The highlight of the rugby league schedule returns, with the best of the game ready to return to hostilities.
As is the case almost every year, the Blues should start favorites, but that doesn’t matter once the whistle is blown.
With doubts over some key Maroons players, experts at NRL.com have had their say in who they think will emerge victorious in Origin’s first game played in Townsville.
Expert advice – who will win Origin I
Steve Renouf (legend of the Maroons)
Following the series victory last year, Queensland is set to claim another victory. NSW looks like it’s team form on paper, but as long as we can get our big guys on the pitch, spring can lead them to a win. Chestnuts by 10
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Brett Kimmorley (former half try)
NSW’s five full-backs will be amazing, just like they’ve all been in club football so far this year. Add to that the excellent combinations that Nathan Cleary will have with Jarome Luai and Isaah Yeo. Blues by 4
They have points in the baseline and their attackers will match them with the Maroons pack. If Jarome Luai and Nathan Cleary get the chance to show what they can do, NSW will win. Blues by 8
Robbie Farah (The Tigers of the West are awesome)
The X factor from the NSW backline will prove the difference. Tedesco, Trbojevic, To’o, Addo-Carr and Latrell are all the winners of the match. If they click on NSW, they will get a lot of points. Blue by 10
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The game may have moved to Queensland, but NSW will always win. With the best matches in the competition at the heart of the team, NSW breathes talent into the backbone. Their attackers will lead the way. Blues by 8
Brad Walter (NRL.com Senior Reporter)
This is one of the most exciting NSW teams I can remember, with wide hitters, forwards on the ball and the NRL half-form combination calling the shots. Brad Fittler also made sure the Blues had enough versatility to cover for any player’s loss to injury or sin. Blue by 14
Paul Suttor (editor NRL.com)
The atmosphere in Townsville will be intense – this might be the one time Origin comes to North Queensland and the locals laugh at it enough to last a lifetime. Much will depend on Cameron Munster’s availability, but it looks like he will play and he proved last year that he has the seriousness to lead Queensland to victory. Chestnuts by 8
Alicia Newton (NRL.com reporter)
A dry Townsville track will suit the Blues, who started off with a very quick attacking pack and a bench that looks a lot more dangerous than the Maroons. Blues by 8.
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Paul Zalunardo (senior reporter NRL.com)
Queensland won last year and they have a stronger squad this year – provided Munster, Ponga and Grant are all in good shape. Despite Josh Papalii’s absence, they seem to have an advantage over forwards and this is where Origin matches are won and lost. Chestnuts by 4
Dan Walsh (NRL.com reporter)
The Blues simply covered Queensland for points across the park with ball play ability throughout the front pack and Trbojevic, Mitchell and Tedesco punching weapons to largely capitalize. Blues by 8
NSW has a superior baseline, so a dry track in Townsville helps their cause. The Blues’ offense is led by top player in the game Nathan Cleary and his combination with the Panthers Jarome Luai, Isaah Yeo and Brian To’o will see NSW reap the rewards. Blues by 8
Chris Kennedy (NRL.com reporter)
A wave of injuries and suspensions affecting both teams makes it very difficult to choose, but with the Panthers playmaking trio in-form Nathan Cleary, Jarome Luai and Isaah Yeo calling the shots, NSW should get the job done. Blue by 10
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Troy Whittaker (NRL.com reporter)
Brad Fittler analyzed exactly where the Blues fell short last year and picked a team to rectify that. Skill doesn’t always come out on top – as we saw in 2020 – but NSW should have too much punching power. Blues by 12
Les Bleus are deserved favorites but there’s plenty of reason to suspect this one will be close. NSW have the best team on paper but they did last year and they lost. I’ll tip the Penrith suit to prove the difference. Blues by 1
Martin Lenehan (senior reporter NRL.com)
The Panthers are the hottest team in the NRL at a hundred miles and having five of their big guns gives NSW a clear advantage in terms of confidence and combinations. The return of Latrell Mitchell and Tom Trbojevic makes NSW much more powerful than it was in 2020. Blue by 10
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The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the NRL, the ARL Commission, NRL clubs or state associations.