Cooper Cronk during a Queensland training session.
Cooper Cronk during a Queensland training session. DAVE HUNT

Origin III: the key match-ups that will decide the series

HALVES (James Maloney/Mitchell Pearce v Cooper Cronk/Cameron Munster)

Elkerton: There is something almost primitive about the connection between James Maloney and Mitchell Pearce. It is instinctive. A bond forged in the fiery sun of Bondi, the halves pairing have won a competition together before and are beginning to carve out their own spot in Origin history. Pearce is at last translating his mammoth club form to the Origin arena and it is paying off in spades.

McInerney: You get the sense Cameron Munster is in an unforgivable position leading up to his State of Origin debut. Win and Munster is the answer to Queenslanders' prayers. Lose and his selection will be questioned until the end of his career. Queensland must capitalise on his club combination with Cooper Cronk or Munster could become our Mitchell Pearce.

 

Maroons debutant Ben Hunt during a Queensland team training session.
Maroons debutant Ben Hunt during a Queensland team training session. DAVE HUNT

BENCH UTILITIES (Jack Bird v Ben Hunt)

Elkerton: Jack Bird is the Swiss army knife of the NRL. The Sharks star has the ability to play any position from the backline to the back row while also managing to come up with the big plays to get his side out of trouble. He has been kept relatively quiet in the first two Origin outings and will be looking for a big game to stamp his own legacy.

McInerney: Ben Hunt will forever be lambasted as the man who dropped a premiership but the Brisbane Bronco may be in his element here. Hunt has played 66 of his 176 NRL games from the bench, and has started games at halfback, five-eighth and hooker. Should injury claim a playmaker, Hunt has the experience and playing style to cover most positions.

 

Jarryd Hayne trains with the Blues at Cudgen.
Jarryd Hayne trains with the Blues at Cudgen. DAVE HUNT

CENTRES (Jarryd Hayne v Michael Morgan)

Elkerton: Jarryd Hayne is quickly becoming the king of the phrase "rocks or diamonds". The former NRL-turned-NFL-turned-rugby sevens dream machine was unstoppable in the first Origin clash but it was akin to watching park footy in his second stint in sky blue this year. It is a problem he has faced at the Titans all year and will need to be on song to take advantage of an out-of-position Michael Morgan tonight.

McInerney: Michael Morgan faces an uphill battle trying to contain one of the most electric men in the NRL. Hayne's multi-sport background has made him a much more dangerous foe, and if Morgan's inexperience in the position is exposed you'd expect the Gold Coast Titan to run riot.

 

Maroons coach Kevin Walters.
Maroons coach Kevin Walters. GLENN HUNT

COACHES (Laurie Daley v Kevin Walters)

Elkerton: It has been a welcome experience watching NSW pick and stick. While some selections were questionable heading into game one, they paid off big time for the Blues. But come the end of Origin II there was the chance for selectors to hit the panic button. Luckily sense has prevailed and it appears our ability to stay the same was just the change NSW needed.

McInerney: Queensland finds itself in the extremely rare position of the being responsible for more player changes in a series. Kevvie Walters and co were forced to make a injury-induced changes, as well as gamble on some of the younger stars. It might be unfamiliar territory but regardless of this result the future looks bright for the Maroons.

 

Boyd Cordner looks on during a New South Wales State of Origin team training session at Cudgen.
Boyd Cordner looks on during a New South Wales State of Origin team training session at Cudgen. DAVE HUNT

CAPTAINS (Boyd Cordner v Cam Smith)

Elkerton: Despite it being only his first series as NSW Blues captain, fans would not be remiss to think Boyd Cordner has been at the helm for a decade. A lack of club captaincy has not deterred the Blues leader as he has been gallant in his efforts to lead from the front. Cordner has a hell of a lot of ticker, and has proven he can clash shoulders with the best of them.

McInerney: Cameron Smith has been there, done it, written the book and commissioned nine reprints. The future Immortal has featured in every Origin series since 2003, and is gunning for an 11th State of Origin series win. He leads by example; he is one of the men his team looks to if in need of a big play, is one of the game's top tacklers, and is the blueprint of the perfect leader.

News Corp Australia


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