Wednesday 5 June, 8pm kickoff ANZ Stadium
Queenslands seven year dominance of the Origin arena will again be put to the test come Wednesday by a New South Wales team desperate to record their first series victory since 2005. The series opener will be the 97th time the two teams have met since the concept began in 1980, with Queensland recording 17 series wins to NSWs 12, with two series ending in a draw.
The series could see a number of records broken by the Maroons, including the all-time Origin point scoring record, with Jonathan Thurston (140 points) only 21 points behind Mal Meninga (161 points).
Another two records could also be extended. With 11 NRL tries to his credit already in 2013, Greg Inglis is well positioned to extend his lead as State of Origins top try scorer this series, having already scored 14 tries in the Origin arena, with Billy Slater close behind with 11 Origin four pointers.
But Queenslands focus will be on the main prize, and extending their winning run to eight straight series victories. The Blues on the other hand will desperately want to halt the Maroons dominance.
Queenslands seven year domination of the series beginning in 2006 came on the back of three straight series wins by the Blues, prompting some to label the Origin concept dead at the time. Fast forward though to 2013, and the Blues stand at a fork in the road, one road leading to an eighth straight series loss, the other to the beginning of a new Blues dynasty.
The Blues showed some promising signs in the 2012 series, winning game two in Sydney 16-12 in a bruising encounter that gave New South Welshmen renewed hope on the back of an inspiring performance from Captain, Paul Gallen. But the Maroons exacted swift revenge in game three despite a raft of changes owing to injury, among them, Greg Inglis replacing Billy Slater at fullback.
The weight of seven straight losses will be playing heavily on New South Wales, but it may not be enough to quell Queenslands relentless hunger and passion for success.
Keys to Victory
Like all interstate clashes, the battle up-front will be where the game is won and lost. The front row feud between the Blues Paul Gallen and James Tamou, up against Matt Scott and David Shillington could well be as decisive as it will be spectacular.
However, the key for the Maroons will be their combinations, and none come better than the most feared and efficient attacking trio in Rugby League, Melbournes Big Three of Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk, and Billy Slater, whos impact will only be amplified when they line up alongside Jonathan Thurston and Greg Inglis. And, with almost the entire Test backline swapping Green and Gold for a Maroon jumper on Wednesday, the Blues will have their work cut out for them as the Maroons seasoned combinations methodically attack the Blues line.
For the Blues, Coach Laurie Daleys selection of Roosters halves Mitchell Pearce and James Maloney to steer the team around the park, will play a vital role in determining whether the Blues sink or swim, while their combination with Roosters centre Michael Jennings will be an important weapon in the Blues arsenal.
Greg Inglis vs Michael Jennings
Michael Jennings has enjoyed a solid start to the 2013 season, however, he now squares off against the form player of the competition in Rabbitoh Greg Inglis. The two met briefly in round one of 2013, an occasion where GI came out on top. Inglis has been a revelation at fullback in his last two seasons with the Rabbitohs, but he returns to his favored position of centre for the Maroons on Wednesday, where his eleven kilo weight advantage will wear down Jennings, while his 15cm height advantage over the Rooster will no doubt play a role when contesting the football in the air.
Ben Teo vs Trent Merrin
Queensland forward Ben Teos powerful running has been a feature for the Rabbitohs in 2013, along with his stinging defence. The Bunnies enforcer averaged 50metres with the ball in hand in last years series, while his opposite, Trent Merrin, averaged 38metres. However, Merrins ability to get the ball away will give the Blues plenty of second phase options in attack.
Chris McQueen vs Josh Reynolds
Both utility players, and both are debutants. However thats where the similarities end with Chris McQueen and Josh Reynolds, in fact, you could say they are the inverse image of each other. While Josh Reynolds is capable of covering halfback, five eighth and hooker, McQueen is more suited to the wing, centre and any position in the forward pack from lock to prop. McQueens versatility and size will be a huge bonus for Maroons Coach Mal Meninga should injury strike, but Reynolds ability to break a game wide open could be an x-factor for the Blues. The tone of the game will decide the script for this match-up.