Almanac Rugby League – 2018 State of Origin, Game 1: what on earth should we expect?





And so we finally arrive at game day. After all the press about the retirement of three Queensland icons and an injury to a fourth, the questions about the mindset behind NSW naming eleven debutants, and the usual last minute disruptions to preparations, what on earth should we expect? Will it be the same old story of a dour Game 1 before things open up somewhat later in the series? Or will it be the start of a new era of open, flowing, high-scoring Origin footy?


Who knows? Late mail out of Melbourne this morning says that Gagai will not play while Hunt is unlikely to take the field. We’ll see how that plays out as the day progresses. For now let’s go ahead based on the announced teams.


I think Queensland will play conservatively in attack as they seek to build pressure and field position on what they hope is a brittle defence before launching down Maloney’s defensive channel or through Inglis. They’ll expect a lot from Napa and Wallace and, later on, Papalii and Hess before looking to Munster to create. In defence, it will be fast line speed to stop the likes of Klemmer and Campbell-Gillard or the more mobile De Belin and Frizell. The worry is the lack of a quality goal-kicker.


By contrast, I think Freddie will give his lads licence to throw it wide early and often to try to run around the Maroons defence. That’s not to say that the big boppers won’t try to assert themselves up the middle. But this team has been chosen for its speed and mobility as much as for its grunt. The challenge will be in defence and whether the younger set have the courage to hold their lateral position and trust those inside them rather than be sucked in too early to lend support, creating space for Holmes and Gagai out wider for Queensland.


Then there is the question of how the game will be refereed. The powers that be say that it will be the same as for the season to date, that is an eye on the play-the-ball, the ten metres and offside. Origin matches usually feature less pedantic whistle blowing so it will be interesting to see if the game flows or is stop/start as we have seen too many times in 2018.


And the Melbourne crowd? Up north, we hear that they’re handing out freebies galore to get a decent looking crowd of 70,000+: sad, if true. Previously, the crowd in Melbourne has been pro-Queensland, so let’s hope nothing changes there.


NSW will start as firm favourites; Kevvie will use this to reinforce standard Maroon siege mentality. Freddie will be worried that his blokes will think that all they have to do is roll up and the rest will take care of itself; watch the Queensland pack try to knock that cockiness out of the Blues in the early exchanges, create doubt and then grind their own way forward.


I haven’t got a clue as to how it will all pan out. I hope it will be more open than what we’ve come to expect from Game 1 over the years. I fear it may be just the opposite because neither side will want to go to Sydney one down in the series. Perhaps there’s a middle path. Regardless, I expect NSW to be the more adventurous under coach Fittler.


For what it’s worth, my prediction? Either NSW by 10+ or Queensland by <4.


Disclaimer: If there are even more late changes to the Maroons line-up, as mentioned earlier, then all common sense says NSW comfortably. Imagine what happens in Sydney if the possible late changes do occur and the Maroons still get up!


Ian Hauser lets State of Origin play havoc with his emotions. He’s much better at playing with words. You can check out his editing services here.




About Ian Hauser

A relaxed, Noosa-based retiree with a (very) modest sporting CV. A loyal Queenslander, especially when it comes to cricket and rugby league. Enjoys travel, coffee and cake, reading, and has been known to appreciate a glass or three of wine. One of Footy Almanac's online editors who enjoys the occasional editing opportunity to assist aspiring writers.


  1. Jarrod_L says

    I’m going to split the difference on your tip, Ian. Cockies by 6 after conceding the opening points (obviously I hope it goes the other way!).

  2. IJH, This is turning into one of those Qld v the Forces of the Universe moments. That suits Queenslanders. Looking forward to getting there with one Matt O’Hanlon who’s in town for a conference. JTH

  3. Queensland 23-18

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