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Head or heart?  Why I Predict an Origin Thriller




State of Origin’s opening day is finally here and there’s not a rugby league fan on earth who isn’t excited.

The origin is so unique and could go either way every year.

The competition between Queensland and New South Wales appears to be tight as the teams are arguably evenly matched. It’s an unusual occurrence, as the Blues have had a much stronger squad and been favorites to start the series in recent years.

The reason for the change is that Queensland have improved their roster slightly, and I have a lot of disagreement over New South Wales’ selection.

The Cockroaches are trying to win back-to-back series and clinch their fourth in five years. They will have the best home schedule possible, as Game 1 is always the most important of the three games – 70% of the time the team that wins Game 1 ends up winning the series. This means that the opening game is almost mandatory for the Blues to win and benefit from the home crowd.

The whispers surrounding a change of position at center left intensified on Monday, as reports indicated that Stephen Crichton could become a starter, which would push Jack Wighton to the bench.

Crichton not being selected to start is incredibly wrong, and I think it’s mind games by Brad Fittler, who has to plan a late switch in Wighton’s place. However, Damien Cook explained that he hadn’t heard anything about any potential changes to the originally named squad.

Crichton has a strong case for being selected in the No.4 shirt. It would create an early combination with his other two Penrith halves. New South Wales shouldn’t worry too much about the outcome of this decision as the 2020 Dally M winner has shown he can perform well at Origin. To add to that, Crichton certainly has the potential to be a superb X-factor off the bench who can fill a number of positions.

I can’t criticize his selection without mentioning the absence of Josh Addo-Carr. It is unacceptable to think that Fox was not worthy of being selected this year. He’s been in above-average form despite being at a struggling club, and I don’t understand how his replacement gives an improvement. Bravo to Daniel Tupou, but although he has taken some form, it is not enough to take the place of Addo-Carr.

(Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

The lethal couple of Jarome Luai and Nathan Cleary will once again be so important to the reigning champions of Origin. The club’s deadly duo proved in the last round that they could wear the Blues Nos jerseys. 6 and 7 for a long time yet.

James Tedesco is NSW’s most valuable player, and he was hugely disrespectful to even consider his selection in jeopardy. Tedesco is the best fullback you could ask for at Origin level, and how he performs tremendously on this big stage every year. The Roosters full-back showed no reason why he shouldn’t have been chosen; therefore, the Blues selection staff made the right decision.

The Maroons will once again enter the Origin fight as underdogs, which is the role they always like to play. Queensland won’t have their backs against the wall as much as usual to start this series as the home sides are close to a tie as mentioned earlier.

An opener win would obviously be a big factor in a potential series win for either team. However, it would be particularly huge for Queensland, as going out of enemy territory with a 1-0 lead is huge, and they would have two opportunities to win the series, one of which with a home advantage.

Billy Slater named four rookies, and they all deserve their spot. Selwyn Cobbo could be a big X-factor, and his speed and excellence could go a long way in helping the Maroons win tonight. On the other hand, everything could go wrong, because he may not be ready for the big stage yet.

I thought Corey Oates had been roughed up, and I would have really liked to see him on the wing instead of Cobbo given he’s done his job well on the wing for Queensland before. Still, I don’t mind the Brisbane youngster getting the chance to make his debut, although Oates at least deserved to be in the side.

Kalyn Ponga will be looking to prove doubters wrong after critics tried to find a reason to leave him out of selection. This is down to his apparent ‘struggles’ at Newcastle. Not everything has to be form-based; sometimes we have to look at who has proven in the past that they can cover a role well. In this case, Ponga has shown in recent years that he is very capable of playing full-back for the Maroons – and it’s not as if the Knights full-back is in terrible shape. Also, he has shown light this season, and I don’t think the team will get any stronger no matter who you bring or move.

Prediction

This series should be an absolute thriller, as Origin always is, and whoever wins the first game tonight will win the series.

It’s so hard to go against your heart in Origin, which is why I’ll tip Queensland 2-1. They will surprise everyone by beating the Blues in Sydney. I think then NSW will take the second standalone game, as they usually always do.

To conclude the series, Queensland will shoot with their backs to the wall and win the deciding game at home.




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