Though this is a rivalry like no other, parity is an element entirely absent from the State of Origin these days. With Queensland approaching the 2018 series on the back of eleven wins in the last twelve, all the smart money is on another triumph for the Maroons. However, with Queensland getting just one 3-0 whitewash in that time (in 2010), New South Wales – victorious as recently as 2014 – can never be underestimated.
This year heralds one significant change for NSW, with Brad Fittler replacing Laurie Daley, leading to an upsurge in punters utilising 100% matched bonuses for State of Origin games through Oddschecker. Some are of the opinion that Daley kept his post for too long, to the detriment of those under his management.
Others merely believe that his squad could not match Queensland, but regardless of where an NSW fan stands on Fittler’s appointment, there is the ever-growing belief that his experience of man-management is more relevant than that of his predecessor, when the character of the dressing room is accounted for.
Though history is firmly on the side of a Queensland team again coached by Kevin Walters for this series, there is no doubt that the absence of talismanic duo Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk can only hinder the Maroons. Last year, a 22-6 victory for Queensland over NSW proved to be the decisive factor, with Valentine Holmes scoring three tries.
Though it was a performance that merely served to underline Queensland’s psychological monopoly over the series, it was a win preceded by much in the way of evidence favouring NSW. The Blues were rampant in Brisbane for Game One of last year’s series, strolling to a 28-4 win, before losing narrowly (18-16) with a late Thurston conversion settling matters.
On the evidence of last year, everything is to play for – and more, where NSW is concerned. The new Fittler regime has proved to be an uncompromising one, with a reported ban on mobile phone communication just one of several ways Fittler is attempting to focus the minds of his squad, so that their bodies may follow.
The Blues’ base of operations is, once more, the coastal area of Coogee. It has proven to be highly productive in the past, and with a good range of terrains on which to train, Fittler clearly knows and respects the traditions of NSW.
Current odds concerning the upcoming State of Origin series indicate that NSW are favoured despite history being against them, but there is little to choose between the sides.