State of Origin Game 1 was meant to confirm the changing of the guard. As it turns out, Queensland aren’t done dominating just yet.

Can Cleary & Maloney Find Points In Blue?

Nathan Cleary and James Maloney are heading up the second-worst attack in the NRL at the moment. The Penrith Panthers average just 14 points per game this season.

Maloney hasn’t been able to create quite as much as he’s used to down the left edge. It’s become very Viliame Kikau heavy as the season has worn on. Meanwhile, Cleary’s running game hasn’t been effective. He’s only managed two linebreaks in 13 games.

What gives them hope of a turnaround is the improved quality around them. State of Origin camps and matches play some strugglers back into form. With a familiar face beside him after a lacklustre Game 1, Cleary stands to improve the most. Maloney is always consistent in the Origin arena and can be relied on to perform here.

So, can they find points? In theory, yes. They absolutely have the talent. But if they carry their Panthers form into this one, it’s going to be a long night for New South Wales.

Will NSW Be Better Without Mitchell?

This is a strange one. Flaws that Latrell Mitchell has had in his game his whole career are all of a sudden being picked up.

He’s always been somewhat lazy.

Tough carries have never been his thing.

It’s not uncommon for him to only register five runs across 80 minutes.

But, more often than not, he does something few in the game can. He throws off a would-be defender before slamming the ball down. With his speed, Mitchell can beat his man before throwing an offload to his outside man. He creates something out of nothing and wins a match from nowhere.

Does one poor Origin performance take all of that away? No.

Does dropping him ensure the Blues miss out on fielding a potential match-winner and best centre in the game? Obviously.

We’re not going to know if the Blues are ‘better’ without Mitchell for State of Origin Game 2. All we know is that their ceiling certainly isn’t as high as it would be with him out there.

Will Gagai Continue His Blistering Origin Form?

There’s State of Origin Dane Gagai, then there’s NRL Clubland Dane Gagai.

They’re two totally different players.

Origin Gagai scored another two tries and picked up the Man of the Match award in Game 1. The two tries took Gagai to a record of 11 tries in 11 Origin appearances. He’s taken 80 games dating back to the beginning of the 2016 season to pick up 11 tries for his clubs.

With how good the Queensland backline looked in Game 1 and the changes New South Wales have been forced to make on the edges, the $2.20 for Gagai to score anytime looks like a gift.

Kalyn Ponga can tear strips off this Blues left edge if he’s given the chance. The NRL’s leader in missed tackles, Maloney, will be on that side of the field while make-shift centre, Jack Wighton, plays his first game in that position since 2014.

You’d be brave to bet against Gagai finding a meat pie on Sunday. He’s at $41 to repeat as Man of the Match and $10 to score first.

Can Queensland Kick Off Another Origin Dynasty?

It’s taken Queensland 12 months to build themselves back into a potential dynasty team.

The Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk, Billy Slater and Johnathan Thurston era is well and truly over.

It’s the Kalyn Ponga and Cameron Munster era now.

They are two of the best young talents in the game. Ponga is on track to be one of the greatest to ever play the game with the way he’s developing. Meanwhile, few would know Munster is still only 24 years old. This duo can terrorise New South Wales for a decade all things going well.

There is obviously more to it than this pair, but the great Origin teams excel with elite players in key-playmaking positions. While the Maroons have been blessed with future immortals in these spots, the Blues spine has seen a turnover of players that repeatedly fell short of what was needed to win.

When you’ve got players of this quality in key positions, you can afford to throw Ben Hunt into hooker. Carrying Moses Mbye on the bench isn’t such a strange move if he’s only required for limited minutes if he plays at all.

Queensland are at $1.90 to win this game and the series. They can stop New South Wales’ growth from 2018 in its tracks with a win on Sunday. From there, they can kick off the next Origin dynasty.

Is Game 2 Must-Win For Queensland?

They’re up 1-0 so it’s no must-win in a literal sense, but it’s close.

With Game 3 at ANZ Stadium in Sydney, the Blues would walk into a significant home ground advantage.

The Maroons have a 20-26 record playing in Sydney but just a 9-17 record at ANZ Stadium. With 80,000 Blues fans expected to descend on ANZ Stadium should this turn into a do-or-die Game 3, the Maroons will enter hostile territory.

Support should be split fairly evenly in Perth on Sunday. It’s Queensland’s best chance at wrapping up the series.

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