NRL Tips expert Steve Green brings you his 2019 State Of Origin game one preview.
Despite winning the last series, NSW have been forced to make a series of key changes. Firstly, Maloney is not there due to poor form (something I called pre-season) and Roberts isn’t there either (something I didn’t anticipate!). Tom T is out injured, De Belin suspended, while Campbell-Gillard and Peachey are lucky to be playing NRL for their clubs.
However, although going back to Josh Morris is not a big loss in defence, the Blues do lose some spark in attack. And while Cotric also won’t let anyone down, he does lack the X-factor that Tom T brought to the wing (such as what we saw with his aerial try last year).
But the other changes are all big positives in my opinion. Walker is in far better form that Maloney was last year. While he could set up a try, he didn’t have the running game of Walker and the Souths half is far better defensively and way more disciplined. Then on the bench, Freddie has real class to turn to. Haas is a freak and will play a lot of minutes, while Wighton and Murray are terrific athletes in top form.
So, despite a series of big injuries, NSW has so much depth nowadays that they have still managed to name an awesome 17. Guys like Tedesco, Cook, Klemmer and Jake T are all in terrific form for their clubs, while guys like Cleary and Crichton will be better for being in the team last season.
As for QLD, they have brought in three new players in the form of Mbye, Fifita and Ofahengaue. The former is a strange selection, as he been brought in as a backup 9, but plays fullback for his club and has been in poor form. Fifita and Ofa won’t let anyone down, but the could be overawed by the Origin atmosphere and speed of the game.
But besides those debutants, it’s a pretty experienced and quality side. With Hunt, Ponga, Munster and DCE…QLD has 4 of the best players in the spine. Up front Papalli and Arrow have been awesome and although they do lack a bit of size compared to the pairing of Vaughn and Klemmer, both are fit and mobile forwards.
Where I am a little worried about the QLD squad, is their centre pairing and their back-row combination. On paper, Gillett, Kaufusi and McGuire make an awesome back row combo…but Gillett still getting back to his best and it’s been 2 years since he has played an Origin. Kaufusi has been a bit down on form and McGuire coming back from an injury and only has 1 game under his belt. But if these guys can produce what they have for QLD in previous Origins, then the Maroons are right in this and probably deserve slight favouritism.
I am also a little worried about Morgan and Chambers in the centres. Mitchell has been far too good in their recent contests, but Chambers recent form has improved so he might be looking to get one back in this one…while Morgan is a half or fullback, so asking him to seamless move to centre at Origin level is always a risky move.
On my ratings, the Blues have an overall advantage – but when you hone in on key positions, QLD have a slight edge in those positions. Throw in the approximate 6-point home ground advantage QLD will enjoy playing at Suncorp, then I think the bookies have the head to head odds about right.
While QLD have a good record at Suncorp, the last two times these teams have played Game 1 at Suncorp, the Blues have snuck away with the win (2014 and 2017).
As for my prediction that the draw at 19.00 offers good value, Game 1 is traditionally very close. The last two years have seen NSW win by margins of 24 (in 2017) and by a margin of 10 (in 2018)… but prior to that the margin was often less than a try:
- 2016: QLD by 2
- 2015: QLD by 1
- 2014: NSW by 4
- 2013: NSW by 8
- 2012: QLD by 8
- 2011: QLD by 4
- 2010: QLD by 4
With these two teams matched up so well and the closeness of Origin, I would have the draw paying no more than 13.00. The 17-19 we got earlier in the week is good value.
And I explained briefly when I put forward my Man of the Match tip on Haas, I think that the bookies are thinking that because he is on the bench, he cannot be a genuine Origin chance. But that overlooks the modern day forward rotation…and doesn’t consider how many minutes Haas is likely to play in Game 1.
Nowadays, many coaches will leave an impact forward on the bench. This doesn’t mean that player isn’t ‘good enough’ to be in the starting pack – it can mean that the player is so explosive that they want to maximise their impact. That is the case with Haas… Coach Fittler knows that a tiring QLD pack will struggle to contain Haas when he comes on after 25 minutes. Haas has shown he can play 80 minutes straight, so there is a chance Fittler gives a big stint.
If the game is close and Haas changes momentum with some barnstorming runs, then he will come into contention for man of the match honours and at 67.00, he is worth a speculative play. I would have had him at half those odds!
The other guy that is key for his team is Corey Oates. While wingers are often derided, Oates is amazing player that has shown the ability to score from impossible positions. HIs big body, speed and reach is impossible to stop close to the line and although Addo-Carr is also in great try-scoring form, power is often what gets the try in Origin and I think the QLDers will look to come down his side often because he is so good at finishing.
This is going to be an thrilling game – provided the refs let the players have some space! I think the Blues have no weak spots and could grind their way to victory over a desperate QLD team.
New South Wales 15
Suggested Bet: Draw After 80 Minutes
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