With game one of State of Origin fast approaching, the excitement and anticipation is palpable. Fans are eagerly wondering whether the game will explode in the opening minutes, and with the importance of discipline so crucial these days, both Brad Fittler and Billy Slater will be reminding players to toe the line. The first game is always crucial, but particularly so this year, with NSW wanting to avoid heading to Suncorp Stadium for game two trying to save the series.
Looking at both teams, they look well-balanced, and the history of Origin suggests the first match is always tight. The conditions in Adelaide may prove slippery after a fair bit of rain on Monday and Tuesday. Slater has made two big calls by leaving out Kalyn Ponga and Dane Gagai, but the Maroons’ talent pool is deep, especially in their left-side attack and use of two world-class hookers through the middle of the field.
Reece Walsh is expected to spend the majority of his time swinging to the left of the field, playing off Cameron Munster’s hip, while David Fifita’s performance is questionable in this arena. Hunt and Grant will be a big threat through the middle, and Cotter could cause trouble off the bench.
Fittler has spoken about the priority of defence, with Nathan Cleary being key to kicking well and challenging Queensland’s forwards with extra passes in the tackle. Murray is expected to play a huge role from the bench, while Crichton has strengthened in his legs this year.
The kicking game will prove crucial if it’s wet, and both sides rely on their key players for this – Cherry-Evans for Queensland and Cleary for NSW. Match-ups to watch include Tevita vs Tino, Tedesco vs Walsh, and Cleary vs Cherry-Evans, as well as Hudson Young against Tom Gilbert.