Almanac Rugby League – State of Origin: Game 1 selections

About three weeks back I had a go at selecting both teams for Game 1 of this year’s State of Origin series. Since then, the only significant factor that might cause a rethink has been the retirement of long-time Maroons captain Cameron Smith. In the end, as I predicted, there have been considerable changes on both sides with NSW coach Freddie Fittler leading the way with a massive eleven (yes, 11!) debutants.


Here’s how the teams will line up:
Queensland: 1. Billy Slater 2. Valentine Holmes 3. Greg Inglis (c) 4. Will Chambers 5. Dane Gagai 6. Cameron Munster 7. Ben Hunt 8. Dylan Napa 9. Andrew McCullough 10. Jarrod Wallace 11. Gavin Cooper 12. Felise Kaufusi 13. Josh McGuire 14. Michael Morgan 15. Josh Papalii 16. Coen Hess 17. Jai Arrow

NSW: 1. James Tedesco 2. Tom Trbojevic 3. Latrell Mitchell 4. James Roberts 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. James Maloney 7. Nathan Cleary 8. David Klemmer 9. Damien Cook 10. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 11. Boyd Cordner (c) 12. Tyson Frizell 13. Jack De Belin 14. Paul Vaughan 15. Jake Trbojevic 16. Angus Crichton 17. Tyrone Peachey


It’s hard not to feel sorry for seasoned warriors on both sides who have missed out – Scott and Boyd for the Maroons (although Scott would now be unavailable through suspension), Jackson and Dugan for the Blues. Corey Oates is unlucky given his form; Daly Cherry-Evans would have added an experienced goal-kicker to the Maroons; Kalyn Pongia will have to (rightly) bide his time. For NSW, Moylan must have gone close; Wade Graham might have added both grunt and mongrel as well as an extra grubber kicker close to the line; I can’t understand why Trent Merrin can’t get a game.


Early commentary suggests that NSW has banked on brute force up front and blistering speed in the backs while Queensland has been a bit more ‘steady as she goes’ with an eye to the future as well. Others point to defensive questions surrounding the NSW trio of Mitchell, Roberts and Maloney as well as the capacity of Queensland’s Hunt to organise and direct the Maroons after only eight minutes of Origin experience.


Rugby league is a fairly simple game. Historically, teams with dominant forwards, good defence, a running half-back and a good goal-kicker win matches. Origin matches have always had a fine line between winning and losing. A weakness in any one of these will mean a loss. I’ll be interested to see if Game 1 evolves as the usual dour struggle to avoid going down 1-0 in the series or, given the selected teams, takes on a more open, attacking style that both entertains and creates uncertainty in the opposition.


(For those keeping scorecards, I got 14 out of 17 of my early May Maroons picks (and that’s counting the Smith retirement, otherwise I would have had 15) and 11 for NSW. Not bad. Even the venerable Roy Masters admitted on Offsiders on Sunday that he made a few late changes given the Panthers v Dragons match on Saturday night. (And I’ll bet that one of those was Euan Aitken, one of my original choices.)


Ian Hauser never scored in his eminently forgettable schoolboy rugby league career. He came close one afternoon in 1969 when he backed up Geoff Smith’s break down the left wing but was tackled a metre out. These days he plays 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 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

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