Almanac Rugby League: Women’s and Men’s State of Origin previews







It’s a big weekend for State of Origin rugby league with the annual women’s clash tomorrow night in Canberra followed by Game 2 of the men’s 2022 series to be played in Perth on Sunday night. Sports historian and State of Origin expert Liam Hauser provides his thoughts leading into the games.


2022 Ampol Women’s State of Origin


It’s almost three months since the conclusion of the delayed 2021 NRLW season. Many of the players have been involved in the respective State leagues since then but it will be quite a step up from there to Origin level this week. This will be the first time that a women’s Origin clash will be played on neutral territory after NSW hosted the first two meetings in Sydney before Queensland hosted the last two matches on the Sunshine Coast.


Both sides look strong on paper with the NSW side dominated by players from NRLW grand finalists, the Dragons and Roosters. The centre pairing of Jessica Sergis and Isabelle Kelly is always formidable and forces Tiana Penitani onto the wing. The Blues side also includes the dual Dally M winners Millie Boyle and Emma Tonegato. The forward pack looks powerful with Boyle to be supported by the likes of Simaima Taufa, captain Kezie Apps and the indefatigable Hannah Southwell.


The Dragons’ Rachael Pearson, arguably the ‘find’ of the NRLW season, comes in as halfback and is paired with the talented Kirra Dibb who returns to the side for the first time in three years. Surprisingly, the Roosters’ Sarah Togatuki, a dominant force in the Grand Final, is listed to come off the bench.


Queensland’s forward pack has a seasoned, hard-hitting look about it. Chelsea Lenarduzzi, Shannon Mato, Tallisha Harden, Tazmin Gray and Destiny Brill have all been there and done that previously and will look to provide the go-forward to allow the lively Brittany Breayley-Nati to choose her moments to make attacking darts into the retreating defence.


The backline looks solid with Tamika Upton at fullback behind the key halves in Tarryn Aiken and Ali Brigginshaw. Evania Pelite and Shenae Ciesiolka will have their work cut out countering Sergis and Kelly! Emily Bass is a newcomer on one wing with the experienced Julia Robinson on the other flank.


Evergreen veteran Stephanie Hancock returns yet again and will come off the bench as an impact player. Surely at age 40 this will be her swansong! It’s interesting that no room can be found in the Maroons’ line-up for the wily, understated Zahara Temara and the ever-reliable Karina Brown.


Past clashes between these two teams have been close, hard fought, frenetic, absorbing and entertaining. I can’t see why we won’t have more of the same this time around. Toss a coin to find your winner!


For team lists for the Ampol women’s State of Origin match click here. The referee is Belinda Sharpe.


Kick off at GIO Stadium, Canberra is set for 7.45pm tomorrow night with the match televised live on Channel 9.



2022 Ampol State of Origin Game 2


Both teams will go into Game 2 without a player who was among their very best in Game 1 – Reuben Cotter for Queensland and Jack Wighton for NSW. Apart from injury-forced changes, there are some surprise selections in both teams. For Queensland, it is a little surprising to see Tino Fa’asuamaleaui move from prop to lock with  Lindsay Collins promoted to the starting side. Don’t be surprised to see Jai Arrow start with Collins dropping back to a bench role where he made such an impression in Game 1.


The big talking point is the number of changes coach Fittler has made to the NSW side. Did the Game 1 loss really warrant so many changes? Many years ago, Bret Harris wrote in Winfield State of Origin 1980-1991: ‘There are three certainties in life: death, taxes, and mass sackings after a NSW State of Origin loss.’ Many commentators on both sides of the border have questioned the extent of the changes Fittler has made. Sometimes wholesale changes work well, sometimes they don’t.


The decision to demote Origin veteran Damien Cook to the interchange bench is certainly unusual. Does NSW have a plan to interchange Cook and Api Koroisau much like Queensland’s use of Harry Grant and Ben Hunt? The selection of Jake Trbojevic at prop is also interesting but we need to keep in mind that he has played two previous Origin matches at prop with NSW winning both convincingly – 38-6 at Perth in 2019 and 50-6 in Game 1 last year.


Both teams have some inexperience in the backs, so it will be interesting to see how they fare in the pressure-cooker atmosphere of Origin football. Queensland’s wingers, Selwyn Cobbo and Murray Taulagi, have just one Origin game of experience between them (Cobbo in Game 1) while NSW’s centres, Matt Burton and Stephen Crichton, also have a combined tally of just one Origin game (Crichton in Game 1). Which players will adapt the better?


Will Queensland be able to contain Nathan Cleary again? Can Cameron Munster conjure up another bag of tricks to bamboozle the Blues? Will NSW get more out of their bench players this time? How will the debutants handle the pressure? So many unknowns!


This is the second time that Origin has been played in Perth with NSW winning the previous encounter there comfortably.


It was a mild surprise when the Maroons won Game 1. There’s no question that NSW will be better this time around and so Queensland will have to lift their game too if they are to repeat their Sydney triumph. On the past two occasions the Maroons won the first game off the series they came back to earth with heavy defeats in Game 2. Queensland has not sealed a series win in Game 2 since 2016. History favours NSW to level the series on Sunday night but I’ll maintain my long-held observation that there will be a fine line between winning and losing.


The referee is Ashley Klein who came in for some criticism from Brad Fittler for allegedly allowing the Maroons too much latitude in the ruck in Game 1. Other commentators suggested that the match was played at the fastest pace ever! Just pre-match argy bargy, I think.


I’m sure that the powers-that-be would love to see a series decider in Brisbane.


To see the full team lists click here.


The match will be televised live on Channel 9.


Liam Hauser is the author of  State of Origin: 40 Years (Gelding Street Press, 2020: 3rd edition), The Immortals of Australian Rugby League (Gelding Street Press, 2019) and  The Great Grand Finals (New Holland, 2019: 2nd edition). An updated third edition of  The Great Grand Finals will be released on August 15. In 2023, Gelding Street Press will publish Liam’s The Immortals of State of Origin in which he selects his best ever teams for both Queensland and New South Wales. Liam is also the author of  several publications on cricket, including A Century of Cricket Tests (New Holland, 2013), A History of Test Cricket (New Holland, 2016), and The Immortals of Australian Cricket (Rockpool Publishing, 2018).

About Liam Hauser

A Queenslander through and through, Liam went out of his comfort zone as he had a thoroughly worthwhile time in Tumut and Gundagai from 2008 to 2016 before enjoying a year in Gunnedah. His strongest sporting interests are State of Origin, Sheffield Shield, Test cricket and the NRL. His sporting CV doesn’t have many highlights, although he once top-scored in a warehouse cricket match with 54 not out at number 10, and shared in an unbroken last wicket stand of 83 with the number 11 who scored an undefeated 52. Liam has written books including State of Origin 40 Years, A Century of Cricket Tests, A History of Test Cricket, The Immortals of Australian Cricket, The Immortals of Australian Rugby League, and The Great Grand Finals: Rugby League's Greatest Contests. Also a huge fan of Electric Light Orchestra.


  1. It all looks set for a great weekend of footy, Liam. Fittler’s mass changes will prove to be either a stroke of genius or a monumental blunder. That approach has worked well for Queensland in the past but not so well for the Blues (if my memory serves me well). One way or another, we’ll have a new ‘supercoach’ come Monday morning – either William the Conqueror or Frederick the Great. Or will it all go on hold if we go to a decider in Brisbane?

  2. It seems you are predicting a close match Liam. I’m interested to know who you think will win and why?

    I think the Blues are under a lot of pressure. I’m surprised at the Cook strategy.

    I think Queensland at the line +2.5 is a good value. I think NSW at $1.68 is bad value.

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