The NSW side are trying to save a series, while QLD are doing their utmost to make sure the NSW pain train will hit heartbreak station right on schedule.
Yes it is still early and there is still a week to go, but both teams have named relatively unchanged sides form game 1 with a couple of key differences.
The only changes from both sides come through injury. For QLD, Lillyman comes in for Myles (Gagai is still in doubt, the QLD camp are confident he will play). For NSW, Frizell comes in for Cordner. Even though the changes are minor it will change both side's game plan and might effect the result.
Frizell - For NSW, a bigger shift happens for the blues, with Frizell a right edge player replacing Cordner who played on the left edge. Daley has opted to start with Bird on the left. Gallen will move to the 13 and Frizell will come off the bench. This is a positive move for NSW particularly for their captain. Gallen is much more suited to the 13 shirt it is his preferred position and it means he wont have to shoulder as much of the work load. If there is any criticism of Gallen at lock it is that while looking for work he can get himself in amongst the halves and crowd them out a little. Bird has the combination with Maloney on the left and his direction will be to straighten that edge in attack. It's fair enough to go wide but when Maloney straightens with Bird on his hip, he could prove difficult to handle.
Lillyman - For QLD, Playing up the middle Lillyman is a different body shape to Myles. You might wonder why that is important. With Lillyman's centre of gravity closer to the ground his play of the ball should be a lot quicker. This allows Cameron Smith to jump out of dummy half and create trouble. It looked like Morgan was directed to hunt the middle of the pack before he got injured in game 1. Just before he went down he got a ball turned on the inside and almost cut NSW up. For QLD the script might go Lillyman to Smith to Morgan.
Where NSW are dangerous. Let's just look at this in simple terms, NSW have nothing to lose. Coming off a 50 point thumping in game 3 last year to losing game 1 this year (where they were the better side). NSW have to stop trying to defend their way to victory. QLD aren't like other sides, whereby when they get up by 2 points they feel compelled to try and score more points. No. QLD are quite happy defending a one point lead the same as if it were a 20 point lead. Daley has attack in his team Reynolds, Maloney, Moylan, Ferguson etc etc, and on a dry, fast, QLD track, their game plan should be simple. Forget locking QLD up, just go try for try with them. Don't try to 'out-Queensland, Queensland'. It's a game of chess they can't win. Throw the play book out and throw the ball around and see what happens. If a few offloads stick and a few passes stick it might be game on. In my humble opinion Daley should let Reynolds deal with the structure and just give Maloney free reign to do what he pleases. Moylan is the other key for NSW. He and the other debutantes now have a taste of Origin and even though they are the youngsters of the side Moylan needs to go hunting for the ball more. With Tedesco almost belting the door down to get in the side, if NSW go down again, Moylan's Origin career could be very short lived. NSW should also be looking to cross-kick for Ferguson who is so good under the high ball. Expect Walker to get more minutes and his direction may be just to follow Fifita and hunt for an offload. So attack NSW. ATTACK!!
Where QLD are dangerous. They are now the greatest Origin team to have ever played the game. I honestly sometimes wonder if Wally Lewis was playing today could you fit him in that side? (Maybe at lock. Maybe. Sorry King! the team is that good). It's pretty clear that the danger for NSW comes from QLDs spine and one man in particular, Cooper Cronk. Cronk controls a ruck better than anyone in the game. And as I said up above QLD will defend any lead. It is Cronk's clear head that allows them to do that. The other danger man and I think now the biggest weapon in QLDs arsenal is Darius Boyd. Boyd has stepped his game up another level. For me he was QLDs best in game 1 and best on ground. He links so well with outside players in the back line and the way he organises his defensive line make it very hard for sides to score points. QLD will also step up their kicking game which was well below par in game 1. I would expect them to try and pin NSW early and kick on the 3rd or 4th tackle in their first few sets with the ball. Morgan was poor the other night against Cronulla and he will be keen to put that performance behind him, so expect him to have an impact when he comes on. And finally GI. The contest didn't allow GI into the game a fortnight ago, and with his form down at club level GI will be looking to regain some sting on the biggest stage. I expect Thurston go looking for GI close to the line, NSW will be wary not to wake the sleeping giant.
Suncorp Stadium, will factor in the result. As much as NSW play it down and say they like playing at Suncorp. Origin at Suncorp is a different beast and they stopped sending the team buses down Caxton street for a reason. Players get intimidated and overawed by going to QLD for Origin. The venue plays a part. The grandstand is built in a way that the supporters are right on top of the players and NSW not only have 17 players to worry about, they have 50 000 screaming QLDers to contend with. As much as game 1 will have helped the debutantes with Origin experience game 2 bends the learning curve on a different angle. And if the young NSW players take too long to adjust to the conditions the game will be over before it starts.
The Result. I don't care who you are, what statistics you have and how much history you have to go on, if you think you can pick an Origin result, you may as well also be convinced that you can turn water into wine. All I will say is if QLD click they should win comfortably. If NSW throw caution to the wind and it comes off they will get home in a close one.
I'm taking an each way bet on this horse and saying either, QLD 32-14, or NSW 18-16.
The QLD Maroons v The NSW Blues, Wednesday June 22, 8.15p.m. Check your local television guides for coverage.
QLD: 1. Boyd 2. Oates 3.Inglis 4.O'Neill 5.Gagai 6.Thurston 7.Cronk 8.Scott 9.Smith (c) 10.McGuire 11.Gillett 12. Thaiday 13.Parker. Interchange: Morgan, Guerra, Lillyman, Papalii. Coach: Kevin Walters.
NSW: 1.Moylan 2.Ferguson 3.Jennings 4.Morris 5.Mansour 6.Maloney 7.Reynolds 8.Woods 9.Farah 10.Tamou 11.Bird 12.Jackson 13.Gallen (c). Interchange: Walker, Frizell, Klemmer, Fifita. Coach: Laurie Daley.