The Big Marn absolutely loves State of Origin - almost as much as he loves Queensland!
NSW v QLD - State of Origin 1 (ANZ Stadium)
Last year I thought maybe father time had caught up with many of the big names, looking tired and so on in the cauldron that is Origin. Then they came out on that final game rampage where they drubbed the Blues by 52-6 and everyone went wow, that wasn’t too half bad. These ‘old stagers’ are playing out of their skin in the NRL this season and QLD have an aura of a settled side, which is perfect to take into such a big match. Thurston, Cronk, Smith as well as Parker, Morgan and others have been in fine fettle for their clubs. They run out onto ANZ Stadium with so much experience under their belts, it’s mindboggling. What does worry me slightly is they will be missing Justin Hodges and this will be amplified by the magnificent crowd support the Blues will receive at home.
Whilst I am unashamedly QLD, looking at NSW they do lose Dugan but lose nothing in his replacement in Morris, who is the more accomplished centre. Dugan is an out and out fullback. I like the choice of the Panthers duo in Mansour and Moylan and they will rise to the occasion. Where there is concern for the Blues is at Half-Back. This position is an enigma and NSW have had problems in that spot dating back to when Ricky Stuart retired. Reynolds will have his work cut out as they will target him and his often suspect defence. He responds to niggle but it often isn’t a good response so expect the QLD boppers to be targeting him and getting under his skin. He also isn’t a running half-back, he is more stand and pass. He does get some good kicks away at the end of the set, but the pressure on him is incredible.
NSW will look to target those in the QLD team whom seem a bit below their best – Inglis hasn’t set the world on fire at the Bunnies, Gagai has been under the weather, Guerra has been playing in a dysfunctional side and Nate Myles not really sighted down Brookvale way, so there are chinks in the QLD armour. Especially big Fifita off the bench – I like this boy, he is a very good player and will bring some grunt to the Blues pack when trying to exploit QLD’s weaknesses.
Looking towards the influence of the weather – the Bureau of Meteorology or weather mob or whatever they are called, reckon there is a 90% chance of rain and expect the temperature to be down around the 10 degree mark in western Sydney on Wednesday. This means the forwards will have to have their noses down, bums up working hard through the middle. There is no way this game will be a blow out like the last origin game, and this makes the value bet here Queensland to Win 1-12 ($2.85 William Hill). When you look at the important positions on the paddock, QLD dominate. 1-12 looks the bet.
First Try scorer - the Blues will come out so fired up in front of their home fans I expect some early fireworks and spark, so let’s roll with Michael Jennings ($15 Ladbrokes) as the First Try Scorer in Origin one. I also want to back young Corey Oates ($2.75 Ladbrokes) to be an Anytime Tryscorer. He gets his shot at Origin and it is richly deserved. He knows his way to the line and there is no doubt Thurston and Morgan will release the speed out wide when they have the chance.
Player of the Match has been owned by Thurston in recent years, and you could make a case for any number of cane toads and cockroaches, but I can see the wiley old maestro Corey Parker ($17 Ladbrokes) stealing the thunder in Game one. He really lifts in these games, plays big minutes and he is often their chief off-loader of the ball in contact. I expect him to have a very big game for QLD and as such, he is tremendous value to get the gong.