By Scott Woodward I am in the business of statistics and logical thinking and regardless of the make up the 2015 NSW Blues and the Queensland Maroons for Wednesday night we cannot escape the stunning fact that the home ground advantage is immense. The Maroons have only won one match from seven (14%) at ANZ in game 1, and overall NSW have won 71% of their Homebush matches which in betting terms equates to $1.40 or -7.5 points; now back to the real world and NSW is actually 2.15 and getting 2 points start. The market have taken no notice of a home town bias and made their judgement based on the Maroons winning eight straight series’ before losing last year in a boring game 2 to NSW. Do you remember the 2008 Origin Series when the Maroons had an amazing 17 players up against an average Blues list coached by Craig Bellamy on his Origin debut? Game 1 was at ANZ and big punter Eddie Hayson had $740k on the Maroons with Crownbet boss Matt Tripp at the odds of 1.72. The big boisterous crowd got the Blues home in a major upset against the likes of Slater, Inglis, Hodges, Folau Thurston, Smith and Civoniceva. The Maroons went on to win game 2 in Brisbane 30-0 and the Series in game 3 (10-16). While the market has given NSW a +2 points start, the ANZ Homebush factor is rated a record 5 points advantage based on our data. To put it into perspective, no NRL teams gain more than a try (4 points) advantage by playing at home and generally sit around 2.5 points. Blues coach Laurie Daley will know that his team must score 22 points if he is to be confidant of success on Wednesday night, but he has consciously “gone defensive” as adopted the approach of “if we can’t score then they can’t either”. Some say that this approach is “gutless”, some say it in “un-Australian”, but it worked for Daley last year when his Blues finally won a series after eight years (8-12 and 6-4). Daley’s 2014 Assistant coach Paul McGregor has adopted this same defensive strategy with his Dragons NRL team who are currently second on the ladder and boast the best defensive record. There were only a total of 30 points scored in the opening two Origins last year, approximately 54 fewer than a normal NRL match, and while game 1 was enthralling, game 2 was just down right boring in what must have been disappointing for administrators who attracted a record FTA TV audience. Laurie Daley is not a member of the ARL marketing team, and all he cares about is winning and he is smart enough to know that his Blues cannot out score the Maroons under normal playing circumstances, so his only chance is to get down and dirty and try and get a lucky bounce of the ball or a friendly 50/50 ref call that may result in a photo finish win. If you have some doubts that NSW have picked a team to save tries as opposed to score them, here is the testimony. · Josh Dugan is fullback and not noted for passing. His try assists average is 0.2 compared to Matt Moylan’s 1.1 (11 tries). · The out of form Will Hopoate over last year’s leading try scorer Alex Johnston who also is leading the NRL in Line Breaks with 10. · The pedestrian Trent Hodkinson over James Maloney, noted for Line Breaks and assists. · Forwards Beau Scott, Ryan Hoffman and Josh Jackson are all noted for defence and are not selected to create or score tries. The Blue’s best chance to score will be when Trent Merrin and Andrew Fifita come on off the bench. They have deceptive pace for big men, can step off both feet and can off load regularly when attracting three tacklers. With seven of the last nine matches decided by eight points or less, the combination of stats and logical thinking dictates that the winning margin will be between 1-12. Do fans want a close defensive game? Is that what rates best for Channel 9? I don’t think so, and the game’s rule makers have such an important role to play so normal NRL clubs games and all future representative matches are decided by not only great defence and attack, but ensure that the brilliant playmakers are never lost. Queensland lost their chief playmaker Cooper Cronk after only ten minutes in game 1 last year, and they never recovered until game 3 when the series was already lost. If NSW want to ever put a string of Origin successes together they must select players in key positions who can create 20 plus points. They must adopt a high risk, high return attitude. As soon as Souths Adam Reynolds is fit again he must be fast tracked into a Blues jersey and play alongside Mitchell Pearce. Why separate them when they are the two standout playmakers in NSW? Matt Moylan creates and scores tries and without Hayne he or Brett Stewart is a must at fullback. Josh Dugan is a runner and better suited at right centre at this level to mark up on Greg Inglis. Like the Maroons skipper Cam Smith, there is no one putting their hand up to take over from Robbie Farah and he looks certain to be the number nine for a couple more years. NSW have an edge in the forwards and on the bench and if you combine that with a spine like Farah, Adam Reynolds, Mitch Pearce and Matt Moylan then the Queensland camp would be very nervous. The Queensland backline is arguably the best balanced group of players to ever play any game anywhere, with the inexperience of Will Chambers playing on the wing perhaps the only chink in a very solid and shiny Maroon armor. We have a generational skilled backline against one of the biggest and toughest forward packs. Give me brains over brawn any day. Having said that, we can throw that logical thinking into the stands as NSW have an amazing 86% strike rate when playing at home in game 1. Scott Woodward’s NRL ratings and bets.