GI a natural fit for captaincy
I may be from New South Wales, but the significance of Greg Inglis (also from New South Wales) being named as the third Indigenous player after Arthur Beetson and Gorden Tallis to captain the Maroons was not lost on me.
With Cameron Smith's shock retirement from representative football, it felt to me that GI was the natural fit for the next Maroons captain. He has played over 30 State of Origins for Queensland and been one of the most dominant players at that level for many years.
I have been watching GI in the media this week and it is clear that this is a tremendous honour for him. He shed tears when Kevin Walters told him the news. The captaincy is a fitting reward for a player who is not just exceptional on the field, but is also a passionate advocate for issues off the field that are important to him like diversity and taking a stance against racism.
There has been plenty of discussion this week about how GI will deal with the Blues' back-line speed. Time will tell how he copes with keeping up in the defensive line, but if GI does lack anything in that area, he makes up for it with raw power and experience when the Maroons are attacking in the Blues' red zone. For GI, State of Origin is a stage and I'm sure he will lift and put in an outstanding performance, not just as a player, but as captain too.
For many Australians, watching him lead out the men in Maroon will be a very emotional experience. Me included.
You have to love RCG
Earlier this week when Reagan Campbell-Gillard found out that he was going to make his State of Origin debut he said he "can't wait to get out there and start killing some people".
If that statement doesn't get you in the mood for Origin, then nothing will (despite it coming from a man who describes himself as more a lover than a fighter).
RCG is one of my favourite players in the NRL and it's not just because he has the best footy mo' I have seen in years.
It's because of his aggressive, competitive attitude and his desire, at age 24, to be one of the best forwards in the game. He has been a key part of the Panthers' dominance this season because of his barnstorming runs in attack (which often result in a quick play-the-ball), solid hits in defence and his post-contact metres. He is an enforcer.
And then there is who he lines up with in the Blues forward pack – the likes of Tyson Frizell, Jack de Belin and Boyd Cordner. With Paul Vaughan, Angus Crichton and Tariq Sims coming off the bench, we may well have the fastest Blues squad in history.
Blues will win game one
The thing that I am looking forward to the most is a Blues win.
One thing is very clear. Brad Fittler has rejuvenated this Blues squad and the State of Origin concept.
With the Smith retirement news and a couple of other notable omissions from the Queensland team, there is a genuine belief that this year could be the start of something new for the Blues. Fittler's team has 11 debutants including the likes of Latrell Mitchell, James Roberts, RCG, Josh Addo-Carr, Damien Cook and Nathan Cleary. It has speed to burn and has been selected specifically to play fast, attacking football.
I can't wait to welcome in this new generation of Blues players. It is going to be a night of celebration next Wednesday night, when New South Wales beat Queensland by 8 points.
See you all at the MCG.
Witness Australia's greatest sporting rivalry when Origin comes to the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Wednesday, June 6. Bronze tickets available from $49 here.