New South Wales vs Queensland
Blues: 1. James Tedesco 2. Daniel Tupo 3. Clint Gutherson 4. Jack Wighton 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Cody Walker 7. Nathan Cleary 8. Daniel Saifiti 9. Damien Cook 10. Payne Haas 11. Angus Crichton 12. Tyson Frizell 13. Jake Trbojevic Interchange: 14. Dale Finucane, 15. Junior Paulo, 16. Nathan Brown, 17. Isaah Yeo
The Blues lacked enthusiasm and execution in game 1 and were victims to the old ‘ambush’ despite leading 10-0 at half time. It looked as if the Maroons wanted it more, which is why they came back to win. On paper, the Blues had a vastly more experienced and talented side and I think that will shine through in game II. Cody Walker has been rewarded for his good form at the back end of the season and might prove to be a more compatible option for Nathan Cleary, who can take full control of the side. James Tedesco takes the reins as captain after Boyd Cordiner has been ruled out due to a head knock. The Blues have the home field advantage and they’ll be desperate to level the series, but in order to do so, they need to be more ruthless against this young, injury ravaged Queensland side.
Maroons: 1. Valentine Holmes 2. Xavier Coates 3. Kurt Capewell 4. Dane Gagai 5. Phillip Sami 6. Cameron Munster 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 8. Dunamis Lui 9. Jake Friend 10. Josh Papalii 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Jadyn Su’A 13. Tino Faasuamaleaui Interchange: 14. Ben Hunt, 15. Lindsay Collins, 16. Jai Arrow, 17. Moeaki Fotuaika
The Maroons welcome back Val Holmes from suspension but the injury curse continues with livewire fullback AJ Brimson ruled out for the rest of the series and game 1 hero Kurt Capewell in doubt for game II. Selectors have added some punch to forward pack with Dunamis Lui set to partner his Raiders teammate Josh Papalii in the starting front row and Titans young gun Moe Fotuaika will add energy from the bench. I have no doubt Bennett will have his young side up for this game and they’re a real chance of taking out the series before heading home to Suncorp Stadium for game III, but when you consider the gap in experience and raw talent, it’s hard to bet against the Blues. Munster and Papalii are the obvious keys to victory for the Maroons, and Ben Hunt will have to repeat and perhaps exceed the impact he had off the bench in game 1.
NEW SOUTH WALES by 8 (Series 1-1)
Feature Photo: Wikimedia Commons/MasterMind5991