For New South Wales, the job is simple. Win, and it’s yours. I read the other day that of the 8 series Queensland won in succession from the late ’00s to the mid ’10s, the Blues led 1-0 in 6 of them. That is an astonishing stat and leads to a mentality that has both resonated with NSW and QLD.
This is different, though.
The teams are vastly different, the players that made up those historic winning and losing sides have retired, moved on, are past their prime or simply weren’t selected. This really feels like State of Origin has been totally wiped clean, exhumed of NSW’s past demons and QLD’s champion DNA. Last year the Blues took Game I and had their hated rivals on the ropes in Game II, and threw it all away, ultimately losing the series in a decider. They won’t want a repeat of that, and these players won’t be expecting it. It’s the charming naivety of youth. Queensland, an older, more experienced team as far as NRL games goes but not necessarily in the Origin arena, will hope they can tap into the personality of the great teams that have come before them and ensure Game III is not a dead rubber.
Let’s take a look at the key fantasy players from this mouthwatering showdown.
Gun: James Tedesco ($15.9m)
James Tedesco was the best player on the field by a mile in Origin I. There was significant talk that Tom Trbojevic was going to snare the fullback role for NSW earlier in the season, but Manly’s stunning fall from grace promptly halted that. Thankfully for the Blues, they’re both in the team and both contributed in the opener, and they’ll need that again. From a fantasy standpoint, Tedesco put up 2155 points. As far as I can remember, that is a record tally. You won’t see a score like that again here, but he is the crown jewel in a star-studded backline and heading home with a chance to seal his first ever series win, I’m going with Teddy.
Dud: Jack De Belin ($17.6m)
It feels really harsh to call anyone featuring in Australian sports’ pinnacle a dud and this guy is an absolute fantasy stud, but his game simply does not translate to points unless he is getting large minutes, and in a team packed with superstars, that is something he won’t be afforded. Very few players are gifted anything close to 80 minutes in Origin, it’s usually reserved only for the captain and maybe one other player in the same forward pack. De Belin definitely could do it, but he won’t (as evident by a 856 in his debut) so don’t spend the near $18m.
Point of Difference: James Roberts ($13m)
James Roberts registered one of the lowest scores in Origin I, barely topping 700, and that’s why I’m featuring him here. Jimmy the Jet simply is way, way too good to be kept quiet that long and I believe NSW have been plotting ways to get him more involved. He simply must be at the forefront of any attacking plan, right there after James Tedesco, and Queensland were vocal that one of their main priorities was to rush up on Roberts and give him no time. I can see the Blues shifting him across the park to increase his touches, and I am guaranteeing he crosses the line.