BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 05: Joe Ofahengaue of the Maroons and team mates celebrate a disallowed try 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)

While there was absolute mayhem surrounding Brad Fittler’s selections for Origin Two, his QLD counterpart had a much easier time of it.

Easily brushed off reports for QLD captain Daly Cherry Evans and enforcer Josh Papalii aside, Kevin Walters enjoyed a fairly straightforward selection.

An injury to Titans big man Jai Arrow meant one enforced change but the like for like swap for club teammate Jarrod Wallace was arguably the easiest decision possible.

Forget supposed talk within the New South Wales camp of being happy about Wallace’s recall.

The Titans prop is a quality player and will deliver much the same input as Arrow did in Game One.

In the space of just a few weeks, the Maroons have gone from rank outsiders to almost unbackable favourites to win the series.

I’m not writing the Blues off yet. Origin always has a moment where one state can turn a game or even series on its head.

If the Blues take it and win in Perth then they become favourites to wrap it up in a theoretical game three decider.

BUT …

There is a lot more than just 80 minutes between the Blues and a decider.

They have to completely overhaul their game plan due to new combinations, new strengths and weaknesses and multiple risks taken.

Meanwhile, those north of the Tweed have just had to change one name on the teamsheet. A like for like move from Arrow to Wallace.

I honestly expect Wallace to run on come Sunday evening with Napa a better impact prop, so I don’t even think the rotation will change at all.

Truthfully it’s been about as perfect a build up to a potential series-winning game as you could ask for.

I don’t mean to downplay the injury to Jai Arrow but compared to the basket case that has been New South Wales build up, QLD are living the dream.

Will Chambers was heavily outplayed in the two live games in 2018 before getting one back in the dead rubber third game.

He was so dominant in game one that his nemesis Latrell Mitchell has been dropped.

With all due respect to Canberra’s Jack Wighton, there isn’t a single Queenslander who isn’t relieved Latrell won’t be lining up on Sunday evening.

That was Chambers and Gagai’s amazing combined effort in game one.

They spooked Brad Fittler into dropping his most dangerous attacking weapon.

Big win Chambers. Bigger win Queensland.

Queensland’s dominant game one win has also forced a change in the halves. Given the Blues have returned to 2018’s successful pairing, and a club partnership, but the Blues are starting from scratch.

Wighton, Turbo, Addo Carr and Ferguson are forced to forge new combinations within a week.

Meanwhile DCE, Ponga and Munster can spend the week perfecting their already lethal set plays and combinations.

Again, it will take someone much braver than myself to rule out a Blues underdog win on Sunday, but all signs point to a QLD win.

I don’t know how they do it but QLD is in a position to wrap up a series they had absolutely no right to be in a month or so again.

Whether it be good management, luck or a combination of the two, QLD is fit, firing and settled.

They’ll likely have an advantage in terms of fan support in Western Australia, but even if they don’t it’s nowhere near the hostile reception the Blues had to endure in game one.

QLD have their three best players in top form and at full fitness in Ponga, DCE and Munster.

New South Wales’ biggest attacking weapon will be literally thousands of kilometres away.

Cook and Tedesco are still arguably the two most dangerous players in the contest on Sunday, but the next three are QLD.

Throw in Turbo and it’s another list of those wearing Maroon.

Two months ago this series was a mismatch and the future up north was bleak.

Days out from Origin Two and all the cards have fallen in Kevin Walters’ favour.

They’ve done it again!

2 COMMENTS

  1. Dan, Joe ofenghaue is also out, replaced by Tim Glasby isn’t he? Also wondering why when I receive a email about a story, half the time it doesn’t have a comments section? Thanks.

  2. You’re right – my understanding is that Glasby has been brought in as cover for Ofahengaue. I do have some concerns of Glasby’s lateral mobility around the ruck, particularly with the speed of Cook and Tedesco sniffing around as well. I seem to recall he was found out once or twice last year? There is concern re Napa (newer development) as he has fractured a bone in his wrist but seems intent on playing – hopefully that isn’t a decision that haunts them, though Welch is 18th Man and his cover which I am happy with. I probably would’ve preferred Welch replace Ofahengaue and Capewell be the spare cover for Napa. Gagai also has been ‘quarantined’ this week, a virus or something? So maybe not quite as smooth sailing as initially thought.
    The Blues’ squad is still pretty impressive on paper but the concerns around preparation time for their combinations is warranted and probably more concerning from a defensive perspective. The addition of Wade Graham for them is a great call.

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