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Opinion

Head or heart? Why I'm predicting an Origin thriller

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Roar Guru
7th June, 2022
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The opening day of State of Origin is finally here and there’s not a rugby league fan on earth that isn’t excited.

Origin is so unique and could go either way each year.

The contest between Queensland and New Souths Wales looks to be tight, as the squads are arguably even. This is an unusual occurrence, as the Blues have had a much stronger side and have been hot favourites to begin the series in recent years.

The reason for this change is that Queensland have upgraded their roster slightly, plus I have much to disagree about regarding New South Wales selection.

The cockroaches are attempting to win back-to-back series and clinch their fourth in five years. They will have the best possible home schedule, as Game 1 is always the most important of the three fixtures – 70 per cent of the time the team that wins Game 1 ends up winning the series. This means the opening match is almost mandatory for the Blues to win and take advantage of the home crowd.

Whispers surrounding a change to the left-centre position were ramped up on Monday as the reports were that Stephen Crichton may become a starter, which would push Jack Wighton to the bench.

The fact that Crichton isn’t selected to start is mind-bogglingly wrong, and I think it’s mind games from Brad Fittler, who must be planning a late change into Wighton’s spot. However, Damien Cook explained that he hasn’t heard anything about any potential changes to the originally named side.

Crichton has a strong argument for selection in the No. 4 jersey. It would create an early combination with both his fellow Penrith halves. New South Wales shouldn’t be too worried about the outcome of this decision, because the 2020 Dally M winner has shown that he can perform well in Origin. To add to this, Crichton certainly has the potential to be a superb X factor off the bench who can fill in a number of positions.

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I can’t criticise his selection without mentioning the absence of Josh Addo-Carr. It’s unacceptable to think that the Fox was not worthy of selection this year. He’s been in above-average form despite being at a struggling club, and I don’t understand how his replacement gives any upgrade. Credit to Daniel Tupou, but while he’s caught some form, it’s not enough to take over Addo-Carr’s spot.

(Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

The deadly halves pairing of Jarome Luai and Nathan Cleary will once again be so important for the reigning Origin champs. The lethal club duo proved last series that they could be wearing the Blues Nos. 6 and 7 jumpers for a long time to come.

James Tedesco is NSW’s most valuable player, and it was immensely disrespectful to even consider his selection was in jeopardy. Tedesco is the best fullback you could ask for at Origin level, and how he performs tremendously on this big stage each year. The Roosters fullback has shown no reason why he shouldn’t have been picked; therefore, the Blues selection staff made the correct decision.

The Maroons will be once again entering the Origin bout as underdogs, which is the role they always love to play. Queensland won’t have their backs against the wall as much as usual to begin this series given the original teams are close to even, as mentioned earlier.

An opening match win would obviously be a large factor in a potential series win for either team. However, it would be especially huge for Queensland, because walking out of enemy territory with a 1-0 lead is massive, and they would be awarded two opportunities to win the series, including one with a home-ground advantage.

Billy Slater has named four debutants, and they’re all worthy of their spots. Selwyn Cobbo could be a large X factor, and his speed and excellence could go a long way towards the Maroons winning tonight. On the other hand, it could all go wrong, as he may not be ready for the big stage yet.

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I thought Corey Oates was hard done by, and I would have really liked to see him on the wing instead of Cobbo given he’s done his job well on the wing for Queensland previously. Nevertheless, I don’t mind the Brisbane youngster having an opportunity to debut, although Oates deserved to at least be in the camp.

Kalyn Ponga will be looking to prove doubters wrong after critics tried to find any reason to leave him out of selection. This is due to his apparent ‘struggles’ at Newcastle. Not everything needs to be based on form; sometimes we need to look at who has proven in the past they can cover a role well. In this case, Ponga has shown in recent years that he’s very capable of playing fullback for the Maroons – and it’s not like the Knights fullback is in horrendous form. Plus he’s shown some light this season, and I don’t think the side becomes stronger, no matter who you bring in or move around.

Prediction

This series should be an absolute thriller, as Origin always is, and whoever wins Game 1 tonight will win the series.

It’s so hard to go against your heart in Origin, which is why I will be tipping Queensland 2-1. They will surprise everyone by beating the Blues in Sydney. I then think NSW will take the standalone second game, as they generally always do.

To conclude the series, Queensland will fire up with their backs against the wall and win the decider at home.

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