June 4, 2013
Mark Kolbe/Getty Images
It's the most important rivalry in domestic Australian rugby—the Queensland Maroons taking on the New South Wales Blues in the State of Origin.
The three-match series, comprised of players returning to the state where they performed in their first senior leagues, is one of the biggest sporting events in Australia, period. And it's one that has been dominated by the Maroons, who have seven consecutive victories in the rivalry.
With this year's series getting underway on Wednesday, let's break down the first match.
When: June 5, 2013 at 6 a.m. ET
Where: ANZ Stadium, Sydney, Australia
Teams: Queensland Maroons versus New South Wales Blues
History: In 94 matches, the Maroons have won 49, the Blues 43 and two have been draws. In 31 full series, the Maroons have won 17, the Blues 12 and two have draws.
You could make the argument that the Maroons have four of the top talents in all of rugby at their respective positions. They have Billy Slater at fullback, Greg Inglis manning centre, Jonathon Thurston at the five-eighth and the skipper, Cameron Smith, holding down hooker.
Of course, Cooper Cronk at halfback is no slouch himself.
Inglis is the man to watch, however, as Ben Blaschke of NRL.com noted:
The Greg Inglis factor looms large on the minds of every man that coaches against him and rest assured Laurie Daley will have spent hours staring at his name on the Queensland team sheet.
Inglis' form in the No.1 jersey for Souths this season has been so good that there was serious discussion about the possibility of him replacing Billy Slater as Maroons fullback – a proposition that would have been deemed laughable not so long ago. Inglis has averaged 173 metres, scored 11 tries and made 65 tackle-breaks this season at the back but as NSW knows all too well he has been just as effective in the centres for Queensland in the past.
Notably Inglis is State of Origin's all-time leading try scorer – with 14 tries from 18 appearances.
But don't sleep on a very strong Blues' side. Led by captain Paul Gallen, a team that includes James Tamou, Greg Bird, Anthony Watmough, Mitchell Pearce and Robbie Farah is one to be feared.
The Maroons hold a slight edge in the back three, where the trio of Slater, Darius Boyd and Brent Tate are nothing short of brilliant, while Inglis and Justin Hodges should give Queensland an advantage at centre as well.
And the Maroons appear to be hold the advantage with a strong pair of halves in Thurston and Cronk as well.
But the Blues show their strength on the back row, where Ryan Hoffman, Luke Lewis and Bird must be dominant.
The Maroons' lineup has remained a bit more consistent, yes, but these are two very even sides, and most supporters of the Blues will be quick to point out that their squad was this close to ending Queensland's recent stranglehold on the rivalry last year.
While it is hard to pick against Queensland, it's even harder to predict a loss for NSW in front of their home fans at ANZ Stadium. This one will be tight as always, with the Blues opening the proceedings with a 16-12 win.
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