25 rounds, 192 games, #Origin on a Sunday, and a September Grand Final.
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Today we get Michael Treacy's thoughts on the Queensland side as they prepare for next Wednesday's big stoush with the Blues.
1. Matt Bowen
Bowen was very harshly treated by Australian selectors for the Anzac Test but he will get his chance to shine in Origin. Criticism of his skill under the high ball has been somewhat unwarranted. However, I suspect that he will switch with Greg Inglis at some stage of the match to confuse the NSW kickers. I?d anticipate Bowen?s role during the match would be to use his speed against the big forwards and backs from NSW, searching for that inside ball off Lockyer or Thurston. This combination will be pivotal this series.
2. Greg Inglis
Greg Inglis has lived up to the hype he received pre-season as the next big thing. He has speed, strength, agility and the brains of a veteran. He is the complete footballer. Even though he is on the wing, he will still in my opinion play fullback at some stage during the match. I?d expect Inglis to come searching for work at the back end of each half trying to exploit fatigued defenders from NSW. I can?t wait to see this kid play Origin. It should be something to behold as we have all seen how exciting he is.
3. Justin Hodges
Hodges has definitely resurrected his career since returning to Brisbane last year. His football just keeps improving and hopefully this time around we won?t see any passes in the in-goal. He has been dynamic at centre this year, breaking tackles at will and creating many opportunities for his winger. I believe the left side of Inglis and Hodges will see the majority of ball from Lockyer and Thurston due to the Brisbane connection and also due to the fact this is where most of the inroads for tries will present themselves against Grothe and Tahu.
4. Brent Tate
I, like many others, believed that Tate and Steve Bell would be switched around in this side, however selectors thought differently. Tate has just recently returned from injury but no one can doubt his ability. He is a strong hole runner and solid defender and basically a back that was made to play origin football.
5. Steven Bell
Steve Bell is in my opinion the second best centre in the competition this season. Bell just quietly goes about his business leaving devastation in his wake. He is the NRL equal top try scorer and on top for line breaks this season. Bell?s selection for QLD is long overdue but he will finally get his chance to shine in the Origin arena. How he?ll go at winger is anyone?s guess. However, I?m of the opinion that he will play centre come game time and so he should.
6. Darren Lockyer (c)
Lockyer?s form since the Test Match has just been magnificent, it seemed to really give him the boost of confidence he needed. He has a renewed vigour and bounce in his step and his vision during a game is as sharp as ever. The 6 and 7 for QLD has it all over NSW and this will be a determining factor in the result of this series.
7. Jonathon Thurston
Thurston has been dominant figure in the NRL this season and the reason the Cowboys have fared so well. While last season Thurston first wore the QLD jersey, I believe he has improved substantially since that time. Last series, he looked nervous - as though he didn?t know if he could match it. He has now had experience in big games and big arenas. He now knows that he deserves to be in this quality of football. This will only help his football and the QLD side
8. Steve Price
Steve Price has been going well for the Warriors. While the team seems inconsistent, you can always be assured Price will be giving 110%. He loves this Maroon jersey and in big matches he always takes his game to another level and I expect the same thing this time around. He?ll be the pivotal go forward player and his experience will help the younger forwards playing their debut Origin series.
9. Cameron Smith
Cameron Smith has yet again taken his game to another level this year. Melbourne?s perennial rise over the last month and a half is predominately on the back of his and Inglis?s good work and vision during play. His in-field kicking will be a prominent feature of his game this series as well as his dummy half running and ability to sniff out a weakness. I believe this will be the series where Smith stamps his authority on Origin.
10. Petero Civoniceiva
While Petero is the veteran of the team, it won?t be a tag that sits kindly with the giant from Brisbane. He had an indifferent start to the season but gradually he began to regain form. He, along with Webcke, has laid a solid foundation for Brisbane with tremendous go forward and tenacity in defence. Both Civoniceiva and Price will be crucial in leading the way and setting a good example for the younger players in the team.
11. Matthew Scott
What a year it has been for Matthew Scott, not even the barnstorming prop himself could imagine the great start to the season he has had. Scott has proven he could not only fill the void left by Paul Rauhihi, but improve the team. His hard running, strong defence and great mental application to the game have paved the way for his debut in Origin.
12. David Stagg
I was a firm believer Stagg should have been selected last season as I believe he was playing better football last season. When viewing his selection I thought maybe I would rather an impact player such as Canberra?s Tom Learoyd-Lars but then you have to think of the role the player will have in the game. QLD will most definitely use both Johnson and Stagg for the entire 80 minutes, allowing a solid rotation policy with the other three forwards. Stagg?s selection is overdue and I hope he can cement his spot for future Origin series.
13. Dallas Johnson
Do my eyes deceive me? Where is TBA! On a serious note, Dallas Johnson?s selection is a year overdue. The tenacious lock has once again been in brilliant form for Melbourne and finally he has been rewarded with selection. I?d expect Dallas to play the entire 80 minutes and be an integral part of Mal Meninga?s defensive structure to nullify the NSW big men.
14. Shaun Berrigan
While many may question Berrigan?s selection, he is a utility player of the highest order. He has the ability to cover centre, five-eighth, half and hooker with ease and his versatility will only be of benefit to QLD. He will rotate with Cameron Smith and later in the game possibly Johnson or Stagg should fatigue set in, allowing another dummy half runner.
15. Carl Webb
I have always been of the belief Carl Webb is a great bench impact player. With O?Meley coming off the bench for NSW, you can be sure to expect fireworks when they clash. Webb v O?Meley will be one of the highlights of the series.
16. Sam Thaiday
Playing for Toowoomba early in the season, Thaiday emerged in round 5 and six rounds later has impressed enough to secure an Origin jersey. I?m hoping he has the same hard running attitude in origin that he has shown so far this season.
17. Nate Myles
Nate Myles?s selection may have come as a shock to some, but I have been a tremendous supporter of his. He is exactly the type of forward Origin needs and will provide great impact off the bench with penetrating runs and bone shattering defence.