Queensland Maroons vs New South Wales Blues – Wednesday night – Suncorp Stadium
- Kalyn Ponga (Newcastle Knights)
- Corey Oates (Brisbane Broncos)
- Michael Morgan (North Queensland Cowboys)
- Will Chambers (Melbourne Storm)
- Dane Gagai (South Sydney Rabbitohs)
- Cameron Munster (Melbourne Storm)
- Daly Cherry-Evans (c) (Manly Sea Eagles)
- Jai Arrow (Gold Coast Titans)
- Ben Hunt (St George Illawarra Dragons)
- Josh Papalii (Canberra Raiders)
- Felise Kaufusi (Melbourne Storm)
- Matt Gillett (Brisbane Broncos)
- Josh McGuire (North Queensland Cowboys)
- Moses Mbye (Wests Tigers)
- Joe Ofahengaue (Brisbane Broncos)
- Dylan Napa (Canterbury Bulldogs)
- David Fifita (Brisbane Broncos)
Coach - Kevin Walters
New South Wales Blues
- James Tedesco (Sydney Roosters)
- Nick Cotric (Canberra Raiders)
- Latrell Mitchell (Sydney Roosters)
- Josh Morris (Cronulla Sharks)
- Josh Addo-Carr (Melbourne Storm)
- Cody Walker (South Sydney Rabbitohs)
- Nathan Cleary (Penrith Panthers)
- David Klemmer (Newcastle Knights)
- Damien Cook (South Sydney Rabbitohs)
- Paul Vaughan (St George Illawarra Dragons)
- Boyd Cordnor (c) (Sydney Roosters)
- Tyson Frizell (St George Illawarra Dragons)
- Jake Trbojevic (Manly Sea Eagles)
- Jack Wighton (Canberra Raiders)
- Payne Haas (Brisbane Broncos)
- Cameron Murray (South Sydney Rabbitohs)
- Angus Crichton (Sydney Roosters)
Coach - Brad Fittler
I've just spent a session seeking guidance from the Tipster Whisperer, and his key recommendation was to not mention the Blues even once. That seems pretty bloody unreasonable, so I've tossed that aside for now and I'll just do what I've always done.
The Blues head up to Queensland in somewhat unfamiliar territory...as defending champions. They're also bringing five debutants which is unusual, given it's Queensland that are meant to be going through a rebuilding phase. The halves for NSW will get plenty of attention, and with good reason. Cleary has been below his best in a team performing below their best. He pairs up with debutant Cody Walker, but at least Walker is bringing with him the best form of his career. He deserves this. That the rest of the spine (Cook and Tedesco) have Origin experience and very good form has to make this a little easier for them. Cook and Walker have been quite the duo at the Rabbits this season so that helps too...but still.
Meanwhile, Cherry-Evans heads into the furnace of Origin duty with no form at all. He hasn't played for weeks, he's got the (c) next to his name and (I assume) goal-kicking duties to boot. It's a huge ask, but he does come across as the sort of bloke that doesn't let too many things phase him. It's why some people don't like the bloke...I suppose. The QLD spine isn't shabby either – Munster and Ponga are, let's be blunt here, freakin superstars. They have ten years of Origin ahead of them unless they go off the rails or end up playing for the All Blacks. Ben Hunt at nine isn't perfect, but here's why I like it:
- He can take the line on when the opportunity presents.
- The dummy-half role "simplifies" what Hunt has to do, and I suspect over-thinking things brings him undone at times.
- If needed, he can kick from dummy-half.
- He may not have the speed off the mark of Damien Cook, but neither did Cameron Smith. While the Blues forwards are watching Munster and Ponga like hawks, Hunt can capitalise.
I worry about the QLD forward pack, but I always worry about that. The NSW forwards look bigger and stronger than QLD almost every year, and despite that, QLD win more games than they lose. Putting on that maroon jersey makes mountains of men north of the tweed. They'll do their job, and a willing crowd will help them get there.
In 2017 the first game of the series was in Brisbane, and the Blues won 28-4. That's just two years ago, but here's the amazing thing – only five players from that 2017 NSW side are here for game one in 2019. Two of those are on the bench. Only one of their key spine players (Tedesco) is still around, and he's the only 2017 survivor in the NSW backline. It's a whole new team, and even though QLD are 'rebuilding', they have eight players who were here in 2017...and the same coach. Queensland will win game one by drawing on their experience...and a home ground advantage that's difficult to match anywhere else in the world.
Verdict – Queensland 17 to New South Wales 16
First try scorer – Dane Gagai
Man of the Match – Kalyn Ponga