WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN WEDNESDAY’S 2015 STATE OF ORIGIN SERIES OPENER
Bench impact – Since Laurie Daley named a NSW bench who outweigh their opponents by over 40 kilograms, the Maroons have been preparing for a Blues ambush around the 20-minute mark. Andrew Fifita, David Klemmer, Boyd Cordner and Trent Merrin will all be expected to break open the middle third before the halftime break and bring in capable support men in Mitchell Pearce and Josh Dugan. In contrast, intrigue surrounds the introduction of Mal Meninga’s wildcard in utility Michael Morgan and where he fits into his team once on the paddock.
Experience – Queensland’s vast Origin experience is well-documented, having played over 160 more games, scored 50 more tries, kicked over 80 more goals and piloted three field goals over to the Blues’ none, with their players totalling 443 points in Origin to NSW’s 54.
However the wide gap isn’t limited to the interstate rivalry. In the NRL, the Maroons’ squad have played over 1200 more games, scored almost 300 more tries, kicked over 1800 more goals and almost 10 more field goals.
Defence – Laurie Daley has already admitted that halfback Trent Hodkinson isn’t the man to lead the Blues to a points-scoring avalanche over the Maroons. Instead, much like NSW did last year, Hodkinson will form part of a Blue wall designed to hold Queensland to under 15 points (per game) for the third year in a row. Only three times since 2000 have the Maroons been held to a series total 44 points or less.
First half – It’s an 80-minute game, but these numbers don’t lie. The team leading at halftime has won 18 of the past 22 Origin matches. Just twice in the past five years have the Blues have gone into the sheds in front on the scoreboard, and twice they came away on top.
KEY MATCH UPS IN RUGBY LEAGUE’S STATE OF ORIGIN OPENER
Mitchell Pearce (NSW) v Johnathan Thurston (Qld)
Pearce has struggled to make an impact at Origin level in 12 previous matches, nine of which the Blues lost. However he has been given another shot by coach Laurie Daley and his match up with the world’s best playmaker, Thurston, will be key. Pearce has matured and his game has improved since being dropped for last year’s series but whether he can convert his good club form onto the Origin stage is a lingering question.
Josh Morris (NSW) v Greg Inglis (Qld)
It’s no secret the Maroons will run most of their attack down their left edge through Inglis. Morris was superb in defence on Inglis last year and the way the Blues shut down Queensland’s attacking raids was key to them winning game one. Morris is a solid defender and has a big body outside him in Will Hopoate.
Robbie Farah (NSW) v Cameron Smith (Qld)
The two hookers are also the captains. Farah is one of only four Blues players with more than 10 Origin caps and they will need their stand-in skipper to take ownership of the game. He’s shown he’s tough and loves the responsibility. National team captain Smith’s impact on his side cannot be understated – he gives his side direction and his kicking game is highly valued.