Matt Pritchard previews the first State of Origin clash between Queensland and New South Wales at the Adelaide Oval. This is what we have to look forward to.
It’s been a somewhat disrupted lead-up for the Maroons ahead of the series opener. With Kevin Walters taking up the vacant Brisbane Broncos coaching role early last month, Wayne Bennett has taken over the Maroons in a caretaker role.
On the player front, the Maroons suffered a huge blow early when Kalyn Ponga was booked in for shoulder surgery post-season. This reason, among others, detracts from a post-season Origin series being a permanent fixture on the National Rugby League calendar.
Despite the setbacks, the Queensland spirit will shine through no matter the adversity. Jake Friend – at 30 years of age – makes his long-awaited debut for the Maroons, bringing much-needed leadership to a young side.
Queensland’s hopes centre around the five Melbourne premiership-winning players selected for game one, including Cam Munster. Having recent game time under their belts is pivotal in this unique Origin environment.
The best chance for the Maroons to win the series is to ambush New South Wales in the opening 40 minutes in Adelaide and rely on winning the final game in Brisbane.
It’s a tough ask for a relatively inexperienced squad.
New South Wales Blues
New South Wales are favourites to take out the 2020 State of Origin series and win their third consecutive title. They would equal the feat they’ve achieved twice, between 1992 and 1994, and more recently between 2003 and 2005.
The continuity within this squad is reflected in Brad Fittler’s opening game side, with only three players on debut. The biggest concern is the fitness of James Tedesco: he was the most outstanding Blues player in the 2019 campaign.
With extended squads named thanks to COVID-19, Fittler has been able to bring in some future Origin candidates. Nathan Brown is one player who’s cut out to be Origin material with his physical approach to his game. He could be an X-factor from the bench if given a chance to play this series.
This series will give Panthers halfback Nathan Cleary a chance to redeem himself after a disappointing performance in the grand final. He’s established himself as the leading number seven in the game, which saw him crowned the RLPA’s Players’ Champion for 2020.
New South Wales will be confident of a clean sweep, given Queensland’s perceived troubles. Their biggest challenge will be complacency. A slip up in Adelaide and all of a sudden the series is alive.
New South Wales were stunned in the first game of the series at Suncorp Stadium, with the Maroons winning 18-14. That night Dane Gagai scored a double and Latrell Mitchell was sent to the sin-bin, turning the tide in Queensland’s favour.
Perth’s first ever Origin fixture was remarkably wet. New South Wales brushed off the cobwebs of their game one defeat to demolish Queensland 38-6. Tom Trbojevic and Josh Addo-Carr scored doubles in the Blues’ six-tries-to-one victory.
The decider was a nailbiter, with Queensland fighting back to 20-all thanks to tries from Josh Papalii and Josh McGuire in the final 10 minutes. However, the night was stolen by a try on full-time to Tedesco, which saw New South Wales retain the series, winning 26-20.
This is a different-looking Maroons side from their 2019 campaign, with an inexperienced backline including Gold Coast Titans star AJ Brimson. Cam Munster and Daly Cherry-Evans are solid in the halves, while Ben Hunt can cover multiple positions from the bench.
1. AJ Brimson, 2. Xavier Coates, 3. Brenko Lee, 4. Dane Gagai, 5. Phillip Sami, 6. Cameron Munster, 7. Daly Cherry-Evans, 8. Christian Welch, 9. Jake Friend, 10. Josh Papalii, 11. Coen Hess, 12. Felise Kaufusi, 13. Tino Fa’asuamaleaui. Interchange: 14. Ben Hunt, 15. Lindsay Collins, 16. Jai Arrow, 17. Jaydn Su’A.
New South Wales Blues
New South Wales will debut Parramatta Eels captain Clint Gutherson and prop Junior Paulo. With James Maloney now in the UK, the Sydney Roosters’ Luke Keary finally gets his chance. It’s a solid pack with Damien Cook, Boyd Cordner, Tyson Frizell and Jake Trbojevic as senior players. Cam Murray might be unlucky not to be in the starting 13 after another good NRL campaign.
1. James Tedesco, 2. Daniel Tupou, 3. Jack Wighton, 4. Clint Gutherson, 5. Josh Addo-Carr, 6. Luke Keary, 7. Nathan Cleary, 8. Daniel Saifiti, 9. Damien Cook, 10. Junior Paulo, 11. Boyd Cordner, 12. Tyson Frizell, 13. Jake Trbojevic. Interchange: 14. Cody Walker, 15. Payne Haas. 16. Cameron Murray 17. Angus Crichton.
BATTLE TO WATCH
This is a game where controlling play will be vital. The task for Cleary and Keary is made easier by the experience of New South Wales halves. Munster and Cherry-Evans will have their work cut out given the inexperience of the squad.
Whoever can win the field position and possession could go a long way to deciding the opening game.
Maybe Queensland will need to take a leaf out of Cleary’s book and turn around New South Wales with kicks before the last tackle, and try and rely on their defence to do the job.
The fear is that Cleary’s kicking in-goal is sublime and may add pressure to the inexperienced Maroons squad, with back-to-back sets of six.
New South Wales should have enough experience and points in them to account for this Queensland side.
New South Wales by 10.
Date: Wednesday November 4
Venue: Adelaide Oval
Kick-off: 7:40pm (local), 8:10pm (NSW), 7:10pm (QLD)