The 2018 State of Origin series is here! Game 1 on Wednesday night will be played at the MCG and both sides will be desperate to kick of the series with a win. See our NRL State of Origin Game 1 Preview and Betting Tips below.
It’s a new era in QLD Maroons State of Origin history as Thurston, Cronk and Smith have all retired after a hugely successful time together. Cameron Smith is the most capped player in Origin with 42 appearances and Thurston is just behind on 37. So the wealth of experience missing means that NSW is heavily favoured to finally win their first Origin series since 2014. However, write off this Maroons side at your own peril because they love being the underdog. The extra motivation to send off Billy Slater a winner in his last series is something to watch. They’ve also blooded some of their more inexperienced players in last season’s Origin series, especially in the halves. Dragon Ben Hunt and the Storm’s Cameron Munster will combine in the halves after both playing one game in 2017. Munster was influential in the 2017 decider and Hunt has been one of the reasons why the Dragons are near the top of the ladder in 2018. So with the experience of Slater and Inglis around, I’m sure the Maroons will be a tough opponent once again.
NSW Coach Brad Fittler has completely changed the Blues lineup as he aims to bring them back into relevance. They haven’t won a series since 2014 and as a result, he’s added 11 debutants for game 1. A pleasing sign for Blues fans will be some stability in the halves. He’s gone with in-form Panthers duo James Maloney and Nathan Cleary. Maloney has led the Panthers to the top of the ladder and Cleary has successfully returned from a knee injury. In his first Origin, the experience of Maloney should help.
In the outside backs, speed is the agenda with some of the fastest players in the NRL on show. Firstly, they have Tedesco at the back who is one of the best NRL players in support and his speed around the ruck will be a test for the QLD forwards. Josh Addo-Carr is the leading try-scorer this season (12) and has been the form winger in 2018. He loves the big occasion (2017 GF) and he shouldn’t feel out of place in Origin. His centre partner James Roberts is another speedster and has scored a number of important tries for the Broncos in 2018. But arguably his biggest challenge will be defending Maroons skipper Greg Inglis, one of the greatest Origin players in history. Inglis looks to be back in-form after a serious knee injury last year and is one of the reasons why the Rabbitohs will be a Premiership contender.Then on the wing, it’s speed vs speed with Holmes up against Addo-Carr. Holmes dominated game 3 last year with 3 tries to become just the 8th player in Origin history to do so. Meanwhile on the other side of the field, Tommy Turbo and Rooster Latrell Mitchell will face the experienced duo of Will Chambers and Dane Gagai. Gagai will probably enjoy playing on the wing as his time in the centres this season for Souths hasn’t been overly impressive. He won the Wally Lewis Medal in 2017 so he’ll be important for the Maroons.
In the forwards, both sides are looking really strong. Captain Body Cordner leads the forward pack. Frizell is becoming one of the best second rowers in the NRL and Jack De Belin has been a superb player for the Dragons. Klemmer and Campbell-Gillard will be the key against Napa and Wallace. Felise Kaufusi and Gavin Cooper can both find the try-line and should be dangerous.
Another interesting matchup is at hooker with debutant Damien Cook aiming to out-play fellow first-timer Andrew McCullough. Cook has been rewarded for his outstanding form at Souths. He’s the number 1 ranked player in the NRL for dummy half runs, which will be important in the latter stages of each half as the forwards tire. McCullough has huge shoes to fill with the retirement of Cameron Smith.
The bench looks slightly in the Maroons favour. They can play Morgan in a number of positions. Papalii and Hess have Origin experience. Jai Arrow has been one of the best players for the Titans and will relish his first Origin game. For the Blues, they have inexperience with Peachey, Crichton and Vaughan all making their Origin debut.
In the end, this is a very tough Origin matchup to predict. Both sides have a host of new players in the lineup and it’s also at a neutral venue (the MCG). The Blues do have a good record at the ‘G with 3 wins from 4. But the under total has been one of the best bets in the NRL this season. With the number of penalties increasing, I don’t see that changing in Origin. Which means both defences will have plenty of rest time to setup. Previous Origin series have also been low scoring. The 2017 series averaged just 31 total points and the total hasn’t reached 35.5 points in the last 4 Origin games.
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