State of Origin Game 1 preview from NRL pro punter Steve Green… including predicted score and suggested bet!
The bookies have the odds at NSW -4.5 here and I will start off by conceding that is about right.
NSW has a stack of in-form Panthers players, as well as strike weapons like Tommy T, Tedesco and Latrell out wide. Their forwards are all mobile and skilful and after last year’s shock loss, they will be desperate to get their revenge on Queensland.
Furthermore, Queensland’s depth has been sorely tested, with a whole host of injuries meaning multiple players from the successful 2020 campaign are not playing in this one. Papalii is the key out, though Lindsay Collins will also be missed. Out wide, Edrick Lee has not played all year and Brenko Lee has been out of the NRL all year. And although he didn’t play last year, Ponga at the back is a big loss!
However, there are plenty of reasons for Queenland fans to be hopeful here…
With the game being moved from Melbourne to Townsville, the Queensland boys will have a strong home ground advantage. Home teams have a great record in Origin and I do not think the odds moved enough when the change of venue was announced. The difference between a Melbourne and Townsville location is about four points in my view.
Munster and Grant
Although losing Ponga at 1 was bad news, it looks nearly certain that Grant and Munster will be lining up and very close to 100% fit. These two guys were instrumental in Queensland winning in 2020, so their inclusion will provide the rest of the squad with a huge morale boost. The fact that they haven’t played in a while could mean both guys are fresh and ready to go.
Last year Fifita was out injured and his inclusion in the 2021 season takes the edge off losing Papalii. Kaufusi getting off his tripping charge was also a stroke of good luck for the Queenslanders, who do not have much depth after their top 17. But at present, their likely pack is shaping up quite nicely and should be able to match the onslaught from NSW.
The Cleary and Luai combo might not work in Origin
Although Cleary is the most dominant player in the NRL, I’m not so sure he and Luai will find the Origin arena conducive to the style of footy they play. Origin is about playing the percentages, playing tough and waiting for your chances. In the past seven months, Cleary has failed to get the job done in three of his four biggest games (he lost the GF and two out of the three Origin games he played in).
Luai’s brash style is well suited to targeting poor defenders in the NRL, But at Origin level there are no poor defenders. There is a chance he gets frustrated and tries to create something, leading to crucial errors. He’s also not a huge body, meaning the Queensland edge runners will be targeting him all night long.
No Radley or Crichton
With Crichton and Radley suspended, NSW are without two guys that would definitely have been there in my view. Frizell’s injury is also a big out, and while Yeo and Murray had to be there, I think Tariq Sims is a little lucky to make it ahead of someone like L Leilua. I also think Liam Martin is a little lucky to have nabbed a bench spot, with Coach Fittler clearly choosing both Sims and Martin on the basis of their aggression. This is because the NSW pack was bashed and out-enthused by the Queensland pack last year. However, both Sims and Martin have the potential for errors, so I also think both of these guys will be targeted when they carry the ball up. Look for Queensland tacklers to try and jolt the ball out when these two do their hit-ups.
BUT… NSW deserve favouritism
With so many attacking strike weapons and a bench featuring the likes of Haas, J Paulo and J Wighton, I think the Blues will be able to gain the ascendancy either side of half.
Cleary’s kicking game, Cook’s running and the attacking prowess of the NSW centre pairing should be the difference.
The impact of Payne Haas off the bench could be the X-factor that breaks the game open. Once the opening 20 minutes have taken the sting out of the Queensland line speed, I expect Haas to really cause some havoc playing off the likes of Yeo, Cook, Cleary and Murray.
Although he hasn’t been racking up the same crazy numbers in 2021 as he was in 2020, Haas is an incredible forward who is not helped on a week-to-week basis by the fact he plays for a struggling Broncos team.
Although the likes of Munster, Tedesco, Cleary, Grant and Cook are the deserved favourites for the man-of-the-match awards, after you get past the elite spine players I think Haas is a roughie that could be the player of the match based on his likely dominance of the middle of the field.
— David Riccio (@DaveRic1) June 5, 2021
The following big men have all taken home a man-of-the-match award in Origin: Paul Gallen, Paul Harragon, Rodney Howe, Shane Webcke, Luke Bailey, Steve Price, Willie Mason, Sam Thaiday, Nate Myles and Andrew Fifita. And I think Haas is better than all of them!
Although it is a speculative bet, the odds being offered on Haas to win man-of-the-match is too good to pass up for a small bet.
Recommended bet Payne Haas to be player-of-the-match: currently $51 with TopSport
As explained above, while I think NSW deserve to be slight favourites, I am predicting a very close game.
With the NRL seemingly having backed off on their crackdown due to a player and fan backlash, I think the threshold for someone being sin-binned or sent off will be a lot higher than what we saw during the Magic Round nonsense. This means we are likely to see a more tradition Origin encounter, which I think will be decided in the final 10 minutes.
So once again, a speculative play that I think offers great value is a draw at 80 minutes.
Recommended bet Scores level at normal time: currently $16 with TopSport
State of Origin Game 1: Predicted Score
NSW 22 – Queensland 20
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