State of Origin – Game 1

For the last four years, Queensland have dominated rugby league’s showpiece event the State of Origin series – something which the Craig Bellamy-coached New South Wales team will aim to halt in the series’ first game in Sydney tommorrow.

The Blues selectors plumped for a number of surprise inclusions when they announced their squad last week.

Brett Kimmorley returns after a three year absence while  centre Timana Tahu enters the Blues fold for the first time since 2006.

Kurt Gidley, who captains the side from fullback, will provide a calm head while Josh Morris and Jarryd Hayne are genuine game-breakers.

The forward pack has a more familiar look to it with the inclusion of props Anthony Watmough and Ben Creagh providing athleticism up front.

Jamal Idris‘ inclusion on the bench has certainly caused a stir and he could provide a significant impact if introduced at the right time.

In contrast, the Queensland team looks as settled than at any time during the last four years.

Hooker Cameron Smith has succumbed to an elbow injury meaning Manly’s Matt Ballin will wear the number 9 jersey but apart from that the Maroons look settled.

The backs include the likes of Billy Slater, Israel Folau and the established halfback partnership of Darren Lockyer and Jonathan Thurston.

New boy Matt Scott will bring flexibility to the pack which includes the likes of established Origin players like Nate Myles and Sam Thaiday as well as old warhorse Petero Civoniceva.

The bench has bruisers Dave Taylor, David Shillington and Neville Costigan who will give their all when called upon, while Cooper Cronk provides an extra option at halfback.

Verdict: Queensland win

New South Wales

1. Kurt Gidley (captain, Newcastle Knights)
2. Brett Morris (St George Illawarra Dragons)
3. Matt Cooper (St George Illawarra Dragons)
4. Timana Tahu (Parramatta Eels)
5. Jarryd Hayne (Parramatta Eels)
6. Jamie Lyon (Manly Sea Eagles)
7. Brett Kimmorley (Canterbury Bulldogs)
8. Michael Weyman (St George Illawarra Dragons)
9. Michael Ennis (Canterbury Bulldogs)
10. Josh Perry (Manly Sea Eagles)
11. Trent Waterhouse (Penrith Panthers)
12. Ben Creagh (St George Illawarra Dragons)
13. Anthony Watmough (Manly Sea Eagles)

Interchange:
14. Jamal Idris (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs)
15. Tom Learoyd-Lahrs (Canberra Raiders)
16. Luke Lewis (Penrith Panthers)
17. Brett White (Melbourne Storm)

Queensland

1. Billy Slater (Melbourne Storm)
2. Darius Boyd (St George Illawarra Dragons)
3. Greg Inglis (Melbourne Storm)
4. Willie Tonga (North Queensland Cowboys)
5. Israel Folau (Brisbane Broncos)
6. Darren Lockyer (Brisbane Broncos)
7. Johnathan Thurston (North Queensland Cowboys)
8. Matthew Scott (North Queensland Cowboys)
9. Matt Ballin (Manly Sea Eagles)
10. Petero Civoniceva (Penrith Panthers)
11. Nate Myles (Sydney Roosters)
12. Sam Thaiday (Brisbane Broncos)
13. Ashley Harrison (Gold Coast Titans)

Interchange:
14. Cooper Cronk (Melbourne Storm)
15. David Shillington (Canberra Raiders)
16. Neville Costigan (St George Illawarra Dragons)
17. David Taylor (South Sydney Rabbitohs)

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