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Game one of the 2022 series is just one day away! The battle between NSW and Queensland has always been one of the toughest around, and tomorrow tonight is expected to be no different.
After having to play the entire series last year away from Sydney thanks to Covid, reigning champions NSW finally return to Sydney. They will be busting to run out onto a jam-packed Accor Stadium filled with their home fans, hoping to get the first win of the best of three series under their belt.
Queensland will be welcomed to NSW with a cold reception, both from Blues fans and the weather Gods. They will be looking to make amends for a poor 2021 campaign and hoping incoming coach Billy Slater can bring some of his success playing for the Maroons up to the coaching box.
Kick-off is pencilled in for 8.10pm EST (but as we all know it very rarely goes this way. Many fans have bets between their mates over what time it will actually start).
Coverage begins at 7pm on Channel Nine
Both teams have a good mix of experience, youth, strength, and speed.
The Blues are favourites and look solid on paper. But as always with Origin, that means nothing.
Fittler caused some controversy with his team selections, leaving out fan favourite Josh Addo-Carr as well as workhorse Jake Trbojevic.
His selection of Tariq Sims who isn’t in the best form also confused many. The other head scratcher is Freddy naming Canberra five-eighth Jack Wighton in the centres and putting one of the in-form centres in the competition Stephen Crichton on the bench.
Many expect that to get turned on its head before game time.
But for all of the question marks, Fittler has got plenty right. Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai are a dynamite halves pairing, and captain Teddy is always up for a big game wearing the sky blue.
There are two absolute wrecking balls in the front row in the forms of Payne Haas and Junior Paulo, and Isaah Yeo seems close to unstoppable in the 13.
They are without two of last year’s heroes in Tom Trbojevic and Latrell Mitchell who are both out injured. They will be sorely missed - could their absence prove the difference?
Slater has named a Queensland side that not many can argue with.
DCE will once again lead the side, and pair in the halves with the red-hot Cameron Munster. A few questioned the decision to put Ben Hunt at number nine, but if you go back and watch his dominance in game three from last year, that should clear up any confusion.
Christian Welsh is a huge omission for the Queensland side, after suffering a season-ending Achilles injury earlier this year. Big Papa and Big Tino need to be at their destructive bests to match the likes of the Blues props.
There are four new young faces for the Maroons - Selwyn Cobbo, Reuben Cotter, Patrick Carrigan and Jeremiah Nanai. While all are in sensational club form, some are wondering if they are ready for the Origin arena.
Queensland also has four new-old faces up in the coaching box. Slater takes the reigns and is joined by fellow Origin greats Cameron Smith, Johnathon Thurston and Josh Hannay. Is this the start of a new Maroons dynasty?
This is the 41st year of the modern State of Origin format. Queensland holds the bragging rights with the most series wins with 22. NSW have won 16 and two ended in a draw.
Fittler has won 3 series since he took over as coach in 2018. The Blues are the current champions, taking out the 2021 series two games to one. They walloped the Maroons 50-6 in game one and held them scoreless in game two for a 26-0 victory. Queensland salvaged some pride in game three, earning a nail-biting 20-18 win.
Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai
I’ve put these two together, as they are not only the Blues halves pairing but the Panthers premiership-winning halves duo as well. Their knowledge of each other game will be paramount for NSW, and the fact that they play together week in and week out is invaluable to the side.
Another Panther, another superstar. The flying winger is a metre eating machine, that can cause a lot of damage on the outside. Xavier Coates better have had his Weet-Bix, he’s in for a big night up against this guy!
The Cowboys centre seems to have found a time machine and playing like a youngster again, and his experience at Origin level is vital. He is in his career best form in both positions and with the boot and will be a huge asset to the Maroons.
If anyone has earnt a call up to Origin, it’s this guy. A fellow Cowboy who has been relentless against the opposition wherever he plays. Averaging 125 running metres per game, and so far this season he has made a whopping 395 tackles and only missed 12. Yep, 12. I cannot wait to see what he does tomorrow night.
This is going to be a cracking game. Very physical, not much in it, and won with patience.
The utilisation of the bench will be also very important, along with club combinations and ball control in the windy and dewy conditions.
In saying all of that, I’m going for the upset. Queensland by 6.
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