On Wednesday night the two states will do battle in the 31st annual State of Origin series to decide who will claim inter-state bragging rights. The Queenslanders have been dominant over their southern cousins for the last 6 years, in a run of success that is unlikely to ever be matched by either state ever again. Such has been Queensland's dominance that when Ricky Stuart came out last year and said that he just hoped to compete with the Maroons it wasn't a mind game, he actually meant it! Ricky has been far more bashful this year and thinks the Blues have what it takes to topple the mighty Maroons.
The Blues have assembled a skilful and mobile squad aimed solely at scoring points. The inclusion of Tony Williams on the bench despite not having played for almost two months is a gamble but also an indication of the Blues game plan. They are resigned to the fact that they won't be able to stop Slater, Inglis and co but they are hoping they can hit back with a bit of firepower of their own. Cue the inclusion of the rocks and diamonds pair of Jarryd Hayne and Michael Jennings. Jennings was controversially plucked from reserve grade and will be hoping to repay the faith that coach Ricky Stuart has shown in him.
But the old adage that you have to go forward before you can go sideways still applies and a real concern for the Blues is the fact that they only have 2 recognized front rowers (Tamou and Merrin) in their squad compared to the monstrous and star studded 4 in the Maroons camp (Civoniceva, Scott, Shillington and Hannant). Not to mention the "Coal Train" Dave Taylor and human wrecking ball Matt Gillett coming off the bench. It could be a tough night for the Blues through the middle of the park
A feel good story for the Maroons is the return of Brent Tate to the Origin fold for the first time since 2008. Since that time Tate has undergone three gruelling knee reconstructions and admits he doubted whether he would ever pull on the Maroon jumper again. "As soon as I got the call I was very excited, I couldn't wait to be part of camp," Tate said. "(The injury) taught me to cherish every moment being in here. I think after the last (knee) I thought it was all over. I'm just really happy I stuck with it and worked hard. The people that believed in me when I didn't believe in myself gave me the support to get back here."
Don't miss what is sure to be a titanic struggle between two very proud rugby league states. The Maroons, once perennial underdogs are now the favourites and rightly so. How the favourite tag sits with a state that has traditionally revelled with the underdog status we shall soon find out.
Adam Schoenmaker is a high school chaplain in the northern suburbs of Brisbane for three days each week and serves two days a week in his local church. Adam loves a good book, a classic album and all Queensland sporting teams.
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