Game one might be on home turf but Queensland are the team under pressure to maintain a nine year dominance at State of Origin level.
It’s unprecedented for one side to rule at state level for so long since the Origin concept originated in 1980. Furthermore it’s amazing how stable the Queensland side has been over those nine years with Greg Inglis, Justin Hodges, Brent Tate, Johnathan Thurston, Nate Myles and Cameron Smith all part of game one in the 2006 Origin game in Sydney at the start of this dynasty.
Queensland had a lot to be worried about with the Melbourne connection of Slater, Smith and Cronk unable to dominate at club level. The same could be said for Johnathon Thurston’s form but his performance against Brisbane a few weeks back was full of class as he and Matt Scott played with plenty of intensity in the Queensland derby. Around the same time that the Melbourne trio found form against a willing South Sydney side.
The Maroons have faced injury concerns with Sam Thiaday missing only his second game since the 2008 series. Justin Hodges is battling a troublesome left ankle problem and is being nursed through training sessions. As this team ages it will be a battle trying to keep the nucleus of this side on the paddock at the one time.
And thanks to changes to ticketing prices for this series there was a fear that the one-hundredth game of Origin wouldn’t be sold out. The change of pricing has not gone down well with the Queensland public and prompted senior players to publicly plead with supporters to snap up the remaining tickets.
Queensland will believe they are the underdogs.
If you look at the stats they are far from underdogs with Queensland unbeaten at home since 2009 when New South Wales won 28-16 despite having Trent Waterhouse dismissed for fighting. The crowd will lift the Maroons players and provide the intimidation factor for their southern neighbors.
I wouldn’t think that Mal Meninga’s men would be worried about what New South Wales side will take the paddock. All the cheap talk before the match is friendly banter and not taken too serious. They will probably acknowledge the fact that Trent Hodgkinson and Josh Reynolds in the halves are in form. The latter has that Queensland-like approach to his game and will give as much as he takes. They will know how to shut down Jarryd Hayne from the back and to get under the skin of Robbie Farah. They will niggle at Paul Gallen in the hope the Blues captain will retaliate.
We can talk all day about the Melbourne trio, JT, Brent Tate, GI and the fact Darius Boyd always seems to produce something special when pulling on the Maroon jumper. But this game might belong to two of the more underrated squad members in Daly Cherry-Evans and Matt Gillett. Both of these players are at the top of their game. Cherry-Evans’ performance against Canberra at Brookvale was another demonstration of how good this kid is. As for Gillett, he’s been one of the most consistent backrowers in the 2014 National Rugby League season. His height and strength make up for the intimidation factor that Nate Myles brings to his game.
At the end of the day it comes down to commitment, being proud of who you represent and playing a full eighty minutes. These three things have paved the way for a successful era. Cameron Smith will be making sure his men don’t let the Queensland public down. Game one could be the start of another successful campaign if they don’t let all the pressures get to them.