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The Roar’s State of Origin expert tips and predictions: Queensland Maroons vs NSW Blues, Game 1, 2021

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Expert
7th June, 2021
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State of Origin returns to its normal window for 2021, but in a somewhat foreign location to open the series as Townsville gets set to host its first Origin. This is The Roar’s expert tipping panel.

State of Origin 1 coverage
» REPORT: NSW rewrite history with 50-6 obliteration
» TALKING POINTS: How can Queensland possibly recover?
» Tom Trbojevic named man of the match
» Origin 1 as it happened; play-by-play blog
» State of Origin results
» Full Origin 2021 series fixtures

The Cowboys’ home ground sold out in a matter of minutes following tickets going on sale, with the game originally being held in Melbourne, but forcibly moved away due to the COVID outbreak in Victoria.

That being said, this suits the Maroons down to the ground, given the Blues have won less than a third of all games they have played in the sunshine state. They may have been in Brisbane, but New South Wales can expect an atmosphere equally as ferocious for this Origin series opener.

Queensland have headaches though, with Kalyn Ponga pulling out to injury, Dane Gagai battling tonsillitis and the Melbourne Storm superstar duo of Cameron Munster and Harry Grant both in line to play their first game in weeks due to respective injuries.

Cameron Munster of the Maroons passes

(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

In saying that, they are Queensland, and pulling off upsets and wins when they aren’t supposed to is part of the state’s DNA.

The Blues will look to use their attack to great effect though, and if the forwards can win or even equal the battle in the middle, then their tag as favourites will be deserved despite being on the road.

A reminder that the scores for our tipping panel reset for Origin, making the three-game series a new contest. We will tip the team, margin, first try-scorer and player of the match throughout the series.

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Remember to get your tips into the form below by 6pm (AEST) on Wednesday evening to be featured as part of the Crowd’s tips for Game 1.

Over to AJ.

AJ Mithen

Tip: New South Wales by 34

It’s apparent from my tips, but I’m all in on V’landysball.

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Set restarts and no scrums and sin bins for repeat infractions were seemingly brought in to neutralise all of Queensland’s best chances to get close to la cucaracha.

With those roadblocks out of the way and no way for the Maroons to grapple, slow and scrap their way to even, stand by for wave after wave after wave of New South Wales attack. By the end of this game, they’ll change the rules specifically for Origin so the scoring team has to kick off because Queensland are in for a fearful dumping.

I’ve also got Nathan Cleary for man of the match – not really because he’ll do anything worthy of it, but the score will be so big they’ll just give the award to the halfback in traditional Channel Nine rugby league fashion. Enjoy the game everybody!

First try-scorer: Tom Trbojevic
Man of the match: Nathan Cleary

Nathan Cleary passes the ball during State of Origin.

(Photo by Jono Searle/Getty Images)

Mary Konstantopoulos

Tip: New South Wales by 2

This is going to be an exciting State of Origin match.

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When I look at the two teams side by side, New South Wales has the stronger back line. With players like James Tedesco, Tom Trbojevic and the in-form halves pairing of Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai, the Blues have the ability to score plenty of points, and quickly.

I find the Blues’ forward selection slightly baffling, but if Brad Fittler can get his rotations correct, there is strength there too.

Despite all this, the thing that makes me less confident about tipping Queensland is the venue, Townsville. This is Queensland territory through and through and the Maroons demonstrated last year that even with a weaker team than New South Wales, they can still win.

I’m tipping the Blues to win by two points in a close one and the player of the match to be James Tedesco.

First try-scorer will be Tom Trbojevic.

First try-scorer: Tom Trbojevic
Man of the match: James Tedesco

James Tedesco

(Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

David Holden

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Tip: Queensland by 8

Well, I’m sure I’ve seen this story before. You know, the one where Queensland lose some players to injury, are supposedly decimated, blow out in the odds and then go to win a ‘backs to the wall’ victory.

The truth of this story is that it is normally complete rubbish, and it will be again in State of Origin 1 in Townsville.

There is nothing between the two forward packs, while the Blues’ back line is more talented, at least individually, than its Queensland counterparts.

However, it’s the halves that worry this Blues supporter. Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai are the best halves combination in the NRL, but that’s a long way from State or Origin. For Cameron Munster and Daly Cherry-Evans, it’s a case of been there, done that, in Origin many times. Luai, in particular, could be in for a torrid night.

For that reason, I’m picking the Maroons to win by eight in the first game.

I will go with Dane Gagai to score the first try. As far as man of the match, there’s a large number of candidates but I’m a massive fan of Harry Grant. He’s one of those players who always seems to have plenty of time and he will be sniping around the ruck all night.

First try-scorer: Dane Gagai
Man of the match: Harry Grant

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Dane Gagai of the Maroons makes a break

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

The Barry

Tip: Tip New South Wales by 4

Here we go again. Origin time. State against state. Mate against mate.

So many queries for this year. How will the six again rule impact the flow of the game? Will we see a blowout? Will the refs ease up on the high tackle interpretations? Will Queensland wrap up the series with the first two games on home turf? Can Brad Fittler fit any more fullbacks and locks into his squad?

With COVID-19 meaning a game in Melbourne would be played to empty stadiums, the NRL has decided to move the neutral venue game to the slightly less neutral Townsville. Apparently NSW fans are supposed to be whinging deluxe about this but, in Catch-22 fashion, I’ve heard far more Queenslanders complaining about how much New South Welshmen complaining than I have New South Welshmen complaining!

I think it’s a superb idea and the atmosphere will be incredible. The only real shame is that it takes a global pandemic for an idea like this to get a run.

As so often happens, NSW comes into Game 1 as a short-priced favourite and as so often happens there’s an air of a dirty Queensland ambush. The Blues backline looks red hot. But the trick in Origin is not just having the class out there, but working out a game plan to take advantage of it. Getting the ball to outside men in space has been a NSW weak point for the last couple of years.

The Queensland pack looks to be their strength. They’re missing Josh Papali’i and Lindsay Collins from their Game 3 pack last year that dominated NSW, but gain David Fifita. The Maroons front six will come out breathing fire again and how NSW fire back will go a long way to determining their chances. We’ve seen that Nathan Cleary, like most halves, struggles to dominate at this level off the back foot.

David Fifita is a momentum player. If he gets a few good touches early he could be the difference. But he can also go missing when he’s not getting his own way. Origin is very different from a Round 4 clash against the Knights.

The other query for the Maroons is Cameron Munster and Harry Grant coming straight in off long injury breaks. Neither have played a minute of footy in over a month.

So here we are. Origin again. A fancy pants NSW team. An underdog Queensland outfit. Ambush in the air. Maroons fans complaining about how much Blues fans are complaining. The more things change the more things stay the same!

First try-scorer: Josh Addo-Carr
Man of the match: James Tedesco

Scott Pryde

Tip: New South Wales by 14

The Blues come into this series as favourites, but boy have we heard that line trotted out before.

Like last year. You know, when the supposed worst Origin team of all time beat the Blues 2-1. It was embarrassing for New South Wales, but the nucleus of that team is back, and will be back for revenge.

A club combination who have been excellent will look to take their experiences to the Origin arena, but for mine, it’s the Blues’ attack which has the edge.

Josh Addo-Carr is the competition’s leading try-scorer, Brian To’o has run more metres than any other player, and the impact of Tom Trbojevic has been solid even when playing in the centres previously.

The only real question for the Blues is playing in Townsville, to go with the influence of Cameron Munster and the ridiculously in-form David Fifita.

David Fifita of the Maroons runs the ball

(Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Shut those issues down and they win, and I suspect they will efficiently enough.

As for man of the match, Damien Cook has illustrated his willingness to run from dummy half this year, leading the NRL in that stat. Given the speed Origin is likely to be played at, the energy Cook provides and the way the game is likely to have players sin binned at various points, Cook is the man for me to win the honours.

I’ll give the first try to Tariq Sims too with a barge over on the edge off a short ball from James Tedesco.

First try-scorer: Tariq Sims
Man of the match: Damien Cook

Origin 1 AJ Mary David The Barry Scott Crowd
Tip NSW NSW QLD NSW NSW NSW
Margin 34 2 8 4 14 8
First try Trbojevic Trbojevic Gagai Addo-Carr Sims Trbojevic
MOTM Cleary Tedesco Grant Tedesco Cook Tedesco

Remember to get your tips in on the form below by 6pm tomorrow to be counted as part of The Crowd for Game 1.

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