NSW Blues’ Jarryd Hayne looks to avoid a tackle by the Maroons’ Johnathan Thurston during a State of Origin game.
NSW Blues’ Jarryd Hayne looks to avoid a tackle by the Maroons’ Johnathan Thurston during a State of Origin game. DEAN LEWINS

How do they match up?

AHEAD of State of Origin 1 in Melbourne the Daily Mercury's sports editor Michael Warren examined some aspects of both the NSW and Queensland teams ahead of tonight's series opener.

Queensland

WHY change something that isn't broken? For more than half a decade the Maroons have reigned supreme during State of Origin by having a core nucleus of players blessed with amazing skill and talent.

Gone is the legendary Darren Lockyer, but the famous Maroons 'spine' as it is labelled in rugby league - the fullback, halfback five-eighth, and hooker positions are still filled by the very players who have haunted the Blues for the past six Origin series.

While Johnathan Thurston might be switched to five-eighth and Cooper Cronk moves from the bench that combination is still a class above the pairing of Todd Carney and Mitchell Pearce.

Fullback Billy Slater is also ready for another huge series as is NRL club team-mate Cameron Smith, who always lifts to another level during the three-game series.

It is often said during Origin that if NSW can stop those four players, they can stop Queensland.

But it's something NSW has not been able to do for six years.

Last year Queensland's forwards also got so much go-forward in the first 20 minutes the match was over before NSW knew what hit them.

The addition of damaging forward Matt Gillett has only strengthened their forward pack.

NSW

PLAGUED by Origin inconsistency the Blues have pinned their hopes on the make-shift halves combination of Todd Carney and Mitchell Pearce.

Carney, who has once again found his feet in the NRL, this time with Cronulla, faces a huge battle to guide his side to a win.

It's no secret his combination with Mitchell Pearce and how they gel tonight will go a long way to determining if NSW can match Queensland.

At hooker, Robbie Farah gets his chance after his selection ahead of Michael Ennis.

Can Farah create enough spark from dummy-half? Time will tell.

Last year NSW's forwards could not get enough go-forward and were continually turned around by the Queensland pack.

The lingering question remains: will a forward pack consisting of the likes of Glenn Stewart, Greg Bird, Luke Lewis and new selection James Tamou make enough metres to give their side scoring opportunities?

Will Tony Williams be the X-factor for the Blues?

Queensland, however, come with a settled and experienced line-up.

The Blues will be competitive in patches, but the Maroons will be one-up by full-time.


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