Wednesday night (June 9) will see Game 1 of the 2021 rugby league State Of Origin series take place at the brand new Queensland Country Bank Stadium in Townsville.
The game was originally scheduled to be played at the famous Melbourne Cricket Ground but with the garden city currently going through its fourth lockdown owing to COVID-19, the National Rugby League in its wisdom has elected to move the match to sunny, far north Queensland.
Queensland has dominated ‘Origin’ in recent times, claiming the trophy on 12 occasions in the past 15 years, including 2020, when the Wayne Bennett-coached team recorded an upset 2-1 series win.
For the first time in history, last year’s series was held at the end of the regular season owing to COVID and for many NRL followers it was an underwhelming experience, with both states missing key personnel at the time of the year when the players are usually on overseas vacations and most fans are thinking more about the beach and the cricket than the footy.
However, the return to the traditional winter timeslot has brought about renewed anticipation, particularly with regard to the new-look New South Wales Blues team, which is dominated by players from the Penrith Panthers, who are undefeated in 12 NRL games this season.
An unusual feature of the Blues’ backline is that it boasts three of the game’s best fullbacks, but with superstars Latrell Mitchell and Tom ‘Turbo’ Trbojevic having to settle for the two centre three-quarter positions, as champion custodian and NSW skipper James Tedesco was handed the prized number one jersey.
The selection of two of these three stars out of position is unlikely to unsettle the Blues, as Mitchell has extensive experience in the centres, while Trbojevic is in electrifying form and has shown in the past that he can play any position in the outside backs.
Not surprisingly, price assessors have installed New South Wales as warm favourites for game one, especially with the withdrawal last Wednesday of gun Queensland fullback Kalyn Ponga – while injury clouds also surround champion pivot Cameron Munster and rising star hooker Harry Grant.
Both Munster and Grant are expected to start Wednesday night’s game but whether they will see out the 80 minutes is problematical.
The decision by the NRL to move the venue of the game from Melbourne to Townsville has created a lot of controversy, especially amongst the NSW supporters.
In recent years, NSW and Queensland have been allocated one Origin game apiece, with the other game being played in ‘neutral’ cities such as Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide.
The last time one of the ‘Origin states’ hosted two of the three games was in 2017 when Queensland won the series.
The announcement that Melbourne’s seven day lockdown has been further extended fully vindicates the NRL’s decision to move the game interstate - and a lucrative multimillion dollar offer from the Queensland Government to the NRL for the game to be hosted in the Sunshine State sweetened the deal for the game’s governing body.
Of course, the fact that the Maroons will host two of the three matches gives them a perceived advantage, much to the chagrin of many NSW fans.
Veteran media man, Danny Weidler, Channel Nine News’ rugby league reporter and a columnist in Sydney’s The Sun Herald, has been a vocal critic of the decision to move the game to Queensland.
“State Of Origin has always been about Queensland and this is just another example of it,” an angry Weidler told Sky Sports Radio’s The Big Sports Breakfast.
- For the best radio coverage of this year’s State Of Origin series, be sure to tune into the 2GB Continuous Call Team on 873AM.
- Australia’s best known and most successful radio broadcaster Ray Hadley makes his return to the sporting commentary microphone every year during Origin and here’s hoping that Ray will be calling New South Wales home as three-nil winners of the series.
- Over the past nine months, Yes I Can Project Group – Sydney’s most innovative bathroom renovation company – has been a major advertiser with Radio 2GB and especially The Ray Hadley Morning Show.
- We are proud to be associated with Ray Hadley, who is an absolute icon in Australian radio, having won an unprecedented 132 consecutive ratings surveys.
*** CAPTION: Winners can laugh….members of the Queensland State Of Origin team after being crowned winners of the 2020 series. Photo credit thenewdaily.com