The NSW Blues are going to win Origin 1. Here’s why

Mary Konstantopoulos Columnist

By Mary Konstantopoulos, Mary Konstantopoulos is a Roar Expert

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    It’s been a tough last decade for New South Wales Blues fans in the men’s State of Origin arena.

    The Queensland Maroons, led by Cameron Smith, Johnathan Thurston, Billy Slater, Greg Inglis and Cooper Cronk, have won 11 out of the last 12 series, establishing a dynasty that footy fans may never see the likes of again.

    But, with his selection of 11 Blues debutants last Monday night including Jack de Belin, Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Damien Cook and Josh Addo-Carr, Brad Fittler has almost single-handedly reinvigorated the State of Origin concept, which was getting a bit stale.

    When the Blues run out onto the MCG on Wednesday night, it will be as favourites and to be honest, it will probably be the first time in the last decade that the squad on the field has rightfully earnt that title.

    I’ve tipped the Blues to beat the Maroons on Wednesday night by eight points. Here’s how they are going to do it.

    The side that Fittler has selected is different from previous Origin squads because it is a side picked genuinely form. Almost every single player in that squad deserves their place and plenty of players who have been stalwarts for the Blues in recent seasons like Josh Jackson, Wade Graham and Aaron Woods have not been selected based on their form this year.

    In the past, we’ve seen a strategy employed by other coaches, where players have been picked because they are ‘typical’ Origin players. What I mean by that is the selection of players that play with grit, are tough and have the ability to grind out a win. In the past, we potentially would have seen Cameron McInnes picked ahead of Cook because of he’s a tough player – didn’t he once play without a tooth?

    This is not your typical State of Origin team.

    This team has been selected to play fast and exciting football. Fittler has selected a team that he thinks is capable of scoring more than 20 points and based on the squad’s club form, I’m backing them in to do so.

    Look at the backs. I would argue that there has never been a faster backline in State of Origin history than James Tedesco, Tom Trbojevic, Latrell Mitchell, James Roberts and Addo-Carr. Between them, they’ve scored 30 NRL tries this season (led by Addo-Carr on 12).

    What is particularly tantalising is that one of the strengths of Nathan Cleary and James Maloney at the Penrith Panthers this year has been getting good early ball to their outside backs.

    James Maloney NSW Blues State of Origin NRL Rugby League 2017

    (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    If Freddie employs this strategy on Wednesday night and we see Cleary passing the ball to Maloney and then Maloney hitting the chest of Roberts or Mitchell, I imagine these men will be very hard to stop.

    I’ve mentioned the pace of the Blues backline, but this is a team with speed to burn all over the field. It could, in fact, be the fastest Origin squad in history, particularly with the likes of Paul Vaughan, Tyson Frizell and Cook selected as well. This team will be quick through the middle and in the halves.

    I’m particularly looking forward to watching Cook who I think will have a field day, particularly off the back of quick plays of the ball from de Belin and Angus Crichton. Even without a quick play of the ball, I back Cook to be able to get past almost everyone, particularly as the game progresses.

    Speaking of the halves, this is the first time in a decade that the Blues playmakers have been in better form than their Queensland counterparts. After this State of Origin series, we will know whether Ben Hunt is interested in being a representative player. Much of the Maroons chances will rest on whether Hunt decides to run the football on Wednesday night.

    Ben Hunt Dragons

    (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

    For the Blues, I’ve seen plenty of talk that this is the Origin pairing to lead the Blues into the next decade. That talk has made me laugh, because I look forward to seeing Maloney lining up for the Blues in a decade when he is 42 years old.

    But I get their point, particularly in relation to Cleary who I hope is helped, looked after and mentored so that he has a genuine opportunity to be the future for the Blues.

    I mentioned earlier that I thought almost every single player in the Blues squad deserved to be picked. But Euan Aitken, who is the in-form centre in the competition at the moment, was hard done by. Mitchell may have plenty of flair, but he does have a tendency to go missing at crucial points, particularly when his team is trying to get out of their own defensive zone.

    That is when the Blues will need Mitchell the most and I hope that he really steps up, because at this stage he has fewer yardage runs than almost every back who has played more than five NRL games in the last 18 months.

    Despite all this, you would be a fool to completely write off the Maroons. The Maroons love being the underdog and even with all the talk of the ‘demise’ of their squad, it still looks pretty good to me, particularly their bench with Coen Hess, Josh Papalii, Jai Arrow and Michael Morgan.

    I may be tipping the Blues, but a win won’t come easy.

    If I’m wrong (which judging on my tipping form from this year could very well be the case!), the important thing for Blues fans to remember is not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. This team must be given the opportunity to grow together and to be afforded the same chances to succeed as the team selected over the last ten years.

    I’m looking forward to Game 1 on Wednesday night, perhaps I’ll actually be able to wear my Blues scarf out of the MCG with some semblance of pride.

    Mary Konstantopoulos
    Mary Konstantopoulos

    Mary Konstantopoulos is a lawyer, sports advocate and proud owner and founder of the Ladies Who empire, including Ladies who League, Ladies who Legspin, Ladies who Lineout and Ladies who Leap. You can find her podcast on iTunes and find her on Twitter @mary__kaye and @ladieswholeague.

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    The Crowd Says (37)

    • June 4th 2018 @ 8:04am
      Paul said | June 4th 2018 @ 8:04am | ! Report

      Mary, You’ve covered all the reasons why NSW should win ( I also thought they’d get up by 8), but you left out the two unknowns.

      We have no idea how this side will combine, because there are so many debutants and we have no idea what game plan Freddy will employ. Logic says Freddy will keep it simple, try and get strong go forward in the middle to create space for the backs to use their speed, but they also need a strong plan in defence as I expect Qld to try and beat them out of the blocks. Maloney and Cleary will be targetted in both attack and defence and right now, no-one knows how they’ll perform at SOO level.

      I think these unknowns are what makes the anticipation for this game so high. Hopefully Freddy’s approach to selection will be vindicated.

    • June 4th 2018 @ 8:45am
      kk said | June 4th 2018 @ 8:45am | ! Report

      Unless Kevin Walters is the greatest con since Henry Gondorff (the Sting)
      the Blues are good things.

      When Kevin appears on our screens his body language indicates that the
      Maroons are doomed. He looks as though he missed Powerball by one
      and the news of Bellamy blocking his way to the Broncos has him lost
      in a world of doubt. He has nine players with fitness problems, Freddy
      only has three. Poor Kevie.

      • Roar Guru

        June 4th 2018 @ 10:04am
        Con Scortis said | June 4th 2018 @ 10:04am | ! Report

        I’m the greatest Con since Henry Gondorff!!

        • June 4th 2018 @ 1:08pm
          kk said | June 4th 2018 @ 1:08pm | ! Report

          Con, You do it so well. You had me fooled. How’s the carousel business.

        • June 4th 2018 @ 1:10pm
          kk said | June 4th 2018 @ 1:10pm | ! Report

          You do it so well. you made me repeat

      • June 4th 2018 @ 11:05am
        Griffo said | June 4th 2018 @ 11:05am | ! Report

        Don’t you remember how nervous and forlorn Kevin Walters has looked in the last couple of years during state of origin? That’s just Kevvie. He shows his nerves, and why wouldn’t you be nervous in position or Freddie’s?

        • June 4th 2018 @ 1:13pm
          kk said | June 4th 2018 @ 1:13pm | ! Report

          Kevie is one of those blokes who are impossible to hate.

    • June 4th 2018 @ 9:14am
      DP Schaefer said | June 4th 2018 @ 9:14am | ! Report

      Mary,

      A well argued piece until I try to reconcile the ‘picked on form’ with Boyd Cordner being in the team. The Australian cricket team usually upheld the ideal ‘pick the team then the captain from that team’. Should have been applied in this case, only reason I can see for Cordner is that he was captain last year. Fittler’s ‘clean sweep’ was incomplete.

      • Roar Rookie

        June 4th 2018 @ 9:40am
        Matthew Pearce said | June 4th 2018 @ 9:40am | ! Report

        Are we also going to ignore Maloney when it comes to this ‘clean sweep?’ The most experienced player in the team, who’s experienced nothing but series losses – I’ve talked up Maloney as the right pick for the Blues, but you can’t ignore that aspect either.

        If the Blues do happen to win Game 1, good luck to them. Wouldn’t be the first time they’ve won the first game and gone on to lose the series…

    • Roar Rookie

      June 4th 2018 @ 9:49am
      up in the north said | June 4th 2018 @ 9:49am | ! Report

      I’m tending to think having both Robert’s and Mitchell will be a liability in defense and the team selection for game 2 will reflect that.

      • June 4th 2018 @ 1:34pm
        Jewboy said | June 4th 2018 @ 1:34pm | ! Report

        Agree with you u I t north……throw Maloney in with Mitchell and Roberts…Fitler was worried abou his defence before picking his side but he’s been in such good form he had to go in.
        It’s one thing to have a brilliant attacking side but in SOO defence is just as important.
        As a Queenslander looking for a chink in their armour hopefully defence will be the deciding factor.

    • June 4th 2018 @ 11:41am
      Trent said | June 4th 2018 @ 11:41am | ! Report

      “If Freddie employs this strategy on Wednesday night and we see Cleary passing the ball to Maloney and then Maloney hitting the chest of Roberts or Mitchell, I imagine these men will be very hard to stop”

      That sounds okay, but here’s an even better strategy, Maloney then passes the ball to SOMEONE ELSE – you know, like QLD do every Origin game? Elephant in the room, QLD play a bunched up, 3-5 quick passing options each tackle, we run at headlong into them and sometimes remember to pass the ball on occasion

      And i predict QLD will let us get blood in the game, to see what we’re capable of, pay attention to the attack and defence – and wipe the floor with our own arses the next two games… unless we’re so woefully inept at those they just go the one-two-whatever.

      And Freddy getting our boys into yoga and mindful breathing? Yeah…nah.

      NSW, please prove me wrong!

    • Roar Guru

      June 4th 2018 @ 12:21pm
      Nat said | June 4th 2018 @ 12:21pm | ! Report

      Tede is out of form. Cleary has 1 game back and Cook is a rookie. Maloney is in good touch at club level but has 9 games for 3 wins in SOO. Hunt and Munster have played GF’s Origin and for Aust. Billy is still the best FB in the game and McCollough has over 220 NRL games. Tell me again why NSW have the form halves?

      • June 4th 2018 @ 2:00pm
        DP Schaefer said | June 4th 2018 @ 2:00pm | ! Report

        Nat, When you put it that way …. lol
        I’ll be interested to see how Hunt goes… I’m not convinced about him yet, his form has slipped a bit at Dragons.
        And the entire Origin concept will be challenged by de Belin on Hunt. Does Jack really smash him, win Origin but risk putting Dragons behind the 8-ball? Dilemma

      • Roar Guru

        June 4th 2018 @ 5:01pm
        Mango Jack said | June 4th 2018 @ 5:01pm | ! Report

        Cleary outplayed Hunt weekend before last.

        • Roar Rookie

          June 4th 2018 @ 8:40pm
          Bunney said | June 4th 2018 @ 8:40pm | ! Report

          Its a team game – he was behind a beaten pack

          RCG outplayed Vaughan – does that make Vaughan a poor selection?

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