Paul's back again for his preview of the 2014 Origin opener.
Disclaimer: Paul is a devout New South Welshman. Queenslanders... look away.
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The 2014 State of Origin series kicks off from Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday night and right on time, Blues supporters have gone to a dark place. We are a broken, jaded, miserable pack of footy fans and have a finely tuned love/hate relationship with the greatest sporting event in Australia. There is nothing that can change that, no amount of social media fury, no argument about the team selected and no amount of alcohol. Only a miraculous series victory. Do we believe in miracles?
Blues coach Laurie Daley has essentially said that he picks his New South Wales team based on NRL form. There seems to be an inherent mistake in this philosophy. No footballer performs well in first grade without their teammates, without training with them for an entire off-season. Queensland enters this series with a team selected on character, raw skill and history - not by how many tries they scored on the Friday night before the team was selected.
Maroons coach Mal Meninga says a lot of things and they are mostly boring, so we'll ignore quoting him for the minute. Good news is that all the talking will stop at 8pm on Wednesday night for the 100th meeting between the most hated rivals in the land. What a magnificent history and a great celebration of the jewel in the crown of our code. Here's to many, many more - or until I have a myocardial infarction.
New South Wales have it all to do and are $2.80 underdogs; but they will keep it close. The Blues' best chance is their bench - Trent Merrin, Anthony Watmough and Luke Lewis will cause a stir when they finally get on the field, in the hope it brings composure back to the Blues' more inexperienced starters. Ultimately, two very physical packs will sort out the pecking order for 65 minutes and then, Queensland nudge their way ahead. Jonathan Thurston the standout, just ahead of Robbie Farah.
My tip: A field of broken dreams.
Man of the Match tip: Johnathan Thurston (Queensland)