State of Origin game I has been played and won and there were no disappointments when it all came down to the final 10 minutes where QLD picked themselves off the ground as they so often do and snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in another classic origin finish. Game II sees the troops head down south for the make or break second instalment.
Our resident NRL expert MIKE WILSON takes a look at all the factors that will prove to be most crucial in deciding the outcome. Will the series head down to the wire for game III in Brisbane? Or will we witness the Maroons clinch a record breaking 6th consecutive series?
You can have your say, put forward you opinions and even pick Mike’s brain in our comments section at the bottom of the page.
WHY DID QLD WIN??
Determination, skill, guts, and brilliance. Just a few words that spring to mind when looking at the overall product that the Maroon’s players bring to the origin table year after year. The QLD team are so superbly regimented in their set plays that when required, their captain Darren Lockyer can make the call and set the wheels in motion. But of course it’s not just a case of running a set piece at any stage of the game and racking up another try. With Lockyer steering the ship, he knows when the timing is right to call upon his superstars, namely Billy Slater (Fullback), Johnathan Thurston (Halfback) and Cam Smith (Hooker).
WHY DID NSW LOSE??
NSW made mistakes in areas that QLD didn’t and that makes all the difference. I’ll give some leeway for the fact that the Blues ran onto Suncorp Stadium with a completely new team and there might have been a small amount of time taken to get used to each other, not to mention players getting used to the nerves that come with playing on the big stage. There won’t be nerves this time around.
MAL MENINGA (QLD)
Meninga played hundreds of games next to, and opposite NSW coach Ricky Stuart at club and representative level and thus knows exactly what kind of a competitor he is up against and part of how Stuart will approach the series. That kind of knowledge is always handy but for the most part, Meninga will be focused on his own team. Stuart exercised a superior interchange strategy in game one when it came to timing and Meninga will be looking for ways to improve on this for game two. A big part of Mal’s success as a coach would be the half hour before kickoff. I would love to be a fly on the wall in the QLD sheds when Meninga has a quiet word to his players, giving them the self belief to go out and do what QLD legends have done in the past. It’s that kind of will and passion that Meninga brings out of his troops that sees them playing as passionately in the 80th minute of a match as they did in the 1st minute.
RICKY STUART (NSW)
Stuart is the first NSW coach not to coach a club side. His team’s gallant performance under immense pressure will certainly assure that any future coaches are also non club coaches. Effectively, Ricky Stuart has been working on this Origin campaign since last year and has left no stone unturned in the lead up to the series.
He made it very clear that in game one he would be picking players in position and it ultimately led to the omission of Jarryd Hayne. Whereas I would have preferred to see Hayne picked at fullback over Josh Dugan, I give credit to Stuart for subsequently not being tempted to put Hayne on the wing out of position. But it would appear that he has gone against that attitude for game 2.
When it comes to getting the best out of his players mentally, Stuart would have helped his players a lot by giving assurance that he is likely to keep the same team throughout the series but for injuries.
It would be easy for the NSW players to say that they are not thinking about what has happened in the past 5 series but the truth is they are. They know that they are on the wrong side of history if they lose this game and it will be critical for Stuart to support his players by getting them mentally prepared for what lies ahead.
ANTHONY MINICHELLO (NSW FULLBACK & SYDNEY CITY FULLBACK)
When the NSW game 1 fullback Josh Dugan lay on the Canberra Stadium turf on a Sunday afternoon writhing in agony, immediately people were wondering who would replace him for game 2. I don’t think too many people thought of Anthony Minichello. No one can argue how good Minichello was back in the day, but he hasn’t played for NSW since 2007 and didn’t even play for City this year before Origin 1. Minichello missed most games for the Roosters in ’07, ’08 and ’09 due to a reoccurring back injury and ankle injuries and it’s fair to say that although he is still a good player, he is nowhere near what he once was.
This selection baffles me that he could be selected at fullback with Jarryd Hayne on the wing. If Ricky Stuart has no intention of playing Hayne at fullback, I still can’t see how Minichello gets a spot in the side over Manly fullback Brett Stewart.
Is Ricky Stuart trying to tell Jarryd Hayne something?
DAVE TAYLOR (QLD INTERCHANGE & SOUTH SYDNEY SECOND ROWER)
Brought into the side to replace NZ’s Jacob Lilleyman, Dave Taylor has really pulled his finger out in the last couple of weeks to make selectors aware that he wants a spot in the team. Hopefully he keeps it going during the game and doesn’t rest on his laurels. One of his best attributes in recent weeks has been his kick-chase down the left hand side of the field but I don’t think there will be too much of that from QLD which could nullify his strengths to a degree. But that’s all part of Meninga’s plan having told Taylor to “play more like a forward.”
WILL HOPOATE (NSW CENTRE & MANLY WINGER/FULLBACK)
There’s no doubting this kid has natural talent. 19 years old and barely a rough edge on him. He possesses the ball handling skills of a seasoned veteran and overall is a great kid and I really hope his debut goes well for him. It’s just a shame he won’t be playing on the wing because NSW would have reaped the benefits in his great defence of kicks, plus he knows how to finish a try scoring movement.
NSW have opted for only two specialist props for game two giving the team a more agile dynamic to it. Whether it was intended or not, game one saw the Blues’ agility produce good results on the left of the field with great success.
There won’t be a huge difference with Paul Gallen moving from lock to prop as his lock play is generally very intimate with the ruck. Ricky Stuart would have made this change knowing that field position won’t be as vital a factor as possession will be. If NSW had the same amount of possession as QLD in game one, they probably would have won. Gallen knows how to position his side laterally in the best way that assists his halves Soward and Pearce.
Soward and Pearce are guaranteed to gel better this time and together they will be all about getting early ball to their outside speedsters and getting their kicking game spot on. Quite simply, the kicks need to be kept away from Billy Slater on the full.
QLD will be doing what they do best: Rolling the Maroon juggernaut forward on the back of their big men, and finishing each set with deft touches that are no less than threatening. Cam Smith is my man of choice as the biggest threat. He goes under the radar so to speak because he doesn’t come up with the ‘razzle dazzle’ plays that Thurston, Slater and Lockyer might, but he is always thinking a step or two ahead. He utilises his kicking game perfectly, both long and short. When in the opposition 20 he will be looking for the right opportunity to draw Blues defenders out of the defensive line and either kick past them or find a forward steaming through onto his short pass.
Like the Blues in game one, QLD also had a tendency to go left side, but it was definitely a deliberate ploy aimed at isolating debutants like Soward and Uate. Be ready NSW, it will happen again now that Greg Inglis has returned to the QLD side.
HEAD TO HEAD
NSW (+3.5) $1.95
QLD (-3.5) $1.87
HALFTIME / FULLTIME
NSW / NSW $3.65
NSW / QLD $5.75
QLD / QLD $2.39
QLD / NSW $6.75
ANY OTHER RESULT $8.25
It’s not a game where I would be confident about recommending a best bet as I think it’s going to be fairly close. The NSW players have shown us in game one that they are in the right frame of mind and have the mental toughness to play the 80 minutes well enough to keep up with QLD. For this reason I’ve opted for the ‘ANY OTHER RESULT’ option in Halftime / Fulltime betting. For those new to this bet type and decide to have a wager, it means that if the scores are level at halftime and/or fulltime, you’re a winner! At the nice odds of $8.25 it’s worth a punt.
Good Luck on Wednesday night punters!!
– MIKE WILSON