Maroons Origin combos remains streets ahead of Blues
FOUR Queensland players have won more Origin series than NSW captain Paul Gallen has won Origin matches.
That statistic alone sums up the mountain the Blues must climb in Origin 1 in Sydney on Wednesday night.
Gallen, the most successful of the NSW players in terms of victories, has won eight of his 21 Origin matches.
But Johnathan Thurston, Greg Inglis, Cameron Smith and Nate Myles have played in the nine winning series by the Maroons in the past 10 years.
This highlights a problem NSW continues to have and that is the remarkable continuity of personnel this Queensland side has maintained over the past decade.
When the Maroons train it is like a club side coming together in many ways.
The combinations in the key positions are stable, the attacking moves are as finely tuned as a Ferrari, the defensive patterns established and trusted and the camaraderie runs deep.
When Smith passes the ball to his halves Cooper Cronk or Thurston it sets in motion a myriad of possibilities that unfurl like clockwork.
The Blues on the other hand will have Robbie Farah handing it over to James Maloney or Adam Reynolds. That trio will play together for the first time in an Origin match.
They have a week to fine tune what their opponents have mastered for a decade.
The NSW selectors have chosen well with Maloney. He's in-form, didn't go too bad at all in 2013 when he last played Origin and is a tough customer.
Reynolds has a wonderful kicking game and is also a brave little man who will take the line on.
But you have to wonder how clunky the Blues attacking combinations will be after such a short period of time to prepare.
With the halves combinations changing so frequently they have to reinvent their plays over and over.
The pressure to get it right is enormous of course. NSW lose this first game and they are facing almost certain oblivion at Lang Park in Game Two.
It is the pressure on the Blues' defensive line that will be immense.
Origin is played at a faster pace than a club game and when you look back at some of Queensland's best tries of the past decade what stands out is the timing and speed of the interchange of passing.
Cronk and Thurston passes hit their mark. The likes of Inglis and Darius Boyd know exactly where to be and before NSW knows it they are through a hole and in to score.
The Blues will have done plenty of video work on the Maroons' playbook but knowing what is coming and stopping it are two different things.
I expect Inglis to have a massive game at left centre and to terrorise the Blues' right side defence, as Origin's leading try scorer has done so many times in the past.
The forward battle could well be evenly matched but a major issue for NSW will be their number 14, Dylan Walker.
This is a selection hard to fathom on any level. Walker has been fair to middling at best for Manly at five-eighth and had a far better game when he was moved to centre in his last match.
But what is he on the bench for? He is no dummy half and the only impact I can see him having is if one of the NSW centres gets injured early.
The Maroons on the other hand have Michael Morgan on the bench who is in-form and can play as a half/centre or, as he did last year, give real impetus in the middle as a defacto back-rower.
He is big, strong and quick and has a great understanding with his fellow Cowboys in the side. Bring him on and he can create havoc just about anywhere on the park.
I see Walker as nothing more than a passenger, and you can't carry passengers in Origin if you expect to win.