The Decider

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So we have it, after two interesting games that involved two completely different performances we head to a final game and as the media would lead you to believe this is the biggest origin game in years(despite that being said in every decider and the fact that last year only a field goal separated the teams in game three? but this is a whole different issue)

Game one New South Wales put in a solid win but not a dominating performance, if anything they were strong in the first half and survived with good defence in the second. Game two rolled around and so did the familiar Queensland performance we have all come to expect with this side throughout the past 8 years. Looking back on a whole you would have to say New South Wales has only won 1 half of football in this series with Queensland looking the better team for 3 out of the 4 halves.

So what have we learned in 2013? The battle of the packs is huge, in Origin one we saw New South Wales dominate the ruck with their forwards and slow down Queensland's play the ball when defending. Luke Lewis was an absolute force running down Queensland's edges targeting Thurston as a weak link in defence which saw him produce a man of the match effort. In game two it was the complete reversal, Queensland was all over New South Wales which didn't help them as they had Woods who was making his debut in one of the toughest predicaments possible.

When Thurston performs, Queensland is close to unbeatable. When he plays below par, Inglis doesn't get involved in the game which starts to make the Queensland attack becomes too relied upon Melbourne's big three and their plays which whilst dominates at a club level where forwards  fail to make repeat efforts and the backs who struggle to read what's coming at them but when it comes to Origin and every player is an elite player at their position this become extremely difficult when your trying to target individual players.

Lets break down the teams and what they will need to do to win.

New South Wales

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Injury has forced its hand against New South Wales with captain Paul Gallen out alongside of Jarred Hayne which means Woods holds onto his spot. Reynolds has been dropped from the side for Boyd Cordner which whilst most think this is a good decision for mine it is a bad one. Look at how Queensland use Cherry-Evans compared to Daley's use of Reynolds. In game two Farah didn't need a rest and Reynolds isn't a dummy half, Pearce was the person under performing and Daley needed to bite the bullet to put Reynolds in his correct position in the halves.

The addition of Cordner itself is an interesting one, Hoffman, Lewis, Bird and Watmough are all big minutes players who have history of performing in the important matches and whilst selecting for the future can be important having young players on debut in game three of an origin series is a risky call even if they only play 20 minutes.

Going into this game my biggest doubt on New South Wales is the halves, I've seen enough of Mitchell Pearce that he doesn't have the creativity to be the halfback in origin and he has been a consistent member of a side that has struggled throughout the past few years whilst the players around him all became revolving doors in selection. The jury is still out for James Maloney though, he's played two games with two very different performances and deserves his place in the decider.

If New South Wales are to win Origin three they will need a big performance from Dugan as little has been said about how good Hayne was in Origin One and the fact outside of Lewis he was one of the best on the field. By making big yards returning the ball Hayne had NSW starting sets close to half way which was giving them a massive field position advantage for the majority of the game, Hayne is also a creator with the ball which would take pressure off the halves where as Dugan is more of a broken field player.

The loss of Gallen isn't as big of a factor the media will have you believe, Tamou will step up upon rejoining the team since his suspension and Gallen can often clutter up the New South Wales attack on tackles 4/5 when he should allow the halves room to work.

Above everything though, New South Wales need to bring their A game, anything less and they are no chance against a Queensland side that's full of players that have been there and done it before.

Queensland

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Queensland have stuck with their game two side and expect similar tactics from them going into the 3rd game. Cherry-Evans will again be used a game changer late in the 1st half in an attempt to break the game open before going into halftime which creates an interesting dynamic with New South Wales no longer have that option with Reynolds dropped from the Bench.

Queensland key to victory will be starting well and silencing the crowd as in game one they were chasing points from the get go, this really had them struggling to score the points against the clock. If Queensland go into half time ahead of New South Wales they have too many players that have thrived in big game situations to lose an Origin decider.

As we said earlier the other big key is Thurston as when he performs Queensland are close to unbeatable. Thurston needs to get his hand on the football early and needs to be involved in Queensland kicking game as most of the pressure to kick falls on Cronk's shoulders.

The weaknesses in the Queensland side would have to be the fact they are now playing short two big men, which wasn't a weakness before with Gallen also playing up forward but with him out New South Wales will have Tamou, Woods and Fifita up forward which is a significant size advantage against Queensland who only have Scott as a traditional front rower and will rely heavily on Myles/Thaiday to play big minutes.

Betting

When looking at this game from the outside in, Queensland best is better than New South Wales best, it's that simple. Add in the factor of the home ground advantage and it's pretty much a 50-50 game. When looking at both of these sides though I can't imagine New South Wales being able to score more than 3 tries against Queensland and recent history says they won't. So the question we ask is will Queensland score more than 14-18 points on Wednesday and I believe they will.

Best Bets - Team Bets
Queensland 1- 12 @ $2.50
Highest Scoring Half - 2nd Half @ $1.72

As we have said numerous times, when Queensland win Thurston plays a major factor and is always a good chance to be selected by the Australian selectors as MOTM. It's also interesting to note at half time in game two whilst not being the best player on the park he was $2.50 to win MOTM and i suspect the similar will happen here which provides some trade out options.

The value on the Queensland side of betting is definitely Billy Slater (when was the last time the fullback has been over $10 to win MOTM?) Billy is one of those players that could easily score two tries and be given the award.

If your sticking with New South Wales, James Maloney is clearly the play as for New South Wales to win one of their four spine players (Dugan, Maloney, Pearce & Farah) to be a game winner. Pearce has proven he is not up to Origin level so you can rule him out, Farah will make 50 tackles but if the New South Wales pack doesn't dominate is no chance & Dugan needs to be put into game wining positions to be a chance (which will only come from Maloney playing good anyway).


Best Bets - Individual Bets
Man of the Match - Johnathan Thurston [QLD] @ $5.00
Man of the Match - Billy Slater [QLD] @ $13 (value punting)
Man of the Match - James Maloney [NSW] @ 17 (NSW punters)

Back the guys who will put into positions to score again, Darius Boyd is always a great selection has the winger outside of Inglis will panic which allows Thurston to hit the outside runner or Inglis to draw and pass. For New South Wales James Maloney always backs up in line breaks and is always a chance back on the inside when attacking the line.

Best Bets - First Try scorers
Darius Boyd [QLD] @ $9.00
Darius Boyd [QLD] & Queensland 1-12 @ $15
James Maloney [NSW] @ $21

The Teams(if you didn't know by now...)

QLD

Starters
1. Billy Slater - Melbourne Storm
2. Darius Boyd- Newcastle Knights
3. Greg Inglis - South Sydney Rabbitohs
4. Justin Hodges - Brisbane Broncos
5. Brent Tate - North Queensland Cowboys
6. Johnathan Thurston - North Queensland Cowboys
7. Cooper Cronk - Melbourne Storm
8. Matt Scott - North Queensland Cowboys
9. Cameron Smith (c) - Melbourne Storm
10. Nate Myles - Gold Coast Titans
11. Chris McQueen - South Sydney Rabbitohs
12. Sam Thaiday - Brisbane Broncos
13. Corey Parker - Brisbane Broncos
Interchange
14. Daly Cherry-Evans - Manly Sea Eagles
15. Ben Te’o - South Sydney Rabbitohs
16. Matt Gillett - Brisbane Broncos
17. Josh Papalii - Canberra Raiders
Back ups
18. Jacob Lillyman - New Zealand Warriors
19. Will Chambers - Melbourne Storm

NSW

Starters
1. Josh Dugan - St George Dragons
2. James McManus - Newcastle Knights
3. Michael Jennings - Sydney Roosters
4. Josh Morris - Canterbury Bulldogs
5. Brett Morris - St George Dragons
6. James Maloney - Sydney Roosters
7. Mitchell Pearce - Sydney Roosters
8. James Tamou - North Queensland Cowboys
9. Robbie Farah (c) - Wests Tigers
10. Aaron Woods - Wests Tigers
11. Ryan Hoffman - Melbourne Storm
12. Luke Lewis - Cronulla Sharks
13. Greg Bird - Gold Coast Titans
Interchange
14. Anthony Watmough - Manly Sea Eagles
15. Andrew Fifita - Cronulla Sharks
16. Trent Merrin - St George Dragons
17. Boyd Cordner - Sydney Roosters
Back ups
18. Josh Reynolds - Canterbury Bulldogs
 
 
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After an enormous effort in game 1 the NSW blues now travel to Suncorp Stadium minus a few clowns in search of their first series win since 2005. Will QLD try and gain retribution on Paul Gallen for his cheap shots on Nate Myles three weeks ago? The law makers have tried to put an end to those possibilities!

A quick look at the line ups for game 2,


Firstly Jarryd Hayne misses through a hamstring injury and is replaced by Josh Dugan, despite Dugan being in great form at club land make no mistake this is a huge loss for the blues. Hayne has probably been NSW’s best in the past seven years of QLD dominance. Nathan Merritt receives a sympathy selection due to Blake Ferguson’s club antics, again another huge blow for the blues. Merritt provides nothing out of dummy half (Ferguson made over 150M in game 1) and watch the QLD players target Dugan with long kicks and Merritt attacking ones. James Tamou rounds out the idiots club and is replaced by Aaron Woods. Woods is a good player and will get through plenty of work however being on debut in the atmosphere that is Suncorp Stadium one would forgive him a slow start.

NSW strengths again are in their back row with Lewis, Gallen, Bird and Watmough the keys to success. If these guys can play an up tempo game and win the ruck battle similar to game 1 it enabled them to get down QLD's end of the field quite easily and take the pressure off their defence.

QLD make two subtle changes with workhorse Corey Parker to start for Harrison which brings Josh Papali onto the bench. Parker's ability to create 2nd phase play is enormous and gives QLD great versatility that it was missing early in game 1. Daly Cherry Evans looks set to combat the Josh Reynolds impact on the game, I would love to see one of the coaches inject one of these guys into the game late in the first half, which could be a game winning play. Evans has played for Australia and won a grand final he won’t be out of place if required.  



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The blues have travelled to Brisbane seven times 1-0 up in a series and come away with a win just once. Based on preparations it looks like the only one outcome for this game is a QLD victory. Don’t be surprised if NSW start well again to try take the home crowd out of the equation however it will come down to the back end of the game and the QLD match winners in Cronk, Thurston, Slater & Inglis will get the job done again. Mitchell Pearce who is now 0-5 in games outside of Sydney will come under pressure and the absence of Hayne will prove too hard to cover. Look for a Jonathon Thurston special performance with full fitness on his side he will once again show why he is the best half in the game.


BEST BET

QLD 1-12 $2.50

VALUE BETS
NSW/QLD $7.00 
Darius Boyd $11.00 – Greg Inglis magic will suck in Josh Morris again with Nathan Merritt not a strong defender Boyd should be able to salute first try scorers markets first. Good value at 11’s


 
 
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Ah yes, it's that time of year when one of the greatest sporting contests in the world kicks off as it's state against state and mate against mate as the old saying goes.

Queensland have had a strangle hold on the series since 2006 through having a strong group of elite players but New South Wales have given their fans hope for the streak to end in 2013 with improved performances and a strong line up.

Now for some context I'm a proud Queenslander but this preview will be unlike your regular newspaper preview, I will give you the facts, positives/negatives and the keys for each side to achieve a series victory.

So let's dive straight in and look at the New South Wales Blues.

Line Ups

1. Jarryd Hayne (Eels)
2. Brett Morris (Dragons)
3. Michael Jennings (Roosters)
4. Josh Morris (Bulldogs)
5. Blake Ferguson (Raiders)
6. James Maloney (Roosters)
7. Mitchell Pearce (Roosters)
8. Paul Gallen (Sharks)
9. Robbie Farah (Tigers)
10. James Tamou (Cowboys)
11. Ryan Hoffman (Storm)
12. Luke Lewis (Sharks)
13. Greg Bird (Titans)

14. Andrew Fifita (Sharks)
15. Josh Reynolds (Bulldogs)
16. Trent Merrin (Dragons)
17. Anthony Watmough (Sea Eagles)
1. Billy Slater (Storm)
2. Darius Boyd (Knights)
3. Greg Inglis (Rabbitohs)
4. Justin Hodges (Broncos)
5. Brent Tate (Cowboys)
6. Johnathan Thurston (Cowboys)
7. Cooper Cronk (Storm)
8. Matthew Scott (Cowboys)
9. Cameron Smith (Storm)
10. David Shillington (Raiders)
11. Nate Myles (Titans)
12. Sam Thaiday (Broncos)
13. Ashley Harrison (Titans)

14. Corey Parker (Broncos)
15. Matt Gillett (Broncos)
16. Ben Te'o (Rabbitohs)
17. Chris McQueen (Rabbitohs)

NEW South Wales

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My first issue is a big one for New South Wales, every time people want to justify the selection of James Maloney over Todd Carney they say "oh well at club level he is performing well and makes Pearce a better player" What a terrible argument to make. James Maloney virtually plays as a halfback so why wouldn't you pair him with Carney as both players have outstanding kicking games and can be a threat running the ball.

Some Mitchell Pearce stats to take into account in the NRL he currently has 62 Wins from 141 games which adds up to a 44% strike rate but without Maloney/Carney Seasons he actually has 32 wins from 87 games 36% strike rate and has only made the finals once in those four seasons. Pearce has also lost 46 out of his 141 games by a margin of 13+ and has only won 2 out of the 9 origin games he has played in. People say the New South Wales side needs consistency, well it also needs players who are capable of producing the clutch plays at key times.

The other big negative I have marked around New South Wales is Daley as a coach, sure he has the so called "origin spirit" but his resume as a coach is non-existent, last year we saw Ricky Stuart make some key mistakes such as Luke Lewis not getting enough minutes in game 3. Such mistakes can be extremely costly in an origin series and how a rookie coach handles the pressure will be interesting.

Now lets look at some of the positives, firstly players are now playing in their rightful positions... Hayne had to be the fullback as he goes unused on the wing and the addition of Ferguson who is proper winger who unlike Merritt can play with and without the ball (Oh please Merritt lovers just tell me how he is a try scoring machine when defence is 50% of the game)

Another big positive for New South Wales is they have picked a side in form, Queensland are relying on champion players who have been there and done it but are currently struggling at club level. While the Blues have several players in career best form and players who have earned their jersey through terrific club performances.

Queensland

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Going into game one you have to look at the Queensland line up with some doubt unlike the previous years. No Petero and Ben Hannant means the pack is light on for size with Parker, Gillett, Teo and McQueen all back rowers named on the bench. Whilst Shillington will likely drop back to the Bench to combat Fifita around the 18th-24th minute mark, it's hard to see why Corey Parker has been picked for this series as he doesn't offer anything other than a warm body to make tackles up the middle.

Surely a 15-20 minute stint from Brenton Lawrence would be more valueable than Parker as he is a big framed forward who has decent pace. Anyone that says Martin Kennedy should play origin has rocks in their head as if you actually watch NRL this year it's all about ruck speed and he is too slow to get off the ground.

Unlike a lot of other people, I'm a big fan of the McQueen selection as he has the pace to cover Boyd/Hodges (injury liabilities) and even if their isn't an injury he can produce a solid 20 minutes rather than having Cherry-Evans on the bench who will go unused.

My biggest issue with the Queensland side heading into game one has to be the form of the players, Thurston has been well below his best in 2013 and struggled at times in the 2012 origin series (until game three) Thurston has been the cornerstone of the Maroons dominance since 2006 and if he plays poorly Queensland are in trouble.

The other issue with Thurston is that Cronk is such a dominant ball player who will have his hands on the ball all the time, if Thurston doesn't involve himself the Maroons attack will become extremely one dimensional as the Blues will rehearse all week for a Storm big 3 powered attack.


The Key to Victory

New South Wales - The Blues have to start well if they aren't in the wrestle early and Queensland get a try or two on them they will struggle to run them down.

They also must kick early and deep into the corners combined with good kick chases to belt Slater forcing Queensland to work hard to get into a decent position as controlling the field position will be key. The Blues must make Thurston extremely uncomfortable and force him to get tackled with the ball by having quick line speed.

Queensland - The Maroons pack has to measure up against the Blues or else the backs will have limited opportunities to show their brilliance. Thurston needs to get involved early and needs to run the ball as he is at his best when he takes it to the defensive line. The more times Greg Inglis gets the ball the more likely QLD will win, he has the potential to destroy Josh Morris and will be QLD best asset providing he gets enough ball.

The Maroons need to just be in the contest at the 65th minute mark, they have the game winners to take the game from there.

Betting

7 out of the last 8 game 1s have been in the margin 1-12 so expect another tight contest here. The Blues have to win this game as they can't go to Suncorp for game 2 being down 1 so I would give them the slight advantage being at home and having a more in form side But the class of Queensland will make sure it will go to the wire.

Best Bets - Game Result
Either side under 6.5 @ $2.40

In the try scoring markets take the players who will be put into positions to score, Boyd/O'neill will be in space with Inglis drawing the winger in and Hoffman will run a strong second row line which will have the threat of Hayne out the back and Maloney will put either of them into space.

Best Bets - Try Scoring
First Try Scorer - Ryan Hoffman [NSW] @ $26
First Try Scorer - Jarryd Hayne [NSW] @ $13
First Try Scorer -Darius Boyd [QLD] @ $11

In the Man of the Match markets it's worth looking for value as when you look at history you can see that Inglis only has one MOTM award ever and even someone like Folau has won the award playing on the wing. Whilst Farah will make a ton of tackles, he won't spark the attack so at $6 he is unders and for mine the best value in the Blues side is Maloney.

Queensland players meanwhile are kept safe in the market, so if your looking for value try looking at the other centre... no not inglis at $8... Justin Hodges who is at $26.

Man of the Match - Betting
James Maloney [NSW] @ $11
Justin Hodges [QLD] @ $26