Off the Wall

If the Brisbane and Queensland media are to be believed, the Blues might as well not turn up to the State of Origin match at Suncorp Stadium tonight.

I assume Mal Meninga has been telling his players not to read the newspapers, let alone take any notice of them.

The whole history of State of Origin contradicts the hype from sections of the media that the opening game is no contest, and that the Blues have no chance at all.

Of course the Maroons are favourites - but if you look at the NRL premiership this year, how many short priced favourites have gone down? Plenty!

The Maroons are at around $1.45 to win. If you give the Blues eight points start it is $2.05.

I don't bet on football, but I am reluctant to back racehorses at $1.45 to win.

The Maroons are not just favourites because they have won the last five series in a row, including a comparatively rare 3-0 whitewash last year.

The "experience" factor is undeniable. The Maroons players have represented their state an average of 19 times. The Blues average is less than 2.

These stats, the Maroons recent record, and the media hype do raise one challenge for Mal Meninga - managing expectations.

I belong to the minority in Queensland. Claims that this is the "worst ever" Blues team do the Maroons no favour.

My view is that the Blues strategy, driven by a fulltime coach, might produce dividends sooner than most expect, and sooner than most Queenslanders hope.

It might not be tonight, but the Stuart strategy is really a carbon copy of the strategy Mal Meninga has employed with the Maroons for the last six years.

The Blues have been surrounded by great Blues from the past, just as the Maroons are.

And they even got Tommy Raudonikis - who now lives in Queensland - to fire the team up.

I want Origin to go from strength to strength. Andrew Demetriou is addressing the National Press Club in Canberra today. If the timing is designed to distract some attention from the coverage State of Origin will get tonight and tomorrow, he has, like the man pushing the barrow up the hill, got the job in front of him!

Origin is a precious asset. I have no doubt it won't lose any of its value tonight, or in the next six weeks or so!