Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
4 days ago
No-nonsense prop Shane Webcke believes Queensland's slick backs can put the Blues away in Wednesday night's State of Origin series opener at Suncorp Stadium.
But he says the Maroons' pack will at least have to share honours in a fierce forward exchange to allow the likes of Shaun Berrigan, Ben Ikin, Brent Tate, Justin Hodges, Matt Sing, rookie Shannon Hegarty and champion fullback Darren Lockyer to shine with the ball.
"I don't think you have to dominate (in the forwards)," said the 112kg Test prop playing his 16th Origin.
"But you have to match them and perhaps be a little better if you hope to be on the winning side.
"We've got a damn good backline and so have they.
"If it's a case of the forwards nullify each other then it will come down to the skill in the backs which will be a hell of a clash between two sets of exciting back lines."
NSW has banked on the dangerous combination of Newcastle team mates Matt Gidley and Timana Tahu to attack Queensland after they did such a good job against the Broncos.
But on that afternoon they harassed inexperienced winger Scott Minto who failed to adjust defensively.
After his nervous debut last year Hodges will again be targeted but this time he is playing in the centres where he is much more at home and also a lot more dangerous.
Hegarty can expect a lot of attention given it is his first Origin but his teammates have worked with him at every session, especially under the high ball which he can expect to see plenty of early on Wednesday night.
Queensland has its own ideas on where the Blues may be suspect.
While winger Tahu can be brilliant, he's also prone to having a shocker.
Queensland will certainly test out his big game nerve and also that of rookie fullback Anthony Minichiello who exposed a few frailties in his game in the City-Country game last month. Webcke was not interested in debating whether the Blues' forwards would adopt a Sydney Roosters style gang defence under Phil Gould or if Queensland's pack, with five Broncos, would employ some of Brisbane's slightly expansive style play in attack.
"You can read too much into a rugby league game," said Webcke who will rely on the hype and expectations of the big night to get him "pumped up".
"I don't think there's any great distinctive styles from one club to another that will be employed.
"I think it will be a 100 per cent flat bash em up top game."
While Webcke will be the heaviest player on the field, Queensland's pack will concede 18kgs to the Blues whose total pack weight is 926kgs.
The Maroons look a forward light on the bench but North Queensland centre Paul Bowman, who stops the scales just short of 100kgs, will be used as a make-shift back-rower with the lighter Chris Flannery (85kgs) being kept as a back line replacement.
Queensland finished their Gold Coast camp on Sunday, returning to Brisbane to relax with a day off.
Golf, races and movies were on the schedule before the team's final training gallop at Suncorp Stadium on Tuesday morning.