NRL Preview New South Wales v Queensland Wednesday, June 1, 8pm (AEST), ANZ Stadium, Sydney
State Of Origin 2016 kicks off in Sydney with the Maroons entering a new era under coach Kevin Walters and NSW ushering in generational change with five debutants. If the Blues are to end a decade of dominance that has seen the Maroons win 9 of 10 series, they will need to take the opener at ANZ.
Selection NotesLaurie Daley has wielded the axe after last year’s embarrassing 52-6 loss with Ryan Hoffman, Beau Scott, Michael Ennis, Mitchell Pearce, Trent Hodkinson, Josh Morris, Will Hopoate, Brett Morris and Trent Merrin all overlooked. Matt Moylan debuts at fullback, Josh Dugan shifts to the centres and Josh Mansour and Blake Ferguson are named as new wingers. James Maloney and Adam Reynolds forms the new-look halves pairing while Robbie Farah reclaims his spot at hooker. Dylan Walker is the shock selection as the bench utility. Queensland have lost centres Justin Hodges and Will Chambers meaning Darius Boyd goes to fullback, Greg Inglis goes to the centres and Justin O’Neill and Corey Oates debut. Josh McGuire debuts on the bench in place of Jacob Lillyman.
HistoryQueensland have won 56 Origins with New South Wales claiming 47 and three matches drawn. The Maroons have won 18 series to 12 and hold a 1762-1618 points advantage. NSW have used 257 players all-time compared to 181 for the Maroons. There have been 23 matches played at ANZ with the Blues winning 15 to the Maroons’ 7 with one draw. Queensland have won 2 of the last 3 at ANZ though. The last six at ANZ have all tallied less than 28 points. The Blues have won 6 of the 8 series openers played in NSW since 2000. Greg Inglis and Darius Boyd are the two greatest tryscorers in Origin history with 17 and 16 respectively.
There is no question that Queensland enter the opener to the 2016 series in better form. They have won 9 of the last 10 series – and they won the series decider last year 52-6. Over the last five years the Maroons have won 10 of the 15 matches. The Maroons have scored 30-plus in 2 of their last 4 while the Blues have not posted 30 points since the final game of the 2005 series. In terms of club form, Queensland have five players in the Top 20 of the Dally M Medal count – Cronk, Smith, Thurston, Inglis and McGuire – while the Blues have just Josh Dugan and Andrew Fifita. Queensland have 12 players from Top 4 clubs with just two from bottom four teams. NSW have three players from Top 4 teams while four players have been plucked from bottom four clubs.
It is hard to overlook the obscene selection decisions made by NSW in this one, a game they could have won with some reasonable decision-making. But Josh Dugan isn’t a centre, Dylan Walker isn’t a utility and there are some major question marks around the viability of Blake Ferguson and Matt Moylan. And on that count the safe play is to go with the Maroons to build on their historic Game III win last year and kick off 2016 with a win. The Blues have more aggression in their pack but heaven knows where they are scoring points because none of the backline seems capable of crossing the scoreline with any regularity. If the Maroons do have an edge it is, as always, down the left channel where Corey Oates will undoubtedly be able to take advantage of the likely worrying defence of Josh Dugan and Blake Ferguson. The top bet in the match though is the under. Series openers recently have been dour slugfests and considering the Maroons are aging and the Blues have very few tries in them it should be another grind. The line of 34 points seems ridiculously high.