Queensland Maroons v New South Wales @ Adelaide Oval – 7:10 pm AEST

Team List Notes

  • Maroons: Wayne Bennett is ushering in the next crop of Queensland reps with AJ Brimson, Xavier Coates, Brenko Lee, Phillip Sami, Jake Friend, Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, Lindsay Collins and Jaydn Su’A all named to make their debut. The surprise name might be Coen Hess who has struggled through 2020 to this point.
  • Blues: James Tedesco has been named at fullback but is under an injury cloud. With Tom Trbojevic and Ryan Papenhuyzen both unavailable, Clint Gutherson may end up at the back for the Blues. Daniel Tupou makes his return to the side after five years out while Junior Paulo joins Daniel Saifiti in the front row. Luke Keary finally makes his Origin debut in the halves alongside Nathan Cleary.

Key Factors

Maroons – Laying Foundations

It’s difficult to be confident in the Queensland Maroons backline with four of the five making their Origin debut. AJ Brimson is in excellent form but not the first choice at the position, Brenko Lee is playing well in 2020 but isn’t an elite centre, Phillip Sami has plenty of questions around his defence and Xavier Coates hasn’t had many opportunities on the end of the worst attack in the NRL this season. That leaves Origin specialist Dane Gagai as the focus of a Queensland backline.

If this makeshift back-five is to find points and begin to surprise a few people – NSW are heavy $1.37 favourites to win Game 1 – it will start in the middle from kickoff.

There’s an argument for Queensland having the stronger starting pack coming into this one. Christian Welch is in career-best form and Josh Papalii is widely regarded as the best prop in rugby league. While the Coen Hess selection is baffling and somewhat made through desperation, Felise Kaufusi is reliable on the edge and Tino Fa’asuamaleaui has the skillset to be a premier lock forward in the game.

Unfortunately for Queensland, their bench doesn’t compare to New South Wales (Ben Hunt, Lindsay Collins, Jai Arrow and Jaydn Su’A v Cody Walker, Payne Haas, Cameron Murray and Angus Crichton). It’s in the periods either side of halftime that the Blues could pull away. If the Maroons are to apply some pressure and keep this game close enough for long enough to be in with a sniff late, their pack will need to dominate the middle early and lay the foundations for what is an unconvincing backline to find points.

Blues – Halves Balancing Act

The Blues used three different halves pairings in the series last year. Cody Walker only lasted 66 minutes in Game 1 after he struggled to make an impact alongside Nathan Cleary. Cleary then only lasted 41 minutes in Game 2 with James Maloney taking over the lead half role for the remainder of the series. Mitchell Pearce replaced Cleary for Game 3.

It’s a different scenario in 2020. Cleary is undoubtedly a lead half and will take the majority of the touches this year beside Luke Keary. Keary is arguably the best five-eighth in the NRL and is an ideal foil for Cleary on paper, but they still have a few teething issues to sort out. While Cleary isn’t cemented to one side of the field, he predominantly played down the right side throughout 2020 with Jarome Luai taking control of the left. Keary, on the other hand, was more prone to drifting over to both sides, especially when a chance on the short side looked likely.

Both Cleary and Keary offered similar averages throughout the 2020 NRL season. While the Roosters overall fell away on their 2019 efforts, Keary continued to play a key role in their high-powered attack. We’ve mentioned it here before, but it’s the touches of the two players throughout the club season that may need to come closer together for Origin.

Touches per game: Cleary v Keary (last 15 games)

New South Wales have the better side on paper. If the game is played relatively even through the middle, their backline is far superior and should be the difference. A clunky performance from a new-look halves pairing finding their feet together is one of the few hurdles the Blues need to leap to ensure victory in Game 1.

Value Plays

First try scorer odds for State of Origin Game 1

The Blues back three occupy the first three lines of betting in the first try scorer markets and for good reason. You’ll struggle to name a better trio in their positions while the Maroons opposite them all make their State of Origin debuts. Jack Wighton also shapes as a strong candidate given his form and the way he has been scoring tries in 2020. A strong ball-carrier and now a known passing threat, he’s going to be dangerous close to the Queensland line.

If you would like to find the best price for Man of the Match, First or Anytime Tryscorer Markets, download our odds comparison spreadsheet here:

New South Wales Man of the Match odds

With the assumption of a New South Wales win the key play makers lead the way in the Man of the Match markets. Queensland’s shortest prices come in the halves with both Cameron Munster and Daly Cherry-Evans at $11. It’s Daniel Saifiti ($67 – TAB) that appeals given the task he has at hand, though. Expected to lead the Blues through the middle to start and lay a platform for the likes of Cleary, Keary, James Tedesco and Damien Cook to thrive behind, Saifiti could be a big player in the final result. He averaged just 66 running metres per game in his two 2019 Origin matches – that won’t cut it as a leader this time around. If he can get close to his 2020 NRL average of 144 metres per game, his price for Man of the Match is worth investigating.

Interview with Cricket Analyst Gaurav Sundararaman – ESPNCricinfo

State Of Origin Game 2 Preview