The NRL takes a break for Representative Round, with State of Origin taking centre stage for both the women and men’s teams. The women do battle on the Sunshine Coast on Friday in their one-game battle for rugby league supremacy, while the men play Game II of their series at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday.
Can the Queensland women win back-to-back titles and can the men send their series to a decider in Sydney?
Jump ahead to a particular game.
Women’s Maroons vs. Blues
Maroons vs. Blues
Friday, June 25
Queensland Maroons vs. New South Wales Women, Sunshine Coast Stadium, Sunshine Coast, 7:45pm (AEST)
Maroons: 1. Tamika Upton 2. Shenae Ciesiolka 3. Lauren Brown 4. Julia Robinson 5. Karina Brown 6. Tarryn Aiken 7. Zahara Temara 8. Chelsea Lenarduzzi 9. Destiny Brill 10. Shannon Mato 11. Tazmin Gray 12. Tiana Raftstrand-Smith 13. Ali Brigginshaw (c) Bench: 14. Romy Teitzel 15. Natassja Purontakanen 16. Shaniah Power 17. Brianna Clark Reserves: 18. Tallisha Harden 19. Rona Peters
Blues: 1. Botille Vette-Welsh 2. Yasmin Meakes 3. Jess Sergis 4. Isabelle Kelly 5. Tiana Penitani 6. Corban Baxter 7. Maddie Studdon 8. Simaima Taufa 9. Keeley Davis 10. Millie Boyle 11. Kezie Apps (c) 12. Sarah Togatuki 13. Hannah Southwell Bench: 14. Quincy Dodd 15. Filomina Hanisi 16. Kennedy Cherrington 17. Holli Wheeler Reserves: 18. Brydie Parker 19. Renee Targett
Verdict: Queensland are looking to win back-to-back State of Origin titles for the first time ever as they host the Blues on the Sunshine Coast. The well-favoured Maroons will run out behind their inspirational leader Ali Brigginshaw, with a squad that features 15 players who helped lift the Origin shield last year. Brigginshaw will again play at lock, making way for Nellie Doherty medallist Tarryn Aiken to start at No.6 alongside Zahara Temara. The Blues, meanwhile, will be fired up to avenge last year’s slip – which was their first interstate loss to Queensland since 2015. Queensland may just have the edge at home, with a strong core of premiership-winning Broncos players leading the way.
Tip: Queensland by 10
Sunday, June 27
Queensland Maroons vs. New South Wales Blues, Suncorp Stadium, 7:50pm (AEST)
Maroons: 1. Reece Walsh 2. Valentine Holmes 3. Kurt Capewell 4. Dane Gagai 5. Kyle Feldt 6. Cameron Munster 7. Daly Cherry-Evans (c) 8. Christian Welch 9. Andrew McCullough 10. Josh Papali 11. Jai Arrow 12. Felise Kaufusi 13. Tino Fa’asuamaleaui. Bench: 14. Ben Hunt 15. Moeaki Fotuaika 16. David Fifita 17. Frank Molo Reserves: 18. Coen Hess 19. Ronaldo Mulitalo.
Blues: 1. James Tedesco 2. Brian To’o 3. Latrell Mitchell 4. Tom Trbojevic 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Jarome Luai 7. Nathan Cleary 8. Daniel Saifiti 9. Damien Cook 10. Junior Paulo 11. Cameron Murray 12. Tariq Sims 13. Isaah Yeo Bench: 14. Jack Wighton 15. Angus Crichton 16. Payne Haas 17. Liam Martin Reserves: 18. Api Koroisau 19. Campbell Graham 20. Dale Finucane
Verdict: Game I came as a bit of shock to everyone, really. Plenty were predicting a New South Wales victory — they did look the stronger team on paper — but no one really expected the blow-out scoreline. Now the Maroons have their backs to the wall for this must-win Game II. And so, they have the Blues exactly where they want them, full of confidence and tainted by the slightest tinge of cockiness. With the Suncorp Stadium crowd roaring for Blues blood, this has all the ingredients of a classic Queensland ambush, or does it?
What might be missing is the pick and stick, solid Queensland line-up; players who might appear inferior on paper, but have grown accustomed to standing side by side in the trenches. The Maroons have made five changes to the side which lost so painfully in Townsville. They have boosted their forward pack by bringing Josh Papalii straight back from suspension. Next to him they have turned to Andrew McCullough at hooker, thanks to Harry Grant’s hamstring injury. They have dropped winger Xavier Coates and moved Valentine Holmes into his position, while handing the very inexperienced Reece Walsh his debut jersey at fullback. Onto the bench comes Francis Molo and Ben Hunt pulls on the familiar No. 14 jersey. Even Queensland realise a 50-6 thumping requires some personnel adjustment.
Will those changes be enough though, particularly in the backs where Dane Gagai and Kurt Capewell still face the enormous task of marking the dynamic duo of Latrell Mitchell and Tom Trbojevic? If New South Wales can start strongly through the forwards again and make few errors, they will once again turn to their superior backline to carve the Maroons up. Queensland will be calling on every ounce of their fabled spirit, but it won’t be enough, especially with Penrith pair Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai growing in confidence with every appearance. This should not be another blow-out, but you’d have to be brave, a Queenslander, or both, to predict otherwise.
Tip: Blues by 18
All odds correct at time of publication. Check tab.com.au for the latest.