Sports writer, JASON OLIVER, previews this week’s Rugby League action with his tips for State of Origin Game I. He doesn’t think Queensland should be written off just yet.

Queensland Maroons v New South Wales Blues @ Suncorp Stadium
Wednesday 5th June, 7:50pm

Kalyn Ponga1James Tedesco
Corey Oates2Nick Cotric
Michael Morgan3Latrell Mitchell
Will Chambers4Josh Morris
Dane Gagai5Josh Addo-Carr
Cameron Munster6Cody Walker
Daly Cherry Evans7Nathan Cleary
Jai Arrow8David Klemmer
Ben Hunt9Damien Cook
Josh Papalii10Paul Vaughan
Felise Kaufusi11Boyd Cordner
Matt Gillett12Tyson Frizell
Josh McGuire13Jake Trbojevic
Moses Mbye14Jack Wighton
Joe Ofahengaue15Payne Haas
Dylan Napa16Cameron Murray
David Fifita17Angus Crichton

History: Played 117, Queensland 61, New South Wales 51

Last Meeting: Game III, 2018: Queensland 18 def. New South Wales 12

Final Thoughts: Despite winning 35 of the 56 games they’ve played at Suncorp Stadium, Queensland enters Game I of the 2019 State of Origin series as $2 and +1.5 underdogs.

It’s the uncertainty in key positions that makes it difficult to get behind the Maroons.

Daly Cherry-Evans retains his role in the halves after steering the Maroons to victory in Game III last year. Announced as captain for this one, the pressure is on Cherry-Evans to produce the goods as Queensland aim to bounce back from their 2-1 series defeat. While he has some experience in the role, this is his first game in almost six weeks. Match-fitness and general rust could well be an issue.

Meanwhile, Ben Hunt isn’t an Origin-calibre hooker, but he’s starting there on Wednesday anyway. He will be able to provide decent enough service, but how he holds up defending in the middle remains to be seen. The Blues forwards will pick Hunt out in the line and run at him all night. They’ll do the same to Moses Mbye if he replaces him at hooker too.

New South Wales aren’t without potential issues either, though.

Nathan Cleary’s form has been average at best for the Panthers. Many pundits didn’t think he should be picked. Now he’s preparing to run out there as a leader tasked with guiding the team around the field. Cody Walker is the form player of the competition, but he needs Cleary to get him the ball to dominate.

State of Origin is so often fought out in the middle, but it’s the little men that will decide this one.

Origin Markets

One of the littlest of them all, Damien Cook, is the favourite to decide the game alongside James Tedesco. The pair are on the first line of betting to win Man of the Match at $6. Should Queensland get up, it’s a combination of their smaller blokes in Cameron Munster and Kalyn Ponga that are expected to get it done with both at $8 to be the best on ground.

Whichever side ends up on top, there isn’t much of an appetite for points amongst the odds-makers. The Total is set at just 33.5 points for Game I.

With points at a premium, tipping a tryscorer becomes difficult. Corey Oates and Josh Addo-Carr are the $2.10 favourites to cross the line. With Munster on the left and it also being Ponga’s prefered side, Oates deserves serious consideration in the anytime and first try scorer markets ($9).

The Blues are $1.80 favourites to take the chocolates in Origin I and at $2.50 do it while also leaving at halftime.

This game will be close regardless of who wins, though.

With the lack of cohesion in the halves and both states introducing new players, we can expect a somewhat lengthy feeling out period. The packs will go at each other all night and opportunities to score will be few and far between. Anticipating a paucity of points, it will be difficult for either side to get too far in front.

Game I of the 2019 Origin series will be a nail-biter.

Tip: Tri Bet – Either team by 8 or less @ $1.91