State of Origin game one is tonight and both sides have experienced a massive changing of the guard. There are 14 players making their debut this game (the most since the very first Origin match in 1980, not counting the Super League era when there were two competing series played), with several more starting for the first time.
(It should be stated, as if the video doesn’t make it clear, that I’m a passionate Blues supporter.)
Queensland have officially replaced Billy Slater, with Michael Morgan heading to fullback and Anthony Milford taking on the bench utility role. As always there are reports of injuries coming out of the Queensland camp, but the only one that is really being taken seriously is a dislocated finger for Dane Gagai.
New South Wales will run out as the 17 that were named last week, opting to stay out of the chaos and misdirection that the Maroon camp is famous for. This is a new era for the Blues, with 11 players making their State of Origin debut tonight. Having picked a team based purely on form every player will be confident in their ability, although inexperience in this arena might show.
The Maroons, meanwhile, have had their hand forced a bit with selections. While there have been plenty of strong outside backs putting their hand up, the spine has almost been selected by default as there isn’t a lot of competition. The forward pack also looks out of form and a fair bit weaker than the New South Wales bully-boys. The only Queenslander who could reasonably feel hard done by is Kalyn Ponga, who is the 18th man but has probably had the best season of all the fullback options.
While NSW are inexperienced their coaching staff has known for a long time that they would be picking a mostly new side, and will have prepared accordingly. Queensland, on the other hand, have been forced into a new-look State of Origin side by the shock retirement of Cameron Smith, injury to Billy Slater and the poor form of Darius Boyd and Matt Scott.
It should also be mentioned that this is big night for the NSW mid-north coast, with both State captains coming from the region – Greg Inglis from Kempsey and Boyd Cordner from Taree.