New South Wales has won just one of the last 11 series but the Blues have an excellent chance of beating Queensland in this year’s State of Origin rugby league battle that will kick off at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium next week.
Queensland will host two of the State of Origin games but one does not like the side that the Maroons selectors have given to Kevin Walters to coach and it is not simply that the world’s best halfback, Johnathan Thurston, is rated as likely to miss the series opener. First, Queensland has elected to name Darius Boyd at fullback in preference to Billy Slater, who has been in terrific form for Melbourne since making his comeback from a lengthy spell out. Second, the season-ending knee injury of Greg Inglis means that Queensland’s centres are missing the tackle buster and line breaker extraordinaire.
With all due respect to Queensland backs Will Chambers and Justin O’Neill, neither of them has the X factor of Inglis. Third, Nate Myles should be nowhere near Queensland’s front row based on his National Rugby League performances for Manly and, while one accepts that Queensland players have a history of improving out of sight when they pull on their state’s jumper, the Manly Warringah prop forward is well past his best. And fourth, there is Thurston being likely to miss out and Anthony Milford making his State of Origin debut in a key playmaking position.
New South Wales has what it takes to defeat Queensland in the State of Origin series, particularly if Thurston is either absent or not 100 per cent fit for the first couple of matches. Yes, New South Wales coach Laurie Daley has named three backs out of position but the Blues back five of James Tedesco, Blake Ferguson, Josh Dugan, Jarryd Hayne and Brett Morris has incredible firepower. In former Sydney teammates James Maloney and Mitchell Pearce, New South Wales has selected its most experienced halves pairing in years. And one loves the make up of the New South Wales pack and bench, with the Blues having so much depth that they have David Klemmer, Wade Graham, Jake Trbojevic and Jack Bird as their interchange men and National Rugby League stars such as Matt Moylan and Paul Vaughan outside of their top 17.
The New South Wales old guard of Greg Bird, Robbie Farah and Paul Gallen has moved on and not before time, either. Some of the biggest names in rugby league had swipes at Bird, Farah, Gallen and their ilk during last year’s State of Origin series, saying in no uncertain terms that the Blues would be better off without them. That New South Wales won the third and final game of the 2016 State of Origin series was not a surprise after Tedesco came in at fullback, Dugan returned at centre and Tyson Frizell replaced Gallen at lock, with the Cronulla warhorse moving to the front row.
Marathonbet is offering odds of +138 about New South Wales winning its first State of Origin series since 2014 and its second since 2005. Only one of the last 16 State of Origin series has been won 3-0 by a team – Queensland swept New South Wales 3-0 in 2010 – so there is an argument for backing the Blues to win 2-1 at odds of +175 with 32Red, 888Sport and Unibet. One thinks that, even if New South Wales takes a 2-0 lead in the State of Origin series, it will find it hard to whitewash Queensland because of the third match being set for Brisbane and Thurston being unlikely not to feature in the tournament finale.
New South Wales to win the State of Origin Series
Starts 31st May, 11:00 GMT
New South Wales to win the Series 2-1
Starts 31st May, 11:00 GMT