State of Origin Game 1 Preview & Betting Tips

The wait is over. Rugby league’s greatest rivalry resumes in a fascinating State of Origin game 1 between Queensland and New South Wales.

Oddschecker
 | 
Mon, 3 Jun, 12:00 AM

Queensland Maroons v New South Wales Blues – Suncorp Stadium 8:10pm

We’re in relatively uncharted territory in the 2019 State of Origin series – for only the second time over the last 14 years, New South Wales will enter looking to retain their title.

Last season’s series had all the feeling of a generational shift away from Queensland’s unprecedented domination including nine straight series wins on the back of its golden generation towards a brand new Blues era with Brad Fittler’s coaching bringing the best of a fresh-faced crop of rookies.

Yet the only thing certain across 39 years of Origin is nothing is for certain. Fittler has been forced to again rebuild his squad due to injuries and suspension while Queensland coach Kevin Walters has a fantastic chance to start a new Maroons era led by the game’s hottest young talent Kalyn Ponga.

QUEENSLAND

 

Barring an incredibly unlikely set of circumstances necessitating Cameron Smith to do an Alfie Langer in 2002 and make a comeback, this will be the first State of Origin series since 2002 where the Maroons will not field at least one of Smith, Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk, Greg Inglis or Billy Slater. Queensland at least have had time to plan how they transition from their greatest era to the next and have announced a strong squad who need to capitalise on their precious home advantage in game one.

Replacing Smith – the game’s greatest hooker – has proven the most difficult task but not through the expected circumstances. The Maroons relied on Andrew McCullough to do the duties last season but a knee injury has sideline the Broncos rake.

Next cab off the rank – reigning Premiership hooker Jake Friend – is also unavailable with a long-term bicep injury. With Jake Granville inconsistent at club level, Dragons halfback Ben Hunt becomes a makeshift hooking solution and represents one of the biggest selection gambles in recent Origin history.

With just four starting games of experience in league’s most important position in the last eight years, Hunt will have a Blues-painted bullseye on him in defence. Hunt’s four game stint as Broncos hooker came in the regular season’s final round plus three finals but do illustrate how significant a step up he’ll need to make in defence.

 

Games Played

Average Tackles

Average Missed Tackles

Hunt 2017 – HOOKER - (Brisbane)

4

36.75

4.25

Smith 2017 (Queensland)

3

42

2.67

McCullough 2018 (Queensland)

2*

50

1.5

Hunt 2018 – HALFBACK – (Queensland)

2

19.5

2.5

Hunt 2019 – HALFBACK – (Dragons)

11

22.7

3.6

*McCullough exited his third game early due to injury

In a contest where one single missed tackle can decide a series, Hunt’s defensive performance looms potentially as the critical factor in Queensland’s hopes.

Queensland’s other spine members are among the elite of their positions and are capable of magic anywhere in the field. Ponga will make his debut as an Origin starting fullback but showed in game 3 last year coming off the bench and playing as a lock due to other injuries he is a natural at this level already – and is perhaps the most in-form player in the NRL entering Origin.

Halves Cameron Munster and new skipper Daly Cherry-Evans boast a significant experience advantage over their Blues counterparts which may increase the chances of the Maroons flying out of the blocks at home.

They’ll find plenty of edge strike in wingers Corey Oates (9 tries in 11 matches this season) and representative specialist Dane Gagai (9 tries in 9 matches as a Maroons winger), while centres Will Chambers – looking for redemption over Latrell Mitchell – and Michael Morgan offer a unique skillset combination.

Queensland’s pack is built for a mobility advantage – their only traditional prop forwards Dylan Napa and Joe Ofahengaue have been named on the bench. Starting middles Jai Arrow, Josh Papalii and Josh McGuire are all more than comfortable playing long minutes at lock, as are edge forwards Matt Gillett – who started 2019 at lock – and one-time Australia lock Felise Kaufusi. Papalii could become Queensland’s enforcer, the Raider has been in career-best form and loves the big stage.

The Maroons bench is intriguing, following the classic Origin interchange makeup of two middles, one edge and one utility. Napa will be the bench’s leader with the only Origin experience and along with Ofahengaue will bring mongrel in spades – just what you need during the crucial forward rotations.

David Fifita was mentioned as an Origin darkhorse and will make the first of many Maroons appearances as a dangerous edge runner. Moses Mbye rounds out the bench options, the Tigers fullback being the emergency option for any Queensland spine changes and as a club captain has already become a leader around Camp Maroon.

Despite the golden generation’s departure, Queensland have found a squad loaded with game-winners, balance and experience. For the Maroons to win they’ll need Hunt to deliver a near-flawless defensive effort, their forwards to exploit their speed and endurance advantages and for their street-smart halves to control the game’s flow. And if all else fails, they can always chuck the ball to Ponga.

NEW SOUTH WALES

The champs are here – Brad Fittler’s Blue revolution was the change of pace New South Wales needed to reclaim Origin glory. Fittler rewrote Blues history – he gave debuts to a record 11 players in game one (along with one more in both the final two games), seemingly embodied zen and brought an infectious enthusiasm to the series.

But a year is an eternity in footy and through a variety of circumstances, only six of those 13 newcomers were named in the Blues side for game 1 this campaign. It does help in two of those players – centre Latrell Mitchell and hooker Damien Cook – just so happen to be each of their position’s most dynamic players, each easily capable of flipping a game on its head off just one play.

These game-breakers though aren’t just limited to this duo – take a look at the Blues fullback James Tedesco and you’ll know you’ve got NRL’s best support runner who’s increasingly able to create tries with his ball-playing as he is with his twinkle toes.

The magic doesn’t stop there – remarkably after 11 NRL rounds, the competition’s leading try scorer is a five-eighth who will make his Origin debut in the enemy state he originally made his name in. Cody Walker may well be the biggest enigma in game one – his form for the Bunnies has been incredible and catapulted him above the Blues’ incumbent pivot James Maloney in a no-brainer selection.

Walker plays with his heart on his sleeve and isn’t one to bite his tongue, it’ll be fascinating to see how he handles the biggest stage of his career. His new halves partner Nathan Cleary had a fine debut Origin series and despite an inconsistent NRL campaign with Penrith, coach Fittler opted to keep the faith with him ahead of Walker’s club teammate Adam Reynolds. It’s a challenging position for Cleary to be in however.

For the first time at representative level he’s going to have someone other than Maloney at five-eighth (Cleary did represent City as a bench utility in 2017) and will be entrusted as the senior playmaker, a large burden for the 21-year-old with 69 NRL appearances. The searing pace of Josh Addo-Carr, the veteran presence of Josh Morris, the superstar that is Latrell Mitchell and Raiders rookie Nick Cotric cap off an in-form backline who each know the Blues have depth to make selection reshuffles if it fails to fire.

NSW’s forwards will bring the muscle and aggression in spades. David Klemmer is now a Blues veteran and in fine form for Newcastle and with Paul Vaughan forms a menacing starting prop pairing. Their back row of captain Boyd Cordner, Tyson Frizell and Jake Trbojevic pick themselves – each are leaders, workhorses and attacking threats in their own ways. Along with Damien Cook, it is a star studded pack and will look to repeat their 2018 heroics.

The New South Wales bench – like Queensland’s – only has one player with Origin experience (Angus Crichton) with three newcomers whose club form made them automatic callups for Fittler. Bunnies lock Cameron Murray will cover expertly for Trbojevic to have a spell, Raiders five-eighth Jack Wighton will cover for any backline injuries while Crichton will have a point to prove with Fittler keeping loyalty with the Rooster recruit who hasn’t excelled in his new settings.

Overall New South Wales will be highly confident of defending their Origin shield for the first time since 2005 – their team has a mentor who they clearly relish playing under, a brilliant backrow and superstars throughout their backline. Playing the first two games away from home (Brisbane and Perth) is a large obstacle to overcome, however.

KEY STATS

 

Game 1 in Brisbane is a massive advantage for the Maroons. They’ve only lost one series in Origin history (2005) after winning game 1 in Brisbane. They’ve won ten of the last twelve Origins at Suncorp and also have lost just one penalty count over the last eight matches there. Intriguingly, however, the two Blues wins at Suncorp in this stretch have each come in series openers, and in each of those wins New South Wales led at half-time. Dane Gagai (9) and Josh Morris (5) are the only players to have over three Origin tries entering this series.

Tip: Queensland - $2.16* (Unibet)

Value Bet: Dane Gagai to score a try

*Odds subject to change

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