he 38th annual State of Origin is just around the corner, as Game 1 of the 2019 series is set to kick off in just under two months.
New South Wales currently hold the shield, after their 2-1 series win last year. Queensland have still been the most dominant side over the past 13 years, with the Blues claiming the 2014 series after the Maroons won eight in a row.
But after the Blues named 13 debutants across the 2018 campaign, Brad Fittler’s young side looked to begin the changing of the guard, as they toppled the ageing Maroons with pace and intensity.
Series debutants Damien Cook, Josh Addo-Carr and Latrell Mitchell all impressed, while James Tedesco was brilliant for the Blues throughout.
The Blues are currently favoured to go back-to-back according to State of Origin betting predictions, although they won’t be able to get home to Sydney until game three, which isn’t great scheduling for New South Wales.
Suncorp Stadium opens the series in game one, with the new Perth Stadium in WA to get a shot at hosting game two.
That contest in Perth will be only the second time a State of Origin game won’t be played in either Sydney, Brisbane or Melbourne, with the venue a true neutral for both sides.
While Fittler will likely try to keep most of his 2018 squad together, there already looks to be some forced injury changes, with Tom Trbojevic set to be unavailable for at least the series opener.
Fittler recently flagged backline trio Nick Cotric, Blake Ferguson and Campbell Graham as suitable replacements, while forward Jack de Belin could also miss the series given his impeding court hearing.
Guys like Tyrone Peachey and James Roberts could miss out, which could see another of the aforementioned backline players elevated into the squad.
For the Maroons, they’ll be without the retired Billy Slater and NFL-hopeful Valentine Holmes, which could prove to be massive losses for Kevin Walters’ side.
Slater was named as the player of the series last year, while Holmes scored four tries across the three games, the most of any player.
The Maroons’ big decision this year will come in the halves, as they decide what to do with Cameron Munster’s partner. Ben Hunt and Daly Cherry-Evans both started at halfback throughout the series, but realistically Queensland could look at someone entirely different.
There’s no doubting it’s Queensland who have the biggest selection dilemmas, but there’s still plenty of time for a number of Origin hopefuls to step up and force their way into the side.