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state of origin game 1
state of origin game 1

State of Origin Game 1 with NRL analyst Steve Green:

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For the past few Origin series, NSW has had the stronger team on paper. But this year Queensland head in with a team choc-full of experience, class and some of the most in-form players in the competition.

Queensland

Upfront the Tino, Hunt and Papalli front row is experienced and battle-hardened. For the rest of the spine DCE, Munster and Ponga are as strong a 1, 6 and 7 that Queensland has been able to name, with all three players in very good form for their clubs (yes, even Ponga!).

The centre pairing of Val Holmes and Dane Gagai is very strong, and outside them, Coates and Cobbo are two of the brightest prospects in the NRL right now.

The interesting part of this Queensland starting team for me is the back row. Cotter is debuting and although his NRL form has been amazing, Origin in a more vicious environment and Cotter is a little short on size. While Kaufusi has a ton of experience, he has been exposed in recent series as being past his best – though his 2022 form is his best in years. And then there is Capewell, who despite being a great player, rounds off a backrow that will need to be at their best if the are going to match this NSW forward pack.

New South Wales

When you look at who the Blues are missing, you can see why Queenslanders think they have a strong chance here. Two of the biggest strike weapons in the NRL and for NSW in recent years will be missing in Latrell and Turbo. In previous years, both both have busted the game open at key moments. This year they’ll need Staggs and Wighton to show they can do something similar when the time comes.

Furthermore, out wide Coach Fittler made the controversial decision to drop Addo-Carr for Daniel Tupou. While I didn’t mind this decision as much as others and think Tupou’s ability to compete in the air is important in this match, this NSW backline is very different to the one that got the job done last year.

But it’s the NSW bench that worries me most. I’m never a fan of carrying an outside back on the bench and the selection of Crichton in particular baffles me. He can play centre, wing or fullback, but you would hope that the starting players in those positions can push out 80 minutes. That leaves Coach Fittler with only three forwards to use, meaning Cook will be expected to play 80 minutes. I would have thought Api at 14, or Wighton at 14 and Crichton starting in centres, would have made more sense.

Let’s not forget, Coach Fittler is prone to poor decisions. His picking of Gutherson and Wighton in the centres (both out of position) was a clear mistake. And I think we will look back at his decision to play Wighton starting centre and Crichton at 14 as a clear mistake too.

While we’re on the topic… the Queensland bench is not without its risks as well. Nanai and Carrigan are both on debut and although great young players, there is always the risk of them being out of their depth in a brutal Origin match. Meanwhile Collins has not been in the best of form for the Roosters, with a stuttering 2022 season so far.

Other key factors
  • The home ground advantage will be a big factor, with a big Blues crowd expected. This could be enough to swing the game, but based on their squads and the form of key players, I really cannot split them.
  • The Panthers combination will be a big advantage for NSW
  • Tedesco is in scintillating form and has always stepped up at Origin time.
  • Ponga has also always delivered for Queensland and seems to relish playing among other elite players – at NRL level I think he is sometimes let down by his Newcastle teammates, who do not always seem to be playing on his wavelength.
  • I really like the Hunt – Grant dummy half combination – having two players of that quality probing around the ruck will be hard for NSW big forwards to handle, and eventually fatigue will open some holes near the play the ball.
Key match ups: DCE v Cleary

The battle between these two will go a long way to determining who wears the #7 Kangaroo jersey at the World Cup at the end of the year. Both of them have been in amazing form in club land, and while Try Assists will often grab the headlines, it is their kicking game that will be key in Origin. Whoever can help their team build pressure will go a long way to determining the winner here.

Tedesco v Ponga

Teddy has outplayed Ponga so far this year, with the Roosters gun single-handily carrying his team at times. But Ponga always lifts in the Origin arena and is probably more skilful that Tedesco, who relies on his powerful running game. If Ponga can time and execute his cut-out ball, then the likes of Cobbo and Coates could get some luck out wide.

Big Tino v Payne Haas

Although Papalii is the senior statesmen of this Queensland pack, Tino is his apprentice in waiting and in recent years has shown he is not overawed in the Origin arena. He has a big motor and plays with a ton of aggression. Haas also has all those attributes and probably an even bigger motor… so the collisions between these two is something I cannot wait to see. In a tight match, I think one of these guys could be the Player of the Match.

State of Origin Game 1: Predicted score

NSW 18 – Queensland 18
(Blues to win in extra time)

State of Origin Game 1: Recommended bet

Scores level at end of normal time $17 with TopSport