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2021 State of Origin Game One Preview, QLD Vs NSW

Andrew Pelechaty previews the opening 2021 State of Origin game at Queensland Country Bank Stadium. This is what we have to look forward to.

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TEAM NEWS

Venue: Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville, Date: Wednesday June 9, Time: 8:10pm

Maroons Team

1. Kalyn Ponga*
2. Xavier Coates
3. Kurt Capewell
4. Dane Gagai
5. Valentine Holmes
6. Cameron Munster
7. Daly Cherry-Evans
8. Christian Welch
9. Harry Grant
10. Tino Fa’asuamaleaui
11. Felise Kaufusi
12. David Fifita
13. Jai Arrow
14. Alexander Brimson
15. Jaydn Su’A
16. Moeaki Fotuaika
17. Joe Ofahengaue
18. Kyle Feldt
19. Reed Mahoney
20. Coen Hess
* Kalyn Ponga is ruled out, with Valentine Holmes set to start at fullback

Team Changes

IN: N/A
OUT: N/A

Blues Team

1. James Tedesco
2. Brian To’o
3. Latrell Mitchell
4. Tom Trbojevic
5. Josh Addo-Carr
6. Jarome Laui
7. Nathan Cleary
8. Daniel Saifiti
9. Damien Cook
10. Jake Trbojevic
11. Cameron Murray
12. Tariq Sims
13. Isaah Yeo
14. Jack Wighton
15. Junior Paulo
16. Payne Haas
17. Liam Martin
18. Apisai Koroisau
19. Campbell Graham

Team Changes

IN: N/A
OUT:
N/A

Referee: Gerard Sutton

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Maroons

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After their “miracle” series win in 2021, Queensland’s title defence (with Paul Green taking over from super coach Wayne Bennett) received a huge boost when game one was moved to Townsville. Originally held at the MCG, Victoria’s sudden COVID-19 lockdown mean the game shifted to Queensland Country Bank Stadium (which has already sold out). The news made some Victorian-based rugby league fans so sad that they could barely eat their evening stews. After having almost no live sport last year, this would’ve been the biggest non-AFL sporting event in Melbourne since the 2020 Boxing Day Test between Australia and India.

The relocated game also gives Queensland three straight home Origins, with game three 2020 and game two 2021 both at Suncorp Stadium (Lang Park).

However, it hasn’t been all smooth sailing for Queensland, with Canberra’s Josh Papalii unavailable due to suspension and Newcastle’s Kalyn Ponga named at fullback but quickly withdrawing. North Queensland’s Valentine Holmes could move from the wing to replace him: it’d a huge reward for him as he’s been a big part of the Cowboys’ climb into the top eight, kicking the match-winning field goals against the Broncos and the Warriors. Though, in good news, AJ Brimson is named on the bench (despite being injured in the Titans’ loss to the Sharks in round 12), and Cameron Munster (last year’s Wally Lewis Medal winner) is also in despite missing the last month of footy for the Storm.

Blues

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Not surprisingly, Freddy Fittler has leaned on the undefeated Penrith, with six Panthers named, most crucially at five-eighth (Jarome Luai) and halfback (Nathan Cleary). Throw in Kurt Capewell for the Maroons and it’s seven Panthers in total (Brian To’o, Luai, Cleary, Isaah Yeo, Liam Martin, Apisai Koroisau, Capewell). The $64 million question: can Luai and Cleary’s almost flawless club combo translate to the big stage? Another big inclusion is Tom Trbojevic: his return has sparked the Sea Eagles’ run into the top eight, and he’ll be full of confidence and keen to make up for missing last year’s series.

Arguably the luckiest Blue is Jack “The God of Footy” Wighton. The reigning Dally M Medalist (and 2019 Clive Churchill Medalist) has struggled in an equally poor Raiders side and – aside from a couple of tries here and there – hasn’t replicated last year’s inspirational moments, where he regularly scored quick tries to lift The Milk when needed. He’s also continued his habit of kicking out on the full at least once a game.

PREVIEW

While NSW’s team is stacked, don’t underestimate the power of Queensland Country Bank Stadium as the Maroons’ “18th Man.” Everyone said NSW was unbeatable last year, and look what happened? Not to mention the four decades of Queensland’s ‘backs to the wall” victories; there’s way too many to sample here, so just pick your favourite moment.

The Blues need to get off to a flyer to silence the parochial Townsville crowd: if Queensland get a roll on, it could get ugly. With the second game at Lang Park, a Queensland win in Townsville could all but secure the series, at least psychologically.

KEY STAT

In 120 Origins, Queensland hold a 64-54 lead with two draws. Of course, they dominated from 2006 to 2013, and also won in 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2020.

PREDICTION

As said above, NSW have a strong team, but Queensland will have a capacity Townsville crowd behind them, which could drive them to a big opening game win.

Queensland by 10. 

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