NSW are ready to bring the State of Origin Shield back South of the Tweed for the first time since 2005.
In game one they had some luck, as you need in any sport, as QLD lost key play maker Cooper Cronk after just 10 minutes and Daly Cherry-Evans struggled to steer the team around. Cherry-Evans will start at half back for game 2, but is struggling with a knee injury. Fullback Billy Slater and centre Greg Inglis are also struggling with injury and in Origin football this is a huge liability for QLD. They have already lost the experience and offloading ability of Corey Parker.
NSW have lost the Morris twins to injury and have dropped Tony Williams, but Josh Dugan, Will Hopoate and Greg Bird are very handy replacements. Anyone questioning Dugan’s shift to centre need only ask the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks how he is going after Dugan scored a hat-trick in round 13. Hopoate is a classy player and Bird is made for Origin.
In game one, NSW repelled wave after wave of QLD attack, something they haven’t done a lot of in recent years. That gives them plenty of confidence going into tonight’s game. QLD have dominated Origin for close to a decade, and are used to rolling over the top of NSW. Suddenly they are up against a very good NSW side, and they are staring a series defeat in the face.
It was building up to this, has been doing so for a couple of years. In 2012 it took a 75th-minute Cooper Cronk field goal to seal the series for QLD. In 2013 QLD won the deciding game 3, 12-10, with both sides scoring two tries.
QLD are getting older; Slater is 30, Justin Hodges is 32, Jonathan Thurston is 31, skipper Cameron Smith is 30, and the returning Sam Thaiday is 29. A younger NSW is hungry for success and over the years, the loss of Orign legends such as Shane Webcke, Darren Lockyer and Petero Civoniceva have seen QLD lose some of that aura they once had, something the Australian cricket team had between 1995-2004, when opposition teams were almost beaten before a ball had been bowled. In players like Daniel Tupou, Trent Hodkinson, Josh Reynolds and Trent Merrin NSW have a new breed of players, unburdened by years of playing against the might of QLD at their peak.
For the first time in a long time, NSW has QLD at their mercy. They outplayed QLD at Suncorp Stadium and thoroughly deserved the win. Now at ANZ Stadium in front of 80,000 supporters, they have to stand up again and grab QLD by the scruff of the neck and say, “no more!”
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