Sky Blues look to bounce back on enemy soil to begin 2024

Embed from Getty Images
Queensland (W) v New South Wales (W) Thursday 7:45pm at Suncorp Stadium, Milton / Yuggera-Turrbal

Our first look at State of Origin in 2024 is upon us, with the first match of the Women's State of Origin series set to get underway to kick off Magic Round.

This year the game has finally caught up with the times and expanded the series to the same 3 games their male counterparts get, meaning no longer will we have to decide series based on aggregate scorelines (we're not like the sokkah).

Queensland are the reigning champions and in true Queensland fashion have stuck loyal to last year's squad. Of the 18 players who featured in the two game series, 15 will play in Game 1. Lauren Brown is one new face after her breakout campaign with the Titans in the most recent NRLW campaign, while Makenzie Weale has been added to the bench in jersey number 20 after Keilee Joseph was withdrawn due to a knee injury.

NSW meanwhile have opted for experience in this year's squad, with Corban Baxter earning a recall at five eighth after two years in the Origin wilderness. Rachel Pearson has won the race for the halfback jersey after being replaced by Jesse Southwell in Game 2 last season. Debuts have also been handed to Olivia Higgins and Grace Kemp, while Caitlan Johnson has also earned a recall.

The Maroons won last year's series on aggregate, with both sides winning a game but the Maroons holding the superior final scoreline of 32-28. Curiously both sides claimed their win in the away fixture, a stat that could embolden the Sky Blues as they head to Suncorp Stadium.

Last meeting: Series 2023 - Maroons 14 Sky Blues 18

Who to watch:

All eyes will be on Queensland's fullback and the reigning Dally M Medalist Tamika Upton. The 27 year old was brilliant in the series last year with a try and try assist to go along with almost 140 metres a game, and then carried that form into the NRLW as the leagues most dominant player in a near-unstoppable Knights side. Upton has also been in brilliant form to start the season in a disappointing Capras outfit in the BMD premiership, with three tries and two try assists in 7 matches.

Five-eighth Tarryn Aiken is also set to have all eyes on her after her string performance for the Maroons last year led to a dominant NRLW campaign with the Roosters. She was also brilliant in her short BMD Premiership stint with Tweed, scoring 5 tries in just four games. If Queensland get the best version of Aiken in this one, they could be close to unstoppable.

For NSW, the buck will start and end with Millie Boyle. The Roosters front rower is as big a weapon to her side as Payne Haas is for their male counterparts. And if the Sky Blues win this game, it has to come through dominating the middle of the field.

But it will need to be the Sky Blues captain Isabelle Kelly who leads the team to victory. Kelly has been nothing short of phenomenal in her Origin career to date, and will need to continue to be heading into her 9th season as a member of the NSW squad. She will also want to avoid a third successive series defeat.

The favourite: Queensland have been made the clear favourites in this one.

My tip: Even though the Sky Blues were able to win the game in Queensland last year, the odds of them repeating the task are stacked against them. Queensland by 8.

1. Tamika Upton 2. Julia Robinson 3. Shenae Ciesiolka 4. Evania Pelite 5. Emily Bass 6. Tarryn Aiken 7. Zahara Temara 8. Shannon Mato 9. Destiny Brill 10. Jessika Elliston 11. Tazmin Gray 12. Romy Teitzel 13. Ali Brigginshaw 14. Emma Manzelmann 20. Makenzie Weale 16. Sophie Holyman 17. Lauren Brown 18. Sienna Lofipo

1. Emma Tonegato 2. Jaime Chapman 3. Jessica Sergis 4. Isabelle Kelly 5. Tiana Penitani 6. Corban Baxter 7. Rachael Pearson 8. Millie Elliott 9. Olivia Higgins 10. Caitlan Johnston 11. Kezie Apps 12. Yasmin Clydsdale 15. Olivia Kernick 13. Keeley Davis 14. Taliah Fuimaono 16. Grace Kemp 17. Sarah Togatuki 18. Jakiya Whitfeld

Follow all the action LIVE in our Match Centre