NSW have rung the changes to the back line in particular. Injuries to Bird and Wallace have opened the door for the Roosters duo of Anasta and Pearce. Jarryd Hayne makes his return from injury and the injury to Mark Gasnier has opened the door for Joel Monaghan, a player who most believed should have been given a shot to fill Hayne's wing spot in game two.
In the forwards the return of Ben Cross is the only real change to game two's much maligned forward pack.
On the Queensland side, no change has been made to the team that decimated the Blues at Suncorp in game II 30-0.
Much talk is made of the Queensland side and its all international back line. However, running down the team sheets, much of their edge appears to be in the forwards. With the steadiest front row in the game: Price and Civoniceva, Queensland seem to have a real edge in this department. NSW countering with the often missing Willie Mason and Brett White - about whom the Professors jury is definitely out after game II. Until this morning,I had yet to read anything sensible out of the mouth/pen of Gorden Tallis, however his comments regarding the ability of Mason to go missing for extended periods when his side is in trouble is a valid point. Contrasting this to workhorses Civoniceva and Price and you see the problem that NSW could face if down early.
The back row is a decided advantage for NSW with Fitzgibbon, Hoffman, Laffranchi and Gallen and the potentially explosive play of Tupou.
Queensland may have one of the best paper combinations of halves seen at this level, and a trio of explosive men outside them in Slater, Inglis and Folau, however the combinations may not work at this level if Queensland are unable to establish the forward momentum that game II offered. NSW look steady in the backs with a pair of fine defensive centres and a potential future superstar in Pearce.
One area where NSW seem to have dropped the ball at the selection table is with automatic selection Kurt Gidley. In game I, Ben Hornby provided spark and utility value that was discarded with the return of Gidley. Gidley plays because he can cover myriad positions - 1,6,7 and 9. Hornby on the other hand plays 1,6,7, and 9 and can ably fill in in the centres. This is debatable, but the Professor would argue that Hornby plays ALL of these positions with more vigour than Gidley.
Tomorrow night marks the end of the Origin road for Danny Buderus. It is hoped that the often missing superstar Mason plays with a little more vigour based on that fact. I thought that Buderus had gone on for a season too long at this level but I was mistaken. Next year, I hope that one of the games most underrated players - Michael Ennis - gets his shot at Origin. Though it is almost certain that the selectors will pick the mercurial Robbie Farah.
This game could go either way. If Queensland win, I predict a cricket score, but if NSW win it will have to be a grind. The heart suggests $40 on NSW by 1-12 @ 3.55 and $5 each on Magic Monners to score first and last @$13 and @$14.
Enjoy the game!