State Of Origin Game One:
Queensland Maroons vs NSW Blues
Wednesday, 06 June 2018, 8.00pm AEST
Stadium: Melbourne Cricket Ground
New South Wales’ new era under legendary former player Brad Fittler begins with a reshaped Blues side.
Eleven debutants have been named in Fittler’s game one squad, including Melbourne Storm winger Josh Addo-Carr.
Kevin Walters’ Queensland, the dominant force in Origin over the past decade, are also in a transition period.
Cameron Smith, Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk have retired from representative football, while full-back Billy Slater is injured.
Walters, therefore, has been forced to make sweeping changes, including debutant Brisbane Broncos hooker Andrew McCullough, while exciting Newcastle utility back Kalyn Ponga is on an extended bench.
With one series defeat in Origin since 2007, Queensland have dominated the competition, and that influential spine of Smith, Cronk, Thurston and Slater was a key factor.
Their big game experience, coupled with outstanding rugby league talent, gave the Maroons a formidable base upon which to build.
However, with the heart of the side now gone, Walters has rebuilt those core combinations.
Ben Hunt – revitalised at the St George Illawarra Dragons alongside England playmaker Gareth Widdop – partners Melbourne Storm talent Cameron Munster in the halves, while North Queensland Cowboys’ Michael Morgan drops back to his old full-back role to deputise for Slater.
The return of talismanic outside-back Greg Inglis, and with the captaincy, is another boost, after he missed the 2017 series through injury.
Off the bench there is untested talent in back-rowers Coen Hess and Jai Arrow – a hint of the Maroons’ future forward muscle.
Fittler’s appointment last winter brought to an end Laurie Daley’s five-year spell in charge of New South Wales, which despite a 2014 series win failed to match the heights of his playing career in Origin football.
The 46-year-old, still revered for his feats as a player, has been bold in his bid to overturn the Blues’ fortunes as regulars such as prop Aaron Woods and winger Blake Ferguson have been omitted in favour of new faces.