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Queensland are different, but the result won't be

Billy Slater of the Maroons tries to make a break. (AAP Image/Julian Smith)
Expert
13th June, 2017
89
2866 Reads

Yes, it’s a better Queensland team than the one they fielded in State of Origin 1. No, it’s still not good enough to beat NSW in Game 2.

Not if everyone involved in the game at ANZ Stadium next Wednesday plays at or near their potential.

The only way the result from Game 1, which NSW won 28-4, could be turned around is if the Maroons improve considerably and the Blues drop a couple of notches.

I don’t see that happening.

The return of Johnathan Thurston alone would have made Queensland better, even if they had declined to make any other changes. But they cut a swathe through the team, so let’s look at who came in and who went out.

Forwards Nate Myles, Sam Thaiday, Aiden Guerra and Jacob Lillyman, and centre Justin O’Neill, were all dropped and you can’t argue with any of those decisions.

Five-eighth Anthony Milford ended up being unavailable because of injury, but he was always going to make way for Thurston if the latter was fit again and there was no way he would have survived on the bench, with Michael Morgan already there.

Anthony Milford Queensland Maroons State of Origin NRL Rugby League 2017 tall

(AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

Winger Corey Oates could be considered the unlucky one, when you look at it purely from the perspective of his form in Game 1 of the series, but Queensland are still better off with Valentine Holmes coming in for him.

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Holmes simply has more to offer than Oates.

A lot of people think Billy Slater, having been recalled at fullback with Darius Boyd moving to left centre, is automatically going to carve it up, but it’s not as simple as that.

More than anything, Boyd found it difficult to make an impact in Game 1 because the Maroons were so badly beaten in the forwards.

Queensland had to make changes up front, because if they had picked the same players they would have been asking for the same result.

But can the players who have come in change the outcome? It’s unlikely.

Josh Papalii has been pushed up from second-row to prop. With Game 1 prop Myles and all three bench forwards from that match gone, there is no-one else.

Tim Glasby and Jarrod Wallace come into the squad, but they are both making their Origin debuts and were never going to start up front.

Papalii is as tough as they come and will handle that aspect of it, but this role is likely to restrict the attacking elements of his game during the period, or periods, in which he is firmly based in the middle of the field.

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Second-rower Gavin Cooper made his Origin debut in Game 3 of last year’s series, but he was the only available player from that 18-14 loss who was left out of the Queensland team for the first match of the current series.

Now they have gone back to the 31-year-old. If he is good enough now, why wasn’t he good enough for Game 1?

Second-rower Coen Hess looks like a star in the making and he deserves his spot on the bench. He might dominate, but it’s more likely he’ll face a bit of a battle to find his way and get only 20-to-30 minutes of playing time.

There are only six games of Origin experience on the bench and they all belong to utility back Morgan.

There are only 13 games of Origin experience on the NSW bench, but still that looks clearly superior to the Queensland quartet.

(AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)

There is a fabulous mixture of size, power, skill and game-breaking ability among David Klemmer, Wade Graham, Jake Trbojevic and Jack Bird. Trbojevic and Klemmer have both played for Australia.

Starting props Andrew Fifita and Aaron Woods were tremendous early for the Blues in Origin 1, which Fifita turned into a man of the match performance. It’s going to be terribly hard again for Queensland to stop that pair from giving the home side a strong start.

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NSW beat Queensland in the forwards in the first game and while the Maroons have tried to find an antidote for Game 2, it really wasn’t there among the players they could pick from up front.