Almanac Rugby League – State of Origin 2021: Game 1 preview





Just seven months on from 2020’s delayed series, State of Origin returns tonight at the new venue of Townsville after Queensland won a bidding war to secure the game. The build-up has been along familiar lines, mostly juvenile nit-picking about unfair choice of location, dodgy tribunal results leading to suspensions, ‘legends’ of the game pontificating pompously, NSW being hot favourites, Queensland being hopeless underdogs, who is going to get personal with Jai Arrow after last year’s incident with James Tedesco – you know the set lines. The sad thing is that many a rugby league fan allows him/herself to be sucked in by it all. You’ve been had! In the end, the best available players for each State will run out onto the paddock and give it a red hot go. The sun will rise on Thursday morning, life will go on and Covid will remain our real major issue. The circus will move on…


If there is anything new or unusual about this year’s series, it is that it will be the first played under the recently implemented crackdown on high contact. The powers that be say that the same rules will apply in Origin as apply in regular NRL matches. We’ll see if that’s the case tonight. The first question I have is, ‘Who will be the first to test the limits with referee Sutton?’ And the second is, ‘How will Sutton respond?’ Picture this: Queensland kicks off, Payne Haas charges onto the ball and is met with a huge hit from Tino Fa’asuamaleaui which starts around the shoulder and slips up to the side of Haas’ neck. (Or the other way around if NSW kicks off.) A warning? On report? 10 in the bin straightaway? Even ‘off’?! If the call goes badly against the Maroons, I hope the foundations of and temporary seating at Queensland Country Bank Stadium are both very solid!


The way I see it, Queensland will be hoping the game is played in the usual Origin style where the ref keeps the whistle out of his mouth and allows the players to get on with the game. This will suit the home side because it will allow the Maroons to slow down the play (but watch the ‘6 again’ call), condense the game and gradually frustrate and wear down the Blues. Then unleash the likes of the instinctive Munster, the lurking Gagai and the speed of Brimson. That’s Queensland’s best chance. Let’s face it, NSW has the faster side on paper. They’ll want to get the ball wide at every opportunity to bring Mitchell, Turbo Tom, Addo-Carr and Tedesco into the play. If it unfolds that way, it will be a long night for the Maroons.


So how does it pan out? Essentially, rugby league is a simple game. The commandments of the code say that forwards win matches and defence wins matches. It was ever thus. If the Maroons can slow down, contain and neutralise the NSW pack, then those dangerous outside Blues backs will be (comparatively) starved of the ball, thus reducing their scoring potential. But if the NSW frontmen get on top up and start rolling forward, watch out for live-wire Damian Cook and those very same slick outside backs if they receive quick ball in space against a retreating defensive line. They’ll set the Townsville turf ablaze.


But we’ve seen it all before, haven’t we? The 2020 Maroons were supposed to be the worst ever, which is saying something given what the 1995 side looked like on paper! What happened on both occasions (and in 2001 and 2017)? Wins against the odds, Queensland’s default position in Origin (with the exception of ‘The Streak’ years). I’d feel better if Big Papa and Lindsey Collins were on board for that forward stoush.


The Maroons will need every one of the 25000+ Billy Moores in the stands to help them over the line. The heart hopes for a Queensland victory; the head (and the teams on paper) say NSW.




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About Ian Hauser

A relaxed, Noosa-based retiree with a (very) modest sporting CV. A Queenslander through and through, especially when it comes to cricket and rugby league. I enjoy travel, good coffee and cake, reading, and have been known to appreciate a glass or three of wine. As well as being one of Footy Almanac's online editors, I moonlight as an editor for hire - check me out at


  1. Andy Thurlow says

    Great write-up Ian. Like all the big derbies, when the best play together, it generally brings with it terrific skill,a special ferocity, and reputations are made or enhanced. It’s a lot more relaxing for those of us watching without a vested interest in the winner and bragging rights, but I do enjoy the game more with these new rules, and your code gained great support by being one of the first out of the blocks during our sports-starved Covid lockdowns. Hoping for a golden point finish … but I bet you’re not!

  2. Russel Hansen says

    Great preview Ian.
    Queensland clearly outplayed and outclassed tonight, however I go straight back to game three last year. Who would have thought the mighty maroons would come back the way they did at Suncorp in that game ??!!
    Through my red & green eyes, I hope all the bunnies players came through unscathed.
    Latrell loves the big stage.
    His next stage is the Olympic stadium 5:30pm on Saturday v Newcastle.
    Cameron Murray is absolutely the key man for South Sydney. Damian Cook plays better with Murray on the field. Murray is not as influential as Tommy turbo Trbojevic is for Manly, however he is not too far behind for the bunnies.
    Queensland will hit back hard at Suncorp in game two.

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