State of Origin - QLD v NSW: Game 1
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 05: Cameron Murray of the Blues is tackled during game one of the 2019 State of Origin series between the Queensland Maroons and the New South Wales Blues at Suncorp Stadium on June 05, 2019 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

We’re now just hours away from the 2020 Origin Decider.

Honestly, at multiple times this season, I didn’t think we’d make it to this point.

Instead though we have a potential full house at Suncorp tonight to watch a huge underdog Maroons outfit battle the big bad Blues in an effort to wrestle back the Origin Shield.

Anyone who was once pretending not to be interested in the interstate series just because a global pandemic forced the NRL to shift the series to post finals is now talking about tonight’s game.

Betting agencies have QLD at around the $3.00 mark, with the Blues shortening $1.40ish favourites. For mine this game is a lot closer than those figures suggest.

I took a scientific approach to predicting Game I, and was ready to celebrate at halftime. Unfortunately the second half did not go to plan and I was left with egg on my face.

In last week’s preview I said the Blues would win, rather comfortably, simply because they had to. One from two isn’t terrible, I suppose.

Below is the all important Game III preview and a prediction. Wish me luck.

Game III Preview

Queensland enter the game having been forced into a number of changes. Xavier Coates has been ruled out with Edrick Lee named to make his Origin debut tonight in the pressure cooker that is an Origin decider.

Brenko Lee will also make his Origin debut following his late scratching in Origin I. Kurt Capewell will run on at second row with either Kaufusi, or more likely Su’A entering the game via the interchange bench.

Dumanis Lui looks to be the one to miss out after a quiet Origin II debut.

Valentine Holmes will shift to the wing with yet another Origin debut coming via the fullback position for Corey Allan. This, I believe, was always the plan, after Holmes horror Origin I performance combined with his extreme talents on the wing.

This leaves Queensland entering the contest with three players making their debut across the back five. Holmes and Gagai are multiple time Origin Series winners and will need to have the game of their lives to assist their young, inexperienced fellow backline players.

Corey Allan enters the game with less than half of his 29 NRL games being played at fullback. Although I think Bennett has absolutely made the right decision in naming the Souths youngster, to say this is a debut under pressure is putting it very lightly.

Holmes, who hadn’t played in around two months prior to his Origin II return, was barely seen in attack. He will become far more dangerous on the wing and shapes as a real threat for the Maroons. I expect to see Holmes on the ball early and often.

The two Lee’s debut on the back of brilliant seasons. Edrick Lee has been named in the QLD squad previously but has never been anywhere near the run on side. Brenko Lee, prior to his 2020 Storm heroics, was a raw talent who has been turned into an Origin level player by Craig Bellamy.

Queensland needed to make changes. They have, although they didn’t need the late chaos that seems to have been thrust upon them.

Harry Grant is a huge in, although I feel it has come a game too late.

An Origin Series win tonight could very well be right up there with Wayne Bennett’s biggest achievements. That sounds silly considering the success of the master coach, but such is the gravity of a possible series win despite great odds.

Christian Welch is back which strengthens the middle considerably. He, Collins and Arrow have played very well across the opening two games, with Josh Papalii having a monster Origin I and scoring in II.

Cameron Munster has been named, although there were doubts leading into the game following concussion concerns. It is expected he’ll run out. If he doesn’t, Ben Hunt will slot in.

For the Blues, it has been smooth sailing since their big Origin II win.

Brad Fittler has named an unchanged side, despite temptations to debut Storm speedster Ryan Papenhuyzen as a utility player from the bench.

Following the Game II blow out, Fittler has made the safe, and in my mind correct, decision to leave four forwards on the bench. With Gutherson, Yeo and Wighton in the side, the Blues have the utility value to fill most positions.

The Blues will be brimming with confidence after correcting most of their errors from Game I.

The expected sell out crowd is something that no team has had to face in 2020. It is unexpected and very much adds to the theatre of the contest.

Most expect the Blues to win the series, but try telling that to 17 Queenslanders being cheered on by what is expected to be a hugely lopsided home crowd.

The Blues can’t fly up the usual 5 to 8,000 away fans to create a blue wall as seen in the past. Only QLD-based NSW fans can attend the game which should ensure the Maroon home crowd is even more heard than normal.

QLD have had just a week to overturn a big game two loss, but as we’ve seen in previous deciders, form means very little when it comes to those wearing Maroon.

The Blues enter deserved favourites but it will likely come down to a big play or an error. Momentum is key in this game. NSW were unable to wrestle it back after they lost it in Game I and QLD never really had it in game two.

Prediction

This game looks much closer than most have it. You simply can’t count out a side wearing Maroon that is being coached by Wayne Bennett and supported by 40,000+ at Suncorp.

That said, NSW should win this. The talent is there, Fittler knows how to get his side up for deciders and the fact QLD have had to go to a third round of changes in their backline whereas NSW have named the same back five yet again says it all.

NSW by 8.