What: Origin I
Who: NSW v Queensland
When: Wednesday, May 27 – 8.00pm (AEST)
Where: ANZ Stadium
I Can Watch It On: Channel Nine
Things You Need To Know:
The Blues have had the preparation from hell as they attempt to defend last year's 2-1 series victory. Skipper Paul Gallen has been ruled out with a hip injury suffered six weeks ago, while veteran back-rower Greg Bird will miss all three games after copping an eight-game ban for a dangerous throw in the Anzac Test. Winger Brett Morris (hamstring) is likely to miss at least the first two games, while Roosters centre Blake Ferguson (foot) is out for the series. Oh, and full-back Jarryd Hayne is in San Fransico chasing his NRL dream. Coach Laurie Daley has also wielded the axe, dropping five-eighth Josh Reynolds as well as veterans Luke Lewis and Anthony Watmough. Bulldogs duo Josh Jackson and David Klemmer will make their Origin debuts, with Jackson to start in the back-row and Klemmer named on the bench. In all there are seven changes to the squad that lost Game 3 last year.
The Maroons have had some late dramas with Greg Inglis spending a couple of nights in hospital with tonsillitis but the Rabbitohs skipper is a definite starter. Billy Slater will also play but is still struggling with a shoulder injury. Daly Cherry-Evans is in doubt with a shoulder injury suffered on Monday night, with a call to be made by Wednesday. Roosters prop Dylan Napa is the 18th man while Cowboys five-eighth Michael Morgan has been drafted into the squad as DCE's possible replacement. Mal Meninga has made just two changes to the squad from Game 3 last season. Prop Matt Scott returns from injury, forcing Jacob Lillyman to the bench. Broncos prop Josh McGuire is the only debutant, replacing rugby convert Ben Te'o.
Reason To Watch:
Because it's Origin! It only happens three times a year and by the time Game 1 kicks off it would have been 322 days since Paul Gallen lifted the shield despite a 32-8 loss in Origin III.
Reason To Turn Away:
Don't turn away - but if you're a Blues fan you might want to if incumbent halves Trent Hodkinson and Josh Reynolds get picked and bring their club form to ANZ Stadium.
While Blues coach Laurie Daley has been dealing with a heavy injury toll and several incumbents horribly out of form, Mal Meninga's men enter the series opener close to full strength and with revenge on their minds. The Maroons suffered their first series loss in nine years in 2014 but made a major statement in Game 3. The bookies understandably have the visitors as favourites to win the series opener, despite the fact they've only won once in their last five trips to ANZ Stadium. We initially thought the Maroons would do it easy in Game 1, but Daley has made things interesting by picking a massive pack and getting rid of some of the old guard. We'll still tip the Maroons but expect the young Blues to be right in the fight until the final siren. Queensland by four.
NSW: 1. Josh Dugan (Dragons), 2. Daniel Tupou (Sydney Roosters), 3. Josh Morris (Bulldogs), 4. Michael Jennings (Roosters), 5. Will Hopoate (Eels), 6. Mitchell Pearce (Roosters), 7. Trent Hodkinson (Bulldogs), 8. Aaron Woods (Tigers), 9. Robbie Farah (c) (Wests Tigers), 10. James Tamou (Cowboys), 11. Beau Scott (Knights), 12. Ryan Hoffman (Warriors), 13. Josh Jackson (Bulldogs).
Interchange: 14. Trent Merrin (Dragons), 15. Boyd Cordner (Roosters), 16. David Klemmer (Bulldogs), 17. Andrew Fifita (Sharks).
Queensland: 1. Billy Slater (Storm), 2. Darius Boyd (Broncos), 3. Greg Inglis (Rabbitohs), 4. Justin Hodges (Broncos), 5. Will Chambers (Storm), 6. Johnathan Thurston (Cowboys), 7. Cooper Cronk (Storm), 8. Matt Scott (Cowboys), 9. Cameron Smith (c) (Storm), 10. Nate Myles (Titans), 11. Aidan Guerra (Roosters), 12. Sam Thaiday (Broncos), 13. Corey Parker (Broncos).
Interchange: 14. Daly Cherry-Evans (Sea Eagles), 15. Josh McGuire (Broncos), 16. Matt Gillett (Broncos), 17. Jacob Lillyman (Warriors), 18. Dylan Napa (Sydney Roosters).