Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium will tonight host the 100th game of State of Origin in the first of the 2014 series.
The New South Wales Blues will look to gain a valuable win over the Queensland Maroons before returning to Sydney in three weeks’ time.
The majority of the talk surrounding the two sides has focused on the dramatic difference in the teams’ preparations leading up to game one. The Blues have employed state-of-the-art equipment to improve training, including sleep monitoring and saliva and urine testing. Queensland, on the other hand, buoyed by their infamous “Pick ‘n’ Stick” selections, apparently haven’t found it necessary to prepare as strenuously as their southern rivals. Coach Mal Meninga has opted for a more relaxed approach.
Laurie Daley has selected two debutants for game one, Trent Hodkinson from the Bulldogs and Daniel Tupou from the Sydney Roosters. Hodkinson was given the nod after Mitchell Pearce’s infamous night out made it impossible to pick him. Daley is a renowned disciplinarian, as shown by his axing of Blake Ferguson and James Tamou from the last series. He followed precedent by not selecting the controversial halfback. Hodkinson will face a baptism of fire in front of 50,000 Maroon supporters; if he is not playing at his best in this encounter, you can expect NSW to struggle.
Players to watch:
NSW – Jarryd Hayne
The Parramatta Eels star has been in superb form this year for his team, notching up nine tries and eight try assists over the opening 11 rounds of the NRL. Hayne has been very consistent at Origin; how he plays may very well decide the game. Hayne has the ability to win games single-handedly as he showed in the 2009 series so the Maroons will keep a close eye on him.
QLD – Jonathan Thurston
The Australian five-eighth has a habit of tearing the Blues defence apart through his sublime running, passing and kicking game. The only man to play in every game of the Maroons’ eight straight series wins, he hopes to run riot once again to ensure the inexperienced Blues halves Josh Reynolds and Trent Hodkinson remember their first Origin face-off against him.
Queensland will be a fired-up outfit despite their relaxed preparation, particularly with the retiring of Arthur Beetson’s 11 jersey for the game.
This is a tough game to call but the Blues have a team capable of bringing Queensland’s reign of terror to an end. – Louis Dillon
Top photo from Scott Maxworthy’s Flickr photostream.