attack with his ability to offload the ball.
The Blues again would have the advantage when it comes to the bench as they have three big forwards who can spark the side whilst they have gone with Dylan Walker as their fourth bench player who surprised the majority of the Rugby League community. It is unsure how they will use walker but it is assumed that he will be thrown onto the field in a roaming position where he will be asked to make an impact with the ball similar to what Queensland do with Michael Morgan. However, Walker doesn’t have the creative skills that Morgan poses and I believe this is a massive flaw to the inclusion of the Sea Eagles player.
Josh McGuire and Josh Papalii offer a lot of the bench for QLD as Maguire is a work horse and hard to bring down whilst Papalii will come out as the enforcer and will be looking to put big shots on the two halves.
This match could be played out in three different ways. Queensland get out to an early lead and never look back as it becomes too overwhelming for the NSW halves and they lose their way. It is a grind from the start and the impact of the big forwards of NSW brings extra impact off the bench and the Blues win a close battle or Queensland find a way to stay within striking distance throughout the match and the experience of Smith, Cronk and Thurston gets them over the line. I am predicting the latter to happen as the Blues have struggled to score points against Queensland in recent years and even when they won the series two years ago it was two narrow victories. The Maroons always seem to find a way to come out on top and despite the match being played in Sydney they have a decent record away from home.
UPDATE: Josh Dugan reinjured his elbow and has withdrawn from Game 1 and their are reports stating that he will miss 4-6 weeks which could rule him out for the entire series. Whilst Dugan is a great player, I believe Josh Morris is a far superior centre and has shown in the past his dedication to the team and to New South Wales. He is one of the best defensive centres in the game and will be the best player to nullify Inglis in attack.
Meanwhile Queensland have their own injury concerns surrounding Cooper Cronk. The QLD halfback went down in training with an ankle injury and he didn't train all weekend and has been rehabing his ankle. Luckily for the Maroons they have a lot of depth in the halves and Michael Morgan will slot into five-eighth moving Johnathan Thurston to halfback if Cronk is unable to take the field. Morgan and Thurston have won a premiership together in the halves and they won't lose much with Cronk being sidenlined other than his experience, cool head and ability to steer the team around the park whilst Thurston can choose when to insert himself.
The inclusion of Morris has changed my belief of who will win this match as it improves the side's defence drastically and this benefit their game plan. The Blues have won five of their last seven matches in Sydney and I am backing that to improve on Wednesday night.
UPDATED TIP: New South Wales 1-12 @ $2.75 with Sportsbet
In the first try scorer market I am predicting that Queensland will look to attack down the left hand edge that has been so successful for them in the past. It has changed up a bit this series with Inglis returning to the centres whilst he has a new wing partner in Corey Oates as Darius Boyd is at fullback. However, it shouldn’t change too much and with Inglis up against an inexperienced centre into Josh Dugan, If he is able to get any room at all on he will take advantage of it and cross to extend his record for tries scored in Origin matches.
TIP: Greg Inglis First Try Scorer @ $13.00 with Sportsbet (using promotion below)
Take note: Any of the tips in this article are simply the author’s opinion, so bet at your own risk and always gamble responsibly. Also be sure to check out the Before You Bet Twitter Page for all our thoughts in the lead up to bets! Happy punting!
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