NSW Blues should win in enemy territory

GOOD MOVE: Laurie Daley welcomes the selection of Jarome Luai at five-eighth outside his Panthers club halfback Nathan Cleary. Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

GOOD MOVE: Laurie Daley welcomes the selection of Jarome Luai at five-eighth outside his Panthers club halfback Nathan Cleary. Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

It's not ideal from a NSW perspective having to play Origin I in Townsville but I'm still expecting the Blues to get the job done and go one up in the series on Wednesday night.

I like the NSW squad.

Given the players that weren't available, I think Brad Fittler has come up with a quality line-up with few, if any, real surprises.

I love the selection of Jarome Luai at five-eighth outside his Panthers club halfback Nathan Cleary.

We've been told the Origin games are going to be refereed the same as club footy and will be open and free-flowing and that will suit the way Luai plays.

I'm a fan of the Blues' frontrow rotation.

I think the likes of Daniel Saifiti, Payne Haas, Jake Trbojevic and Junior Paulo can look after the middle of the park and keep us on the front foot and open up the game for the likes of Damien Cook, James Tedesco and the halves.

If there is a question mark over our side, it's in the back row, with so many options not available.

No Cordner, no Frizell, no Crighton or Radley there but there is nothing wrong with Isaah Yeo's form for Penrith and Tariq Sims never lets anyone down at this level.

I'm a huge fan of Cameron Murray as well, even though he doesn't play a whole lot on the edge for Souths. He runs a good line, is skillful with the footy and has an off-load in him which makes him really dangerous the way the game is being played now.

For mine, the Blues also have the game's three most in-form players in Tedesco, Cleary and Tom Trbojevic.

I'm intrigued at how Freddy plans to use Tommy Turbo. He's been picked in the centres but I'd like to see him given a roving commission like he was a couple of seasons ago at this level. A double threat with him and Teddy coming at Queensland all over the field will give the Maroons nightmares.

The other reason I like the Blues is the doubts in the Queensland squad over the fitness of Cameron Munster and Harry Grant, who haven't played for a number of weeks, and the fact Kalyn Ponga won't be there.

Ponga is a huge out in my opinion.

Valentine Holmes will do a good job back there at fullback but when it comes to creativity and coming up with opportunities for himself and the players around him in attack, he is not at Ponga's level and doesn't represent the same threat.

Munster is a wonderful player and so too is Grant but are they going to be cherry ripe as far as fitness goes for the fastest, most open Origin game that we have ever seen? I'm not so sure they will be.

Is going to Townsville fair given Queensland will also host game two in the series?

Probably not, but we are in COVID times, so you have to make sacrifices. I also don't see Townsville as the same advantage for the Maroons as Suncorp. We'll get a fast, dry track up there and I think that will favour the Blues.

As for the rules crackdown, it's pretty simple for the players - don't tackle high and you won't get binned.

Discipline will be paramount for both teams because if you lose a player for 10 minutes, you will be made to pay.

The same goes with set restarts.

If one team gets on a roll through weight of possession, it's harder now to wrestle back the momentum when you are doing a lot of the defending.

It will be a great contest and a game I'm really looking forward to like every year.

Hopefully, the Blues can get up and we can go to Brisbane one up in the series with all the pressure on Queensland then to respond.

The matches

TIGERS v PANTHERS

If the Tigers are ever going to beat the Panthers, it's in this game at Leichhardt Oval.

Penrith has been decimated by Origin and rightly so because all the players chosen for the Blues and Maroons have thoroughly deserved their selection.

But it leaves them vulnerable given the quality of who they have out, headed by their main man in Nathan Cleary. Matt Burton has been in really good form but there is a lot resting on his shoulders playing halfback in this one.

The Tigers were good again last weekend but their form is still very unreliable, which doesn't give me a whole lot of confidence in this one. My tip: Tigers

STORM v TITANS

Another game where Melbourne will just keep doing what they do best - be consistent and win. It is so ingrained in the Storm that it doesn't matter who they are playing without, they just continue to deliver.

Nico Hynes has been a revelation over the past month and they still have the likes of Brandon Smith, Jahrome Hughes, the Bromwich brothers, big Nelson Asofa Solomona and Dale Finucane to lead the charge.

The Titans, well, they have been dreadful away from home on most occasions this season and with some big outs in the forwards, I can't see them matching it with the Storm. My tip: Storm.

KNIGHTS v EELS

The Knights have been decimated by injury, suspension and Origin and on paper, it's difficult to see them even get close to the Eels in this one. But they will be buoyed by their gutsy win over Manly and it's Old Boys' Day up there, so their young blokes will lift, I'm sure.

For the Eels, they have to emerge from their mid-season slumber.

They have been off the pace over the past couple of weeks and need to get their mojo back.

Having Dylan Brown back will help at five-eighth but it's their pack who will need to lead the way in this one. My tip: Eels