We've made it to Origin week, with Game I set to kick off on Wednesday night in front of an enthusiastic and largely blue crowd at Sydney's Accor Stadium. Coaches Billy Slater and Brad Fittler are up against each other for the first time, with both already making some selection statements.
Which state will come out on top at the end of the always gruelling, always intense, 80 minutes?
Wednesday, June 8
New South Wales: 1. James Tedesco (c) 2. Brian To'o 3. Kotoni Staggs 4. Jack Wighton 5. Daniel Tupou 6. Jarome Luai 7. Nathan Cleary 8. Payne Haas 9. Damien Cook 10. Junior Paulo 11. Cameron Murray 12. Tariq Sims 13. Isaah Yeo Interchange: 14. Stephen Crichton 15. Liam Martin 16. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 17. Ryan Matterson
Queensland: 1. Kalyn Ponga 2. Selwyn Cobbo 3. Valentine Holmes 4. Dane Gagai 5. Xavier Coates 6. Cameron Munster 7. Daly Cherry-Evans (c) 8. Tino Fa'asuamaleaui 9. Ben Hunt 10. Josh Papalii 11. Kurt Capewell 12. Felise Kaufusi 13. Reuben Cotter Interchange: 14. Harry Grant 15. Lindsay Collins 16. Pat Carrigan 17. Jeremiah Nanai
Verdict: Queensland will be hoping new coach Billy Slater can bestow on the players some of the magic he possessed during his time in the No.1 jersey. He has Cameron Smith and Johnathan Thurston as his assistants, so the Maroons certainly won't lack any inspiration or experience from the coaching team. They enter this series having lost three of the last four, something unfamiliar to their coaches and indeed the whole state in more recent times.
The Queensland halves pairing of Daly Cherry-Evans and Cameron Munster contains both experience and brilliance and centres Dane Gagai and Valentine Holmes have both been in sparkling club form this season.
The old adage of forwards winning big matches is never truer than in State of Origin clashes. Tino Fa'asuamaleaui joins veteran Josh Papalii in the Queensland front row and they'll have to get the better of Blues props Payne Haas and Junior Paulo if Queensland are to have any hope of winning this one.
New South Wales have only won four out of the last 16 series, and the hunger to even those numbers up is still very strong within the Blues camp. Coach Brad Fittler has made a couple of worrying decisions at the selection table, leaving Josh Addo-Carr out of the side and selecting Stephen Crichton at No.14, while naming Jack Wighton in the centres. The Blues will also have to overcome the loss of two of the most influential players from last year in Tom Trbojevic and Latrell Mitchell.
The big advantage for the Blues comes from their scrum-base combination of red-hot Panthers Isaah Yeo, Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai. Together with captain James Tedesco, who is back to some of his best form of late, the Blues should be able to take a 1-0 lead in the series. If there is one thing State of Origin history has taught us though it's that you can never write off the Maroons and they would love nothing more than to spring another upset.
Tip: Blues by 6
All odds correct at time of publication. Check tab.com.au for the latest.