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State of Origin I - Player by
Player by Player analysis for the Queensland and New South Wales sides to play in Wednesday night's opening Rugby League State of Origin game at the rejuvenated Lang Park, aka Suncorp Stadium.
1. Darren Lockyer (Brisbane) Age: 26 Hgt: 178cm Wgt: 86kg Origins: 13 Tests: 16. The player NSW fears most. Dangerous kick returner and solid defender rated among world's best players.
2. Shannon Hegarty (Sydney Roosters) Age: 23 Hgt: 184cm Wgt: 87kg Origins: 0 Tests: 0. Won a late call up when Robbie O'Davis withdrew with injury. Loves to get in to dummy half and take on the defence.
3. Brent Tate (Brisbane) Age: 21 Hgt: 186cm Wgt: 89kg Origins: 1 Tests: 2. Went from fringe Brisbane player to Test centre last season. Has great pace and balance. One of the Broncos' best this season.
4. Justin Hodges (Sydney Roosters) Age: 21 Hgt: 190cm Wgt: 98kg Origins: 1 Tests: 0. Has bounced back from a woeful Origin debut last season to become the best centre in the National Rugby League. Big, strong and cocky.
5. Matt Sing (North Queensland Cowboys) Age: 28 Hgt: 183cm Wgt: 86kg Origins: 15 Tests: 4. Big, strong and fast, invariably beats the first tackler. Also has a penchant for saving tries with desperate defence.
6. Ben Ikin (Brisbane) Age: 26 Hgt: 185cm Wgt: 96kg Origins: 14 Tests: 2. Has come a long way since making his Origin debut for the Maroons in 1995 as an 18-year-old. His kicking game and direction will be vital.
7. Shaun Berrigan (Brisbane) Age: 24 Hgt: 178cm Wgt: 87kg Origins: 3 Tests: 0. Not your traditional halfback but is strong and loves to take on the line. Will never die wondering. A real competitor.
8. Shane Webcke (Brisbane) Age: 28 Hgt: 183cm Wgt: 112kg Origins: 15 Tests: 8. The world's best prop hasn't been in the best of form, but is starting to hit his straps. Has never let Queensland down.
9. PJ Marsh (NZ Warriors) Age: 23 Hgt: 174cm Wgt: 80kg Origins: 2 Tests: 0. A revelation since heading across the Tasman, Marsh can tear the opposition apart out of dummy half. Can also sting in defence, one of the biggest improvements in his game.
10. Petero Civoniceva (Brisbane) Age: 27 Hgt: 193cm Wgt: 110kg Origins: 5 Tests: 5. Rescued his starting spot with good form in recent weeks. A real athlete who can inflict damage with and without the football.
11. Gorden Tallis (captain, Brisbane) Age: 29 Hgt: 189cm Wgt: 104kg Origins: 14 Tests: 7. Entering the twilight of his career, but remains one of the most intimidating players in the game. Loves playing for the Maroons.
12. Dane Carlaw (Brisbane) Age: 23 Hgt: 192cm Wgt: 107kg Origins: 3 Tests: 5. Showed his athleticism in scoring the decisive try in game three of last year's series. Will be used as a wide-running forward to give the Blues plenty of headaches.
13. Tonie Carroll (Brisbane) Age: 27 Hgt: 186cm Wgt: 103kg Origins: 8 Tests: 5. Returned to Brisbane this year after a stint with Leeds in England. Enjoying a new lease on life in the back row after making his name as a centre.
14. Steven Price (Bulldogs) Age: 29 Hgt: 193cm Wgt: 101kg Origins: 10 Tests: 3. Has been the form front rower in the NRL and unlucky not to make the starting side...again. Has a motor that never stops.
15. Chris Flannery (Sydney Roosters) Age: 23 Hgt: 185cm Wgt: 85kg Origins: 1 Tests: 0. A genuine utility player, can fit in anywhere in the backline or back row. Gives coach Wayne Bennett plenty of options off the bench.
16. Andrew Gee (Brisbane) Age: 33 Hgt: 183cm Wgt: 106kg Origins: 15 Tests: 0. Hard-nosed veteran was a surprise selection, but is the sort of uncompromising character who thrives in Origin football. Won't take a backward step - dislocated a finger in Game III last year, then popped it back in and made the next tackle.
17. Paul Bowman (North Queensland) Age: 27 Hgt: 186cm Wgt: 98kg Origins: 6 Tests: 0. One of the best defensive centres in the NRL, Bowman is expected to spend time in the forwards in Origin I. Never lets the Maroons down.
Coach: Wayne Bennett Origin record: 10 wins, 8 losses, 1 draw. Series wins: 4 - 1987, 1988, 1998, 2001. Regarded as the best coach in the game after 16 years at the helm of Brisbane where he's coached more than 400 first grade games and won five premierships. A man of few words, he commands utmost loyalty from his players, invariably extracts the best from them and remains a confidant beyond their playing careers.
NEW SOUTH WALES
1. Anthony Minichiello (Sydney Roosters) Age: 23 Hgt: 180cm Wgt: 82kg Origins: 0 Tests: 0. A revelation for the Roosters since moving to fullback in the pre-season. Dangerous kick returner but there are question marks over his ability under the high ball.
2. Timana Tahu (Newcastle) Age: 22 Hgt: 188cm Wgt: 92kg Origins: 3 Tests: 2. Tahu struggled for form early in the season, but was back to his best two weeks ago. A freakish talent who forms a deadly combination with Matthew Gidley.
3. Matthew Gidley (Newcastle) Age: 25 Hgt: 185cm Wgt: 95kg Origins: 4 Tests: 10. Experienced centre who knows all about playing representative football. Watch for his trademark one-handed flick pass to set Tahu clear.
4. Jamie Lyon (Parramatta) Age: 21 Hgt: 183cm Wgt: 97kg Origins: 2 Tests: 4. One of the few Parramatta players to maintain his reputation this season. Has made a strong return from a badly broken leg last season and his match-up with Tate and Hodges should be a beauty.
5. Michael DeVere (Brisbane) Age: 26 Hgt: 186cm Wgt: 96kg Origins: 1 Tests: 0. As reliable as a Swiss watch. Plays in the centres with Brisbane but has experience on the wing and won't let anyone down.
6. Shaun Timmins (St George Illawarra) Age: 26 Hgt: 184cm Wgt: 97kg Origins: 4 Tests: 4. Those in the know claim Timmins is made for Origin but he's in an unfamiliar position at five eighth. One of the best defenders in rugby league and always gives his all.
7. Andrew Johns (captain, Newcastle) Age: 29 Hgt: 179cm Wgt: 89kg Origins: 18 Tests: 17. The world's best player hasn't had the best start to the season, but he looks ready to explode in Origin. Has it all - peerless passing game, accurate kicking game, strong defence and a brilliant running game.
8. Robbie Kearns (Melbourne) Age: 31 Hgt: 185cm Wgt: 101kg Origins: 5 Tests: 10. On the wrong side of 30 but has been in great form for the Storm. Has been nominated the Blues' forward captain and won't back down.
9. Danny Buderus (Newcastle) Age: 25 Hgt: 178cm Wgt: 91kg Origins: 3 Tests: 7. Held his position despite a push for Craig Wing. A crafty character out of dummy half and his combination with Johns will have to be watched.
10. Jason Ryles (St George Illawarra) Age: 24 Hgt: 194cm Wgt: 113kg Origins: 1 Tests: 4. Will be essential if the NSW forwards are to get on top of the Maroons pack. A genuine intimidator with an aggressive streak. Queensland will try to play on that and draw penalties.
11. Craig Fitzgibbon (Sydney Roosters) Age: 25 Hgt: 190cm Wgt: 97kg Origins: 0 Tests: 1. Just keeps getting better as a player. Played for Australia against New Zealand last year and has maintained that form to force his way into Origin.
12. Ben Kennedy (Newcastle) Age: 29 Hgt: 188cm Wgt: 103kg Origins: 7 Tests: 4. NSW's answer to Gorden Tallis, had to pass a fitness test to play. Regarded as one of the best back rowers in the world. Will terrorise Queensland's outside backs.
13. Luke Ricketson (Sydney Roosters) Age: 30 Hgt: 190cm Wgt: 102kg Origins: 7 Tests: 0. Does the dirty work few notice and there's no doubting his value to the Blues. Will get through a mountain of tackling.
14. Luke Bailey (St George Illawarra) Age: 23 Hgt: 189cm Wgt: 108kg Origins: 3 Tests: 0. A real find last season, Bailey is one of the few front rowers in the NRL able to play the full 80 minutes.
15. Craig Wing (Sydney Roosters) Age: 23 Hgt: 180cm Wgt: 86kg Origins: 0 Tests: 1. A gamebreaker off the bench. Has brilliant acceleration and will prey on the tired Queensland forwards. Needs to be watched.
16. Josh Perry (Newcastle Knights) Age: 22 Hgt: 187cm Wgt: 110kg Origins: 0 Tests: 0. No-nonsense front rower from the old school. Has the size and strength to play Origin but faces a baptism of fire from the experienced Maroons.
17. Phil Bailey (Cronulla Sharks) Age: 23 Hgt: 188cm Wgt: 101kg Origins: 0 Tests: 0. Blues bolter has been getting raps all week for the way he's slipped into Origin. A former junior Kangaroo, Bailey is finally reaching his potential after injuries derailed the early part of his career.
Coach: Phil Gould Origin record: 10 wins, 7 losses, 1 draw. Series wins: 4 - 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996. Returned to Origin arena last year only to be frustrated by the drawn third game which saw the Maroons keep the shield. His preparation this series has been blighted by clashes with the media and criticism from former players. Regarded as a master motivator and tactician as well as a savvy media operator. Likely to quit Origin at the end of this series.