Queensland Maroons v New South Wales Blues @ Suncorp Stadium – 7:10 pm AEST
Team List Notes
- Maroons: Ben Hunt has been dropped from the bench with Harry Grant named to make his Origin debut. Meanwhile, Christian Welch is a big inclusion in the middle. Dunamis Lui retains his place in the side but drops to the bench. Moeaki Fotuaika is the name to make way for Welch. The big changes come in the backline with Corey Alan at fullback, Valentine Holmes to one wing, Edrick Lee to the other, and Brenko Lee named in the centres. Kurt Capewell shifts to the back row as a result with Jaydn Su’a moving to the bench.
- Blues: As expected, Freddy Fittler has stuck with the winning formula and named the same 17 again for Game 3.
Maroons – Starting in the middle
When looking through the numbers from Game 1 and 2 of the series, it’s in yardage that the New South Wales Blues surged ahead. While the Queensland Maroons still found themselves behind in running metres in Game 1 at 1,914 metres v 1,852 metres, they kept it close enough to compete and took their opportunities to score more often than the Blues.
It was a different story in Game 2 as the Blues outran the Maroons by 640 metres. With a 467-metre advantage by halftime, New South Wales ended the 34-10 thrashing with 1,813 running metres to Queensland’s 1,173.
While the yardage numbers of Queensland’s middle and back-three weren’t massive in Game 1, the fall away in Game 2 is where the result started to get away from them. Dunamis Lui wasn’t expected to have much of an impact to start the game but his 46 metres fell short of what Queensland needed while Josh Papalii was limited to just 44 minutes for his 74 metres. Out the back, an expert kicking game from Nathan Cleary kept Queensland pinned in their own end with Valentine Holmes, Xavier Coates and Phillip Sami combining for just 16 kick return metres. AJ Brimson and his two wingers combined for 122 kick return metres in the series opener.
If Queensland are to cause an upset and claim a Game 3 win to clinch the series, they need to at least measure up to New South Wales through the centre third. They won the opener by committing to a simple game plan and being patient with it. It wasn’t an option in Game 2 as the Blues dominated the middle of the field and forced the Maroons to work out of their own end time and time again.
Believing and trusting the process are cornerstone philosophies of Wayne Bennett coached teams. The longer the Maroons can be in the grind and go toe-to-toe with the Blues through the middle, the more they will believe.
Blues – Centre Defence
If there is one glaring hole in the Blues side, it’s in the centres on the defensive side of the ball. Both Jack Wighton and Clint Gutherson are top tier players in their respective positions, but neither fill the centre role at a top tier quality.
Wighton’s running game is appealing. He got his arms free close to the line and went close to handing out a try assist in Game 1 before managing to complete a similar run to score in Game 2. However, he has missed 14 tackles in two games this series and was picked out by Daly Cherry-Evans for Queensland to score their first try last week. For some perspective, Zac Lomax – who is in the squad and a possible replacement – missed 14 tackles across his last seven games of the 2020 NRL season.
Gutherson, meanwhile, was cast aside for Brimson to eventually score in Game 1. Kurt Capewell – a backrower by trade – managed to get on the outside of the Eels fullback once or twice more in Game 2 as well. As a one-on-one defender, Gutherson is less than convincing at this point.
It’s clear that Queensland has these two circled in their strategy in attack. The difference between Game 1 and 2 is how often they could send traffic at the pair in attacking positions. Anticipating a closer contest in the decider and for Queensland to earn more opportunities in this match than they did the last, the defence of the New South Wales centres could prove pivotal.
One missed tackle as in Game 1 or a poor read like Game 2, and the State of Origin Shield could be heading north.
It’s no surprise to see Josh Addo-Carr ($7.25 – TopSport) back at the top of the first try-scorer list but Xavier Coates’ $11 is a price that continues to shorten. At $12 and $13 so far this series, the 19-year-old is still an appealing option on the end of Queensland’s best attacking side.
It’s Gutherson that stands out at $18, though. While he is struggling in defence, he can get himself ahead by scoring one himself. Capewell struggled defensively in Game 2 and opportunities are there for Gutherson should he receive some early ball in good ball areas. That has so far gone to Wighton ($14 – SportsBet) but Gutherson presents as a good play here given his price.
The narrative of Cameron Munster returning from injury to lead the Maroons to victory plays into his $9 to win Man of the Match in Game 3 – in from $11 before Game 2. They look a lot more dangerous with him in the side and his performance will go a long way to determining how close Queensland keep to New South Wales. Damien Cook, however, looks the value play. He started to get out from behind the ruck in Game 2 and looks set to cause Maroons markers nightmares in this one. With the Blues pack starting to get forward, Cook will have more opportunities to dart from dummy half. A creator of game-defining moments, Cook appeals at $11.