It’s that special time of year that most NRL fans look forward to more than the Grand Final – State of Origin is back!
Queensland’s team selection has virtually gone unnoticed with all the attention surrounding Blues’ coach Laurie Daley’s halves selection. Some experts are still scratching their heads with two halfbacks being selected, however, you only need to look at number six and seven for Queensland and you’ll find two specialist halfbacks in Cooper Cronk and Jonathan Thurston.
Mitchell Pearce returns to the New South Wales side for the first time since 2013 and will be under tough scrutiny – he’s yet to win a series after three attempts.
Trent Hodkinson has been less than impressive as halfback for the Canterbury Bulldogs, but is renowned for his coolness under pressure, successful goal kicking and perhaps most importantly, his field goal strike rate.
The key question for New South Wales is whether Hodkinson can regain his State of Origin form from last year, or will Pearce have to take control if his halves partner is struggling?
Laurie Daley clearly believes size does matter, selecting an enormous bench of forwards, while Queensland coach Mal Meninga has stuck to the formula that has won the sunshine state eight of the past nine series.
State of Origin enters it’s 26th year in 2015. Queensland lead the series victory count 18 to 13, but New South Wales have recent history on their side on Wednesday, winning the past two series opening encounters.
ANZ Stadium will again be a huge advantage for the Blues, having won 15 of 22 matches at the ground. Queensland coach Mal Meninga has pointed out in several interviews this week that his team don’t play their best football in Sydney and can struggle at times on a normally wet surface.
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State of Origin betting summary
After New South Wales dominated last year’s series, they were quickly installed as favourites to go back to back in 2015. However, with the Bulldogs halves pairing of Trent Hodkinson and Josh Reynolds severely down on form, Laurie Daley has been contemplating his options for several weeks now and his final team selection has been subjected to heavy criticism.
Queensland is now dominating all the major markets, with Sportsbet.com offering the best odds for the Maroons of $1.75, while loyal New South Wales fans who are willing for an upset can get $2.53 in the head-to-head market.
Luxbet.com.au are offering the best return for punters who are keen to dabble in the margin markets.
New South Wales (1-12) $3.10
New South Wales (13+) $7.00
Queensland (1-12) $2.65
Queensland (13+) $4.50
Just remember these 1-12 and 13+ margin markets aren’t restricted, with every margin available for punters who are looking to secure better odds.
First Try Scorer
The first-try scorer markets are one of the most popular exotic options in State of Origin contests, with several players capable of crossing the white line first.
Queensland winger Darius Boyd is currently the $9.00 favourite to score the first try and rightly so after finishing off some beautiful set plays in the past couple of series. New South Wales’ and Roosters gun player Daniel Tupou is favourite for the Blues’ to score first, paying $10.00 with crownbet.com.au.
New South Wales Blues
William Hopoate $11.00 at crownbet.com.au
Michael Jennings $13.00
John Dugan $14.00
John Morris $15.00
Mitchell Pearce $21.00
Trent Hodkinson $26.00
Robbie Farah $31.00
Ryan Hoffman $31.00
Beau Scott $34.00
John Jackson $34.00
Aaron Woods $81.00
James Tamou $81.00
Greg Inglis $11.00
Billy Slater $12.00
Justin Hodges $15.00
Jonathan Thurston $19.00
Cooper Cronk $23.00
Cameron Smith $26.00
Sam Thaiday $26.00
Aidan Guerra $29.00
Corey Parker $41.00
Matthew Scott $81.00
Any player not listed $8.00
The final thought
Punters can play around with a vast array of exotic markets in this opening game and, with a wet surface expected at ANZ stadium, a safe bet would be to take either side to win with total match points being under 34.5.
Luxbet.com.au is offering $3.40 for either side to secure the win, with total game points under 34.5. New South Wales have +1.5 start.
The half and full time double always provide healthy odds for punters who don’t like margin markets and crownbet.com.au has juicy odds available for all options available. For New South Wales fans who think they can continue their outstanding record at ANZ Stadium can get $3.05 for them to lead from start to finish, while Queenslander’s who think they can do the same will secure $2.50.
Punters who believe New South Wales will lead and get run down can get very enticing odds of $6.50 and for Queensland to lead and New South Wales to produce a second-half comeback will get $7.00.
On a personal note, I’ve had great success with first-scoring play markets over the past few NRL rounds, backing either team to convert a penalty goal. Both sides are paying $8.00 with luxbet.com.au to kick a penalty goal as the first scoring play, with a New South Wales try paying $2.45, or Queensland try is $2.20.
Also providing juicy odds are the man of the match markets. Superstar Queensland play-maker Johnathan Thurston is $7.00, hooker and captain Cameron Smith is $8.00, while New South Wales captain Robbie Farah is the most favoured candidate for the Blues’ at $10.00. Another player worth noting is in-form Storm recruit Cooper Cronk, who looks very appealing at $12.00.
Much of the focus from experts has been on Queensland resurging from their first series loss since 2005, however injury clouds still hang over fullback Billy Slater and freakish back Greg Inglis.
New South Wales coaching staff will certainly be instructed to target these players, however face their own challenges with all eyes on the new halves combination of Mitchell Pearce and Trent Hodkinson.