The State of Origin series is here, and the New South Wales Blues are up against it as they aim to overthrow two horrific years and get their hands back on the shield that the Queensland Maroons have dominated over the last 24 months.

And if they are going to bring the Shield back to New South Wales, they will need to take out the opener, with the chance of back-to-back wins in Melbourne and Brisbane for the final two games of the series looking unlikely at best.

The Blues come into the series under new management, with Michael Maguire taking the coaching over from Brad Fittler. It was a chance that had to happen after a dismal last two years for the men from south of the Tweed, and Maguire wasted no time stamping his authority on the team.

2024 State of Origin Series Launch

More on the team changes later, but Maguire promised an in-form team, and that is exactly what has been served up for the Blues, with the likes of Nicho Hynes, Angus Crichton and Zac Lomax earning jerseys.

But that doesn't mean they come into this series with the inside running against a Queensland side who have dominated in their first two series under Billy Slater.

The coach - and former champion fullback - has reminded his players what it means to wear the Maroon jersey, creating an us against everybody attitude that has just worked for a team with hard-working forwards and talented backs, all gelled together by the excellent kicking game of Daly Cherry-Evans.

The reason Queensland have won the last two series won't just go away because Fittler isn't coaching the Blues anymore, and despite injuries on both sides - which have been something of a major storyline leading into this year's series - this will still be an elite series played between the best players in the game.

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The teams

New South Wales Blues
1. James Tedesco 2. Brian To'o 3. Stephen Crichton 4. Joseph-Aukuso Suaalii 5. Zac Lomax 6. Jarome Luai 7. Nicho Hynes 8. Jake Trbojevic 9. Reece Robson 10. Payne Haas 11. Liam Martin 12. Angus Crichton 13. Cameron McInnes
Interchange: 14. Isaah Yeo 15. Haumole Olakau'atu 16. Spencer Leniu 17. Hudson Young
Reserves: 18. Matt Burton 20. Mitchell Barnett

The Blues have made plenty of big changes for Game 1 of the series, although the biggest of them has had to be reversed after Dylan Edwards picked up an injury during training.

That has brought former captain James Tedesco back into the side at fullback.

Elsewhere, Apisai Koroisau has been dropped for Reece Robson at hooker, while Jarome Luai will partner Nicho Hynes in the halves.

Joseph Suaalii and Zac Lomax, who have both been in outstanding form, are the new faces in the outside backs, with Angus Crichton earning a recall in the second-row, and both Haumole Olakau'atu and Spencer Leniu set for debuts off the bench.

NRL Rd 10 - Sea Eagles v Broncos

Queensland Maroons
1. Reece Walsh 2. Xavier Coates 3. Valentine Holmes 4. Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow 5. Murray Taulagi 6. Tom Dearden 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 8. Reuben Cotter 9. Ben Hunt 10. Lindsay Collins 11. Jaydn Su'a 12. Jeremiah Nanai 13. Patrick Carrigan
Interchange: 14. Harry Grant 15. Moeaki Fotuaika 16. Jmaine Hopgood 17. Selwyn Cobbo
Reserves: 18. Felise Kaufusi 20. Ezra Mam

Like the Blues, the Maroons had plenty of talking points to come out of their team selection. The big one was created by injury, with Tom Dearden filling the shoes of the injured Cameron Munster.

David Fifita being left out for the men from north of the Tweed came as a major surprise, although Jaydn Su'A, who has been in superb form at club level for the St George Illawarra Dragons, earning a recall didn't.

The rest of the team is just about as expected, with Moeaki Fotuaika joined on the bench by J'maine Hopgood and Selwyn Cobbo, who missed the last wing spot. What role he plays from the pine remains to be seen, as does the form of Murray Taulagi who was picked ahead of Cobbo.

Accor Stadium

The history

It will come as a surprise to no one given their dominance for most of the last two decades, but Queensland has jumped away to a considerable 26-16 lead in terms of total series won, as well as a 69-58 lead in overall matches played.

They have failed to have the same level of dominance at Homebush though, and while they have been on parity with the Blues in recent times, New South Wales will be hoping to return to the dominance at home which saw them win 10 of the first 11 games (with the other drawn) at the Olympic Stadium. Since 2007, it's been ten games a piece.

Keys to the game

The Maroons' hooking one-two punch
When you run your eye over the two team lists, this may well be the key difference between the two sides.

On one side, you have Harry Grant and Ben Hunt backing each other up. They will run all game, have mountains of energy and, in many ways, be uncontrollable.

On the other, you have Reece Robson backed up by Cameron McInnes.

It's pretty clear which side has the better punch here, and against tired forwards through the middle of the game, Queensland will have the advantage.

The only thing that may work for the Blues is that they will try to play a different style of game with more forward depth. Really bash the Maroons through the middle so to speak.

It's realistically the only way they are going to shut down this advantage, by directing traffic at Grant and Hunt and going hard for the entire 80 minutes.

Whether it works or not remains to be seen, but if they can't figure this out, the Blues will lose.

Can the Blues cover backline injuries?
Sticking with the bench theme, and while it's clear the Blues have built a blockbusting bench who have a size advantage over their counterparts from the north, there will be issues if New South Wales loses a player to injury in the backline.

While Queensland looks to be a prop's injury away from trouble, that is still somewhat coverable. Most of the Maroons' forwards have the ability to play big minutes.

What the Blues' forwards don't have is an ability to move out into the backline. Cameron McInnes is the 'utility' but he wouldn't want to be lining up in the backline.

Angus Crichton or Hudson Young would likely have to shift to the centre in the event of an emergency, and that could bring untold destruction to the scoreboard.

Billy Slater made it clear when quizzed about Cobbo's selection that injuries to backs in four of their last six Origins were a key part of the reason for him being picked. Michael Maguire will be sweating on this not backfiring.

Is Nicho Hynes' kicking game up to the task?
Whether Maguire wanted to pick Hynes for the series opener or not, he realistically didn't have a choice. Nathan Cleary, Mitchell Moses and Adam Reynolds are all injured, and the next option may well have been moving Jarome Luai to seven or picking Chad Townsend.

Neither of those options was overly agreeable, so with Hynes' calf good enough to play, the Sharks' star - who has been a one-man band at club level at times over the last two and a half years - was picked.

His kicking game is excellent, don't get me wrong, but there have been times, particularly in big games over his journey in the black, white and blue, where he and his kicking game have gone missing.

Jarome Luai, playing alongside him as five-eighth, has been in outstanding form, but that doesn't mean the Blues want him managing the kicking game at this level.

Hynes must stand up and have a game on par with many he has played for the Sharks over the last two and a half years if the Blues are going to stand a chance here.

At the very least, he gets a run in the halves rather than being judged on ten minutes out in the centres.


Despite some questions over the size of the Maroons' bench, they seem to have the better side - albeit not by much - on paper.

Their one-two punch at hooker is likely to have an enormous impact on the game. Whether the Blues' back five can counter that and ensure the pressure stays on the Maroons for much of the game remains to be seen.

Even then, the kicking game of Daly Cherry-Evans and structure under Billy Slater has seen the Maroons get out of tricky situations on more than one occasion over the last two years.

They should take the chocolates in a tight series opener.

Queensland by 6.

Key game information: 2023 State of Origin Game 1, New South Wales Blues vs Queensland Maroons

Kick-off: Wednesday, June 5, 8:05 pm (AEST)
Venue: Accor Stadium, Homebush
TV: Live, Channel 9
Online: Live, 9Now
Overall record: Played 129, Queensland 69, New South Wales 58, Drawn 2
Record at Homebush: Played 31, New South Wales 20, Queensland 10, drawn 1
Series head-to-head record: Played 42, Queensland 26, New South Wales 16
Referee: Ashley Klein

Zero Tackle will have the opening game of the 2024 Origin series covered from all angles, including a live blog in our match centre which will also have live scores and stats.