THREE weeks have passed since the first Origin encounter of 2006 and it has been one busy and interesting little period. Let?s take a look at Wednesday?s match-up.Queensland?s WaterlooAfter more than 25 years of war the Maroons are in an unfamiliar position. Their coach is declaring that should they lose this year?s series, the entire fate of Origin football is at stake. This makes Mal Meninga not too dissimilar from Napoleon.Big Mal has rallied his troops, the Grand Armee, into war after a period of exodus on a remote Mediterranean island. But I fear he has injected the Old Guard into proceedings a little too early. The criticisms of the Queensland team have been widespread so I thought I might as well add my two cents worth.Firstly, they went out of their way to pick a young back row in the first game upon the understanding that they would develop and mature in their exposure to Origin football. So, why on earth would you drop fit, young men for Tonie Carroll and Chris Flannery? Carroll was coming back from injury when facing the Warriors, in which he was subsequently injured again, and Flanno has done nothing but tape up his shoes all year and run out onto the field.Next they decide to drop Bowen because they think Hunt will be a better custodian. Not sure what the story is there, but I doubt Hunt is up to Origin football, and Bowen?s attack will be sorely missed.Then there?s the real joker in the pack: Adam Mogg. He?s been playing well all year for the Raiders but surely he must have thought someone was pulling his leg when the Queensland selectors picked him to cover the loss of Greg Inglis. Anyone for Wesser, Schifcofske, Bowen?A few things I think the Maroon selectors have picked right is the choice of Storm three-quater Steve Bell at centre in this match. He will be dangerous when given the ball and can also defend well out wide. Carl Webb?s presence in the run-on side should also provide some much needed mongrel. The Maroon?s desperately require someone who can unleash a bit of pain at the drop of a hat and he?s just the man to do it.Looking at their bench though, it would have to be one of the most ineffective of all time. Thaiday may provide some impact if used correctly in this game, but the rest of reserves are a bit strange if you ask me. Why would you pick Lillyman ahead of the dumped Scott or Stagg? He?s only had 3 first grade games this year?is it to save face? And I?m still unsure of Shaun Berrigan?s role in match, he did very little in Game I.New South Wales?s Desert Storm 2Graham Murray will stride out into the lush surroundings of Suncorp Stadium with one mission in mind ? destroy the Maroons. The Blues know they have weapons of mass destruction hidden somewhere, they?re just been unable to find them over the past three series.With only one change to their line-up it?s hard to see New South Wales struggling for cohesion in this contest. Luke O?Donnell has been forced out with a hand injury making way for the ever-reliable Luke Bailey to come onto the bench.It?s never easy winning at the ground formerly known as Lang Park and I think that the Blues have a sound opportunity to wrap-up the series in style, disappointing all those fans in Victoria who are hoping for a decider in the Southern Capital.Hindmarsh and Buderus will provide the Blues with lots of go-forward and if they can distribute the ball to their backs, Gasnier, Tahu, Grothe and King will have a field day.The DecisionWhen all is said and done Origin football is a very different beast in reality than on face value. Queensland only lost by one point last game but I think it should have been by plenty more. But that won?t affect the Maroons, they?re happy to be under-dogs and will thrive on the pressure placed on NSW to win the series outright.Plus, most people think that there should always be a decider and sometime these things will themselves to happen. I?m bucking the trend though, I think New South Wales will win by 4 points and carry the shield off home south of the border.
FRIDAY, 16th June 2006Brisbane v St George Illawarra at Suncorp Stadium, 7.30pmBroncos: Karmichael Hunt, Tame Tupou, Justin Hodges, Brent Tate, Darius Boyd, Darren Lockyer (c), Shane Perry, Shane Webcke, Shaun Berrigan, Petero Civoniceva, Dane Carlaw, Corey Parker, David StaggInterchange: Brad Thorn, Ben Hannant, Sam Thaiday, Ian Lacey, Greg Eastwood, Casey McGuire, Brett Seymour (three to be omitted)Dragons: Clint Greenshields, Colin Best, Mark Gasnier, Matt Cooper, Brett Morris, Ben Hornby (c), Matthew Head, Luke Bailey, Dean Young, Justin Poore, Sam Isemonger, Ben Creagh, Matt BickerstaffInterchange: Michael Henderson, Jason Ryles, Danny Wicks, Aaron GorrellReferee: Tony ArcherSaturday, 17th June 2006Wests v Sydney at Telstra Stadium, 5.30pmTigers: Brett Hodgson (c), Taniela Tuiaki, Dean Collis, Shane Elford, Michael Crockett, Benji Marshall, Scott Prince, Ryan O'Hara, Robbie Farah, John Skandalis, Anthony Laffranchi, Todd Payten, Jamaal LolesiInterchange: Shannon McDonnell, Chris Heighington, Bryce Gibbs, Ben Galea, Keith GallowayRoosters: Shaun Foley, Amos Roberts, Ryan Cross, Iosia Soliola, Vince Mellars, Braith Anasta, Brett Finch, Adrian Morley, Craig Wing, David Shillington, Anthony Tupou, Craig Fitzgibbon (c), Chris FlanneryInterchange: Ashley Harrison, Shane Shackleton, Heath L'estrange, Charles TongaReferee: Gavin BadgerCronulla v Manly at Toyota Park, 7.30pmSharks: David Simmons, Darren Albert, Nigel Vagana, Phil Bailey, Luke Covell, Brett Kearney, Brett Kimmorley, James Stosic, Kevin Kingston, Luke Douglas, Lance Thompson, Greg Bird, Paul GallenInterchange: Hutch Maiava, Matt Hilder, Reece Williams, Beau ScottSea Eagles: Brett Stewart, Michael Robertson, Steve Bell, Steve Matai, Chris Hicks, Travis Burns, Matt Orford, Kylie Leuluai, Michael Monaghan, Brent Kite, Steve Menzies, Anthony Watmough, Ben Kennedy (c)Interchange: Shane Dunley, Luke Williamson, Jason King, Mark Bryant, George RoseReferee: Sean HampsteadParramatta v South Sydney at Parramatta Stadium, 7.30pmEels: Wade Mckinnon, Jarryd Hayne, Brett Delaney, Timana Tahu, Eric Grothe, John Morris, Tim Smith, Nathan Cayless (c), Mark Riddell, Fuifui Moimoi, Nathan Hindmarsh, Chad Robinson, Glenn MorrisonInterchange: PJ Marsh, Dean Widders, Daniel Wagon, Michael VellaRabbitohs: David Peachey, Nathan Merritt, Todd Polglase, Luke MacDougall, Paul Mellor, John Sutton, Ben Walker, Peter Cusack (c), Shane Walker, Manase Manuokafoa, David Fa'alogo, Mark Minichiello, Shane RigonInterchange: Jaiman Lowe, Joe Lichaa, Ben Rogers, Shannan McPherson, Michael Greenfield (one to be omitted)Referee: Russell SmithSunday, 18th June 2006New Zealand v Newcastle at Ericsson Stadium, 12pm (AEST)Warriors: Brent Webb, Patrick Ah Van, Tony Martin, Simon Mannering, Manu Vatuvei, Jerome Ropati, Grant Rovelli, Ruben Wiki, Nathan Fien, Steve Price (c), Awen Guttenbeil, Louis Anderson, Sione FaumuinaInterchange: Lance Hohaia, Evarn Tuimavave, Wairangi Koopu, Micheal LuckKnights: David Seage, Brian Carney, Matthew Gidley, George Carmont, Anthony Quinn, Kurt Gidley, Andrew Johns (c), Craig Smith, Danny Buderus, Josh Perry, Steve Simpson, Clint Newton, Reegan TannerInterchange: Luke Davico, Adam Woolnough, Todd Lowrie, Riley Brown, Kirk Reynoldson (one to be omitted)Referee: Jarred MaxwellMelbourne v Canberra at Olympic Park, 2.30pmStorm: Steve Turner, Matt Geyer, Matt King, Jake Webster, Chris Walker, Scott Hill, Cooper Cronk, Garret Crossman, Cameron Smith, Brett White, David Kidwell, Ryan Hoffman, Dallas JohnsonInterchange: Ian Donnelly, Jeremy Smith, Antonio Kaufusi, Nathan Friend, Adam Blair, Smith Samau, Jamie Feeney, Ben Cross. (four to be omitted)Raiders: Clinton Schifcofske (c), Craig Frawley, Phil Graham, Adam Mogg, Adrian Purtell, Todd Carney, Lincoln Withers, Michael Hodgson, Simon Woolford, Troy Thompson, Tom Learoyd-Lahrs, Jason Croker, Alan TongueInterchange: Marshall Chalk, Ben Jones, Jason Williams, Michael Weyman, Alan Rothery, Trevor Thurling (two to be omitted)Referee: Shayne HayneCanterbury v North Queensland at Carrara Stadium, 3pmBulldogs: Luke Patten, Hazem El Masri, Sonny Bill Williams, Cameron Phelps, Matt Utai, Daniel Holdsworth, Brent Sherwin, Mark O'Meley, Tony Grimaldi, Roy Asotasi, Willie Mason, Andrew Ryan (c), Reni MaituaInterchange: Daniel Irvine, Nate Myles, Chris Armit, Dallas McIlwainCowboys: Matt Bowen, Brenton Bowen, Josh Hannay, Paul Bowman, Matt Sing, Shane Muspratt, Jonathan Thurston, Shane Tronc, Aaron Payne, Carl Webb, Justin Smith, Jacob Lillyman, Travis Norton (c)Interchange: Rod Jensen, David Faiumu, Matthew Scott, Mitchell Sargent, Brett Firman (one to be omitted)Referee: TBA.The Panthers have the bye in Round 15.