It’s been the perfect combination for this Blues’ team.
In Origin I, the damage was done in the middle of the field. Daniel Saifiti and Jake Trbojevic started it and then Freddie pulled off a masterstroke, bringing on Payne Haas and Junior Paulo from the bench.
That destroyed Queensland’s middles and laid a platform for Blues lock Isaah Yeo, whose smarts around the ruck killed them.
Gorden Tallis would always tell me: “Forwards decide who wins, backs decide by how much”.
The NSW back five decided by how much with their speed, power and skill.
Reece is the word
Is Reece Walsh ready for Origin after just seven NRL matches?
Making your debut in a must-win second match of the series, after the Maroons were destroyed in game one, is a huge gamble. He will be targeted with early NSW kicks when they are coming out of trouble, trying to isolate him. Also watch for those high balls in good areas, with Tom Trbojevic racing through.
Queensland have shown their hand with the Walsh selection. They think the way out of this is to score more points.
Personally, I think the Reece selection is an act of desperation. And that’s something you don’t usually see from Queensland.
Slippery when wet
When the Dragons played the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium on a Thursday night earlier this month, I was surprised the pitch was so slippery because of the dew.
That’s why I’m expecting a closer game this time with not as many points scored.
About 20 to 24 points will be needed to win this. The problem is the Maroons only have two tries in them, I believe.
Because this is a stand-alone game, the preparation is only really a week. NSW have the same team and are all familiar with each other and their combinations. Queensland have a new fullback in Walsh and new hooker in Andrew McCullough.
For me, they must be unorthodox with the way they attack but they really just need to defend for their lives.
A new hatred
I’m really looking forward to calling the women’s Origin match between NSW and Queensland on Friday night for Channel Nine.
I did some work with the NSW women’s team a few weeks ago after Freddie asked me to get involved. Their attitude, their willingness to listen and their core skills surprised me.
They were like sponges, wanting to learn about the game. They impressed me and I expect both these sides to rip in on Friday night because, well, it’s Origin.
There will be a bounce back from Queensland, for sure.
The key is Cameron Munster. He is their big hope in the No.6 jersey. The Maroons need a Wally Lewis-like performance from him.
And Queensland’s pack still looks strong with Josh Papalii coming in. Their bench looks like it’s better balanced.
But if NSW get just 50 per cent of possession, they can’t be stopped with Cleary kicking them to victory, getting field position, with the backs blowing them away.
The NSW back five is the most dangerous I’ve seen in a long time.
Origin is all about kick reception. Queensland need to nullify the back five’s go-forward early in the tackle count, which gets the sets rolling.
James Tedesco (212 all-run metres) Brian To’o (233m), Josh Addo-Carr (101m), Latrell Mitchell (167m) and Turbo (221m) were devastating in game one, chewing up plenty of metres.
I’m tipping an explosive opening to the match, then a real arm wrestle. It will be closer than people think because Queensland will try to slow down the ruck, like they did in game three last year.
The challenge for Cleary is to hold his nerve, which I’m sure he will.
JOEY’S TIP: NSW by 10.
FIRST TRY-SCORER: Josh Addo-Carr.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Nathan Cleary.