ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 04: Jack Wighton of the Blues runs onto the field during game one of the 2020 State of Origin series between the Queensland Maroons and the New South Wales Blues at the Adelaide Oval on November 04, 2020 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Following a remarkable Origin series like no other in 2020, it’s fair to say next year’s return to it’s regular mid-season slot will still be far from the norm.

An undermanned Maroons squad had been penciled in for a 3-0 defeat before the first whistle of the series, only for the underdogs to prevail in historic fashion in Game III.

With the series result managing to catch everybody off-guard, we thought it would be sensible to submit an Origin preview ridiculously early.

With Queensland likely to gain a majority of its fire-power back by early June, they could enter the series opener as favourites despite the Blues arguably having the stronger side on paper.

The major factor that could swing the 2021 Origin Odds is Wayne Bennett’s tenure with the Maroons, with the supercoach yet to be confirmed for a second season despite pulling a masterstroke in his return to representative football.

Over a dozen Maroons players made their Origin debuts for Queensland under Bennett in 2020 and will only have a stronger degree of confidence heading into their second Origin campaign. 

Harry Grant will have the No.9 jumper sewn up after a stellar first game in the Maroon to aid his state to a series win, while the likes of Kalyn Ponga, David Fifita and Kyle Feldt just the tip of the iceberg of names uncapped in 2020.

Heading south of the Tweed, Brad Fittler will have plenty of questions to answer following a disappointing start and finish to the series.

The loss of Boyd Cordner, Cameron Murray and eventually James Tedesco mounted a strain on the Blues’ chances, but their depth had been backed as a key pillar for Fittler’s squad and struggled to live up to the label.

A number of NSW stars struggled to find the same consistency they thrived on in the NRL season, with Nathan Cleary not at his best outside of Game II, while the pairing of Jack Wighton and Clint Gutherson failed to have the expected impact Fittler and Blues fans were hoping for.

Incumbent winger Josh Addo-Carr was at his best once again, with Cody Walker flexing his range of skills when handed the opportunity.

While plenty of responsibility will be placed on the aforementioned experienced crop, uncapped Penrith duo Jarome Luai and Stephen Crichton will be sure to have major roles in 2021.

The pair were vital to the Panthers’ dominant 2020 campaign and were overlooked by Fittler in the postseason series, a mistake he won’t be looking to make twice.

The 2021 series will likely require the final match of the three games to decide a victor, but with a bad taste in the mouths of the Blues camp, they’ll be hungry for a strong start to their series in hope of righting any wrongs from 2020.

If Bennett remains at the helm of the Maroons for a second straight series, the odds may just be tipped in their favour, but if a new face is to lead this young group of underdogs, it will be hard to mirror their successes of this year.

Following a stunning 2020 series and an inevitable fiery build-up to next year’s campaign, the 2021 State of Origin Series may just go down as one of the most anticipated for some time.

Prediction: NSW 2-1


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