Sunday 17 December 2017 / 07:49 AM

SIX UP THE MIDDLE: KEYS TO ORIGIN I

The six key facets that will determine the 2017 State of Origin opener.

Kicking

Kicking in Origin football is so much more important than it is at club level. Origin is a war of attrition that is always decided by field position. Finding clear turf is essential. Burying the opponent in the corners is necessary. Repeat sets are golden. Queensland have proven masters over the last decade but must now do so without the magic of Johnathan Thurston. If one aspect of Mitchell Pearce’s game has been maligned, it has been his appalling kicking.

Advantage: Queensland

Go-Forward

Queensland have taken a big hit to their forward stocks with Matthew Scott out for the season and Corey Parker retired. What is forgotten though is that Paul Gallen, the most effective go-forward man in Blues history, has also hung up the boots. The Blues definitely have an advantage here but perhaps not as big as most think.

Advantage: New South Wales

Organisation

Cooper Cronk is, with Johnathan Thurston, the best organiser in rugby league. He is meticulous in his preparation, clear in his thinking, precise in his communication and has the enduring respect of his teammates. Mitchell Pearce has constantly proven a strong organiser at club level but has constantly failed at Origin level.

Advantage: Queensland

Edge Defence

Series openers are typically hard-fought affairs – none of the last four have topped 20 points – with very little given away through the middle. With few points expected, one mistake or poor read could prove deadly. While Justin O’Neill’s selection has been criticised, he is a regular centre as is Will Chambers. Neither Josh Dugan or Jarryd Hayne are regular centres and are far more likely to make a costly defensive read.

Advantage: Queensland

Forward Dynamism

There is no doubt that the NSW pack offers more with the ball than Queensland’s – it is the Blues’ biggest advantage. The likes of Boyd Cordner and Tyson Frizell are excellent at busting tackles. Andrew Fifita has a quality offload. Wade Graham has one of the best passing games of any forward in the competition. If NSW are to win it will be through these players creating second-phase play and wearing the Maroons’ pack down.

Advantage: New South Wales

Rake Battle

Cameron Smith is the greatest hooker the game has ever known. He is a future Immortal, a wonderful leader and the master at both controlling tempo and taking advantage of opposition weaknesses. Nathan Peats is a debutant who has spent much of the year injured and seems unlikely to be ready to play 80 minutes at Origin level yet. There is no bigger match-up gap in this game.

Advantage: Queensland

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About the author

Nick Tedeschi

You will not find a more passionate rugby league man than Nick, whose Making The Nut column has garnered a huge cult following over the last decade. The Sydney-based raconteur co-authored The Book of NRL Lists with CBS stablemate WILL EVANS in 2014 and has penned several other books; he joined the CBS team with his weekly Six Up The Middle feature in 2016.

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