KEY MATCHUPS IN STATE OF ORIGIN 1
NATE MYLES (QLD) v PAUL GALLEN (NSW)
Worth the price of admission alone. Blues skipper Gallen is in his Origin series swansong. Maroons hard nut Myles will be out to ensure he is not having an Origin farewell of his own. Queensland veteran Myles also has plenty of motivation. The out-of-sorts prop needs to justify his selection after a quiet start for new club Manly. Throw in their history – Gallen’s 2013 punch ensured Origin fights were forever banned – and it ensures a front row battle for the ages.
DARIUS BOYD (QLD) v MATT MOYLAN (NSW)
Queenslander Boyd has scored 16 tries on the wing – just one short of the Origin record. Yet he looms as a bigger threat as Maroons fullback. Arguably the NRL’s form No.1, Boyd has earned a first start at fullback after a remarkable comeback since battling depression in 2014. He will line up against debutant Moylan, who kept out the Cowboys’ Lachlan Coote. Ball player Moylan is expected to add more attacking options to a Blues side that has scored just 16 tries to Queensland’s 27 in NSW coach Laurie Daley’s three years in charge.
COOPER CRONK (QLD) v ADAM REYNOLDS (NSW)
South Sydney playmaker Reynolds becomes the eighth halfback coughed up by NSW selectors since Andrew Johns’ 2005 retirement. He will soon learn how he stacks up against arguably Origin’s ultimate No.7 yardstick – Queensland iceman Cronk. Rookie Reynolds has backed himself to step up on the Origin stage after helping South Sydney snap their NRL title drought in 2014. But the Rabbitohs star will quickly learn if his character is made of hay against the organised Cronk, considered the glue that has kept the all conquering Maroons together the past decade.
JOHNATHAN THURSTON (Qld) v JAMES MALONEY (NSW)
There were never any doubts over Thurston’s competitive nature, but he showed it again when he somehow overcame a hip injury from a brutal hit to regain his composure and pot the match-winning field goal in North Queensland’s 19-18 win over Brisbane last round. The four-time Dally M Medallist has nothing left to prove before leading Queensland’s charge toward a 10th series win in 11 years. In contrast, Maloney has everything on the line when he runs out for his first Origin game since the 2013 series. He may have helped spark Cronulla’s table-topping ways but it still remains to be seen whether he – and his defence – can measure up in Origin. What better yardstick than Thurston?
GREG INGLIS v JOSH DUGAN
Both are incumbent Origin fullbacks. Yet both will line up in the centres in one of game one’s mouth-watering battles. Much has been made of Inglis’ quiet NRL season start with South Sydney. Yet he appeared to jettison his NRL funk when asked to simply have fun in the centres by Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga in the trans-Tasman Test. Suddenly the weight of the world appeared lifted from the besieged Rabbitohs captain, sparking season-best form. Queensland will be hoping for more of the same from Origin’s record try-scorer. Big and tough, Dugan appears a worthy foe if he can overcome an arm complaint.