After failing to capitalise on opportunities in Game One, New South Wales must make everything click to keep Queensland from winning a 10th Origin series in 11 years. The Blues probably had some crucial decisions go against them at ANZ Stadium but if they can’t get the rub of the green in Sydney they most certainly won’t get it in Brisbane.
The Maroons remind everyone each year what a champion side they are and probably their most valuable attribute is their ability to perfect the one percent plays. Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk are the NRL’s best game managers, Cameron Smith is the smartest player in rugby league and 52 thousand Queenslanders will be behind them to swing any 50/50 decisions in their favour.
Form, odds, history and common sense all point toward a Queensland victory. They are ruthless when it really matters and remain unbeaten in game two encounters at Suncorp Stadium since commencing their dominant era in 2006.
The new-look Blues side should be better for the run in Origin I but playing in the cauldron of Suncorp Stadium is a significantly more difficult proposition. How they handle that challenge could be a deciding factor in whether or not the series stays alive for a return clash in Sydney.
It’s difficult to estimate just how big the loss of Wade Graham is to New South Wales due to the fact he has never played Origin before but it is safe to suggest he would have been a valuable addition had he escaped suspension. The Cronulla forward has been in career-best form and his creativity and toughness would have been handy.
Dragons’ back rower Tyson Frizell comes into the Blues’ squad in Graham’s absence and thoroughly deserves his chance. A strong game or possibly even a New South Wales victory may see Frizell slam the Origin door shut on Graham for 2016.
New South Wales Blues: 1. Matt Moylan, 2. Blake Ferguson, 3. Michael Jennings, 14. Dylan Walker, 5. Josh Mansour, 6. James Maloney, 7. Adam Reynolds, 8. Aaron Woods, 9. Robbie Farah, 10. James Tamou, 11. Greg Bird, 12. Josh Jackson, 13. Paul Gallen (c).
Interchange: 15. Tyson Frizell, 16. David Klemmer, 17. Andrew Fifita, 18. Jack Bird.
Queensland Maroons: 1. Darius Boyd, 2. Corey Oates, 3. Greg Inglis, 4. Justin O’Neill, 5. Dane Gagai, 6. Johnathan Thurston, 7. Cooper Cronk, 8. Matt Scott, 9. Cameron Smith (c), 10. Josh McGuire, 11. Matt Gillett, 12. Sam Thaiday, 13. Corey Parker.
Interchange: 14. Michael Morgan, 15. Jacob Lillyman, 16. Aidan Guerra, 17. Josh Papalii.
Prediction: You just can’t tip against Queensland here. NSW barely offered anything in attack at home, so unless they’ve improved drastically in a few weeks, I can’t seem them troubling the Maroons enough to secure victory. Queensland have match-winners all over the park and have done it on countless times in the past. I’ll back NSW to keep it close with the series on the line, but Queensland simply have too much class and too much firepower. The Maroons will claim their 10th series win in the last 11 years on June 22.