PERHAPS the only weakness you can find in Queensland’s fullback-wings combination is the fact Brent Tate, who has represented his state 15 times, is playing out of position. But he does it damn well. Billy Slater is the world’s most exciting player while Darius Boyd’s off-field reticence probably does detract from his accomplishments on the pitch, but shouldn’t. Jarryd Hayne, Brett Morris and Blake Ferguson are a far less certain commodity. Fullback is Hayne’s best position but he is playing in a poorly performed club team, Morris is a proven performer but not in the best form if his career and as debutant, there must be some uncertainty surrounding Ferguson.
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GREG Inglis is most observers’ choice as the leading player in the game today. He a brutal defender, an at-times unstoppable ball-carrier and the only possible solace the Blues can take in his presence is that he’s been at fullback for South Sydney. Apparently, he’ll pop up there at times on Wednesday. Justin Hodges admits to having considered representative retirement but will be Inglis’ centre partner at the World Cup if he doesn’t. Michael Jennings has finally found come consistency at Sydney Roosters this year and Josh Morris is an elite player – but these two aren’t quite in the same league as their opponents.
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AGAIN, despite the declarations of self-confidence from the Blues camp, the Maroons have a massive advantage on paper – and here on the internet – at the scrumbase. Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk form a double-act that stands alongside Lewis and Langer. Thurston’s slightly below average club form is the only negative. By comparison, Mitchell Pearce may have needed the positive re-enforcement of being told he had the seven shirt weeks in advance and James Maloney, like Ferguson, is a debutant with all the uncertainty that involves. Add that to the fact the Blues combination fared poorly at club level against Cronk a fortnight ago and you have a potential trumpcard for Mal Meninga’s men.
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THIS is one area where the sides seem to be level-pegging. Nate Myles was player of the series last year but his Gold Coast club-mate Greg Bird excels at this level. Ryan Hoffman is back after four years out of the interstate arena, Luke Lewis has made the most of his move to Cronulla while Brisbane captain Sam Thaiday is a passionate Origin performer and Ashley Harrison has a wonderful record in Maroon that is often undersold. These six players shape as the men who could well decide the opening match of the series. Thaiday reckons “brute force” is often the difference first up and that force will come from him and those in his position.
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