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State of Origin is the pinnacle of rugby league and it would appear that New South Wales does not want to win its second series in a row after eight years of Queensland domination.
New South Wales coach Laurie Daley has announced the Blues team to play Queensland in State of Origin I at ANZ Stadium in Sydney on Wednesday 27 May and one cannot understand how a few players have made the final 17 for the home team.
Already up against it because neither Greg Bird nor Paul Gallen – the Bruise Brothers as they were known during their time together at Cronulla – is available for State of Origin I, Daley has opted for a back row of Ryan Hoffman and Beau Scott on the edges and Josh Jackson in the lock position. Interchange forwards Boyd Cordner and Trent Merrin merit starting ahead of Hoffman and Jackson respectively, with the choice of Jackson at lock particularly concerning for New South Wales fans. Merrin is one of the form locks in the National Rugby League yet he is on the bench behind a young tyro who does not play lock for his club very often. One thinks that Queensland has the edge over New South Wales in the forwards and that is where so many State of Origin games are won and lost – it is all about doing the hard yards.
New South Wales has copied Queensland in selecting not one but two halfbacks. The problem is, though, that Queensland’s halves pairing is Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston, while New South Wales will be steered around the park by Trent Hodkinson and Mitchell Pearce. Hodkinson is out of form, Pearce has failed at State of Origin level on numerous occasions, Cronk’s absence was one of the key reasons why Queensland lost last year’s series and Thurston, well, he may be playing close to the best rugby league of his career and that is saying something. It is advantage Queensland in the crucial playmaking roles, with Cameron Smith rating ahead of Robbie Farah in the hooker department also.
One name sticks out like a sore thumb among the respective New South Wales and Queensland backlines – William Hopoate, who has made it on to one of the Blues wings despite being ordinary playing first fullback and then centre in an ordinary Parramatta side. National Rugby League followers may not agree with Daley selecting the likes of Hodkinson, Pearce and Jackson for New South Wales but one acknowledges that each of those players has a fan base. However, one would struggle to find anyone outside of Hopoate’s family who thinks that he should be in the New South Wales team ahead of someone such as South Sydney star Alex Johnston.
One expects New South Wales to lose State of Origin I to Queensland and, because the subsequent two matches will occur in neutral Melbourne and parochial Brisbane, one thinks that the Blues are likely to suffer a whitewash.
Queensland is desperate not only to regain the State of Origin shield but also to put New South Wales back in its box. The current Queensland side is right up there in terms of all-time great teams and, if one has to pick a composite outfit from the two squads for State of Origin I, New South Wales prop Aaron Woods may be the only Blues player to get a starting spot. Also worth noting is that Jarryd Hayne, who was the star of last year’s State of Origin series for New South Wales, has left rugby league to try his luck at American football – he is on the books of San Francisco.
888Sport and Unibet are offering odds of 3/1 4.00 +300 3.00 3.00 -0.33 that Queensland wins this year’s State of Origin series 3-0. Only once in Queensland’s eight-year winning streak did the Maroons whitewash New South Wales but, given the weak-looking Blues side for their one and only home game, that is the way to bet on the 2015 edition.