Several key matchups will decide the fate of both sides in Origin I.
As is the case with most State Of Origin contests there will be very little separating the sides at the finish. It will come down to one play, one moment of magic or one slip up.
We have identified a few key battles that will go a long way to determining the result of the opening match at Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday.
MITCHELL PEARCE v COOPER CRONK
Cronk is the seasoned veteran and campaigner you can hang your hat on. Always reliable in this arena, he has won many matches for the Maroons over the years and has been a constant nuisance for the Blues.
His kicking game and play selection in high pressure situations has gone a long way to cementing Queensland’s dominance in the Origin arena for the past decade.
On the flip side, Pearce is back in the Origin arena for the first time in two seasons but he has never quite delivered at this level. His kicking game has been bad, to say the least, in Origin and always seems to find the fullback or wingers which allows the Maroons to start their sets of six at the 30 metre line or better.
He simply has to be better if NSW are to win Game I.
JAMES MALONEY v ANTHONY MILFORD
The absence of Johnathan Thurston has presented Anthony Milford with a golden opportunity to show his talents at Origin level.
This is where Maloney’s experience will give NSW an advantage because he is well established at Origin level as well as being a 2x Premiership winning five-eighth. Milford, however, will be making his debut and could be overawed by the situation. Playing in front of the Queensland faithful, and at his home ground, could make Milford’s transition to Origin a bit smoother though.
ANDREW FIFITA v DYLAN NAPA
Fifita has had a brilliant start to 2017 and seems to be getting better and better. He was one of the shining lights of last year’s Origin series for NSW and his experience could play heavily in favour of the Blues.
Napa, on the other hand, is a rookie at this level but can prove to be damaging. Has he delivered enough for the Roosters to suggest he can get the better of Fifita on Wednesday though?
TYSON FRIZELL v JOSH MCGUIRE
Both players are relatively young in their Origin careers with just seven games between them.
Who could forget Frizell chasing down Dane Gagai in last year’s series, ankle-tapping the flying back only to see him scramble over the line before some Blues reinforcements arrived. That determination, especially from a forward, hasn’t been seen at Blues level for quite some time and shows the guy never gives up no matter what.
McGuire has to cope with the losses of Matt Scott, Corey Parker and others so needs to take on a leadership role with the forwards. It will be his job to contain the likes of Frizell, Boyd Cordner and Josh Jackson.
The Frizell v McGuire matchup is definitely unfashionable but one we have identified that will be crucial on Wednesday.
CAMERON SMITH v NATHAN PEATS
Smith is bordering on being one of the best players of all-time.
His presence for the Melbourne Storm, Queensland and Australia has been the cornerstone of success for all those sides for a number of years. You can’t contain him – you can only try and negate his influence.
Danny Buderus and Robbie Farah have been the two players tasked with trying to close down Smith in the Origin arena during his time with the Maroons but both had limited success.
How Peats, an Origin rookie, can do that is going to be a big question.
Peats has been a revelation for the Titans this season but missed the opening part of 2017 but since getting on to the field has shown enough for Laurie Daley to give him the hooking role here.