New South Wales go in heavy favourites for the opening State of Origin clash but the value lies with a Maroons team ready to pounce. Here are The Wolf’s best bets for State Of Origin Game 1.
There is no question at all that NSW go into this with arguably the biggest roster disparity since the Super League War. On paper, the Blues hold an edge nearly across the park with Wayne Bennett rolling out eight rookies and returning just five starters from last year’s decider.
The biggest worry for Queensland is the back five, that will consist of four rookies, including Brenko Lee, Xavier Coates and Phillip Sami, who all spent time out of their club starting sides this season. It is a matchup that will send shivers down Maroons spines with James Tedesco, Jack Wighton, Clint Gutherson, Josh Addo-Carr and Daniel Tupou lining up across from them. If the game is expansive and the backline gets plenty of room to operate, the game will not go well for the Maroons.
There is a path to victory though and it is through winning the arm wrestle up front and kicking intelligently. Luckily for the Maroons, this is the typical recipe for winning an Origin clash. Queensland arguably have a better forward pack the New South Wales. Christian Welch, Josh Papalii and Tino Fa’asuamaleui go in playing better football than their opposite middles. Felise Kaufusi and Coen Hess have not had their best seasons but come up against Boyd Cordner, who has been battling concussion issues all season, and the struggling Tyson Frizell.
The halves battle is also at worst a wash for Queensland. Cameron Munster is the best running half in the game and Daly Cherry-Evans has a very good kicking game well suited to Origin football. Against a rookie pairing, the edge goes to the Maroons.
Maybe the biggest push for the Maroons though comes in the coaching box. Brad Fittler dominated Kevin Walters but now he comes up against arguably the smartest coach the game has known in Wayne Bennett. He remains beloved by his players and with eight rookies in his team, he will have them in awe. He has a knack for getting games to play out how he wants and he will have pretty strict instructions to keep this a dour affair.
The Maroons do not deserve to go in such heavy underdogs in this one. The eight points start is disrespectful and it is wrong. Queensland won the series opener last year and can do the same in 2020. Eight of the last 10 series openers have been decided by single digits so taking the big start is obvious here.
This is the highest State of Origin total in nearly 15 years so the under seems the natural play here despite the increase in scoring this year the new rules have brought about. There is a key number here worth accounting for: just five of the last 19 live games have surpassed 34 combined points. Not since 2010 has a series opener topped 34 points. Queensland have surpassed 18 in just two of their last nine and will not be trying to win this in a shootout. The line is too big.
Dane Gagai has made a habit of turning ordinary club tryscoring form around on the Origin stage with a very good 11 tries in 13 appearances. He has played in four series openers and scored in three of them, including a double last year. Gagai will matchup against a fullback shading as a right centre and can expose Gutherson defensively. He has scored in nine of his last 12 games for Souths.
Big Tino has been in outstanding tryscoring form with six tries in his last 12 appearances for the Storm. He is a fierce runner who will thrive in the furnace of Origin. Jake Friend is a good hooker for his running game too as Friend is creative and loves the short ball.
Titans fullback AJ Brimson was as electric as any player in the competition when he returned from injury. He scored seven tries in nine games including three doubles where he was clearly the best on ground in each. Rookies have won plenty of Origin Man of the Match awards and fullbacks have won three of the last six best on ground in Origins.
SAME GAME MULTI
Josh Addo-Carr Try/NSW Under 24.5/Queensland +7.5 ($4.75)
Queensland are significant value getting the big start so have to be included in any same game multi. The Blues have topped 24 points in just three of their last 13 and that is a significant number to get over so the under is the play. Josh Addo-Carr has scored in four of six Origins and looks the most likely Blues player to cross.