For the first time in 18 years, the focus now shifts south to the MCG for Game 2. Being home to one of the most successful NRL clubs in recent history, the code’s premier product has been played in Melbourne on seven occasions. Four State of Origin games were played in Victoria during the 1990s – the first at Olympic Park in 1990 before a trio of contests at the MCG. That included a State of Origin record crowd of 87,161 for Game 2 in 1995, which Queensland won 20-12. Three more games were played under the roof at Etihad Stadium in 2006, 2009 and 2012, with the Maroons winning all three to take their record in Melbourne to 4-3.
There’s a stack of upside for the Blues heading into Game 2. They are all the rage with seven times the cash invested on the Blues to square the series. The rookies have a game under their belts while last year’s player of the series and NSW skipper, Paul Gallen, returns along with as well as Kangaroos winger Brett Morris, who was also sorely missed in the opening loss. Their inclusions mean Josh Jackson reverts to the bench and Andrew Fifita and Daniel Tupou have been omitted. Under-fire halves Mitch Pearce and Trent Hodkinson copped more than their share of criticism after the
Game 1 loss and will be better for having an extra camp to build on their combination.
It’s been all smooth sailing for the Maroons, aside from a knee injury ruling Cooper Cronk out of the side for this match-up in his current hometown, with Manly halfback Daly Cherry-Evans coming in as a straight swap in the only change to Mal Meninga’s side. What Queensland lose in experience and polish with Cronk out, they gain in unpredictability and game-breaking power with Cherry-Evans. Cherry-Evans, perhaps more than any other playmaker in the game right now with the possible exception of his Game 2 halves partner Johnathan Thurston, can break a game wide open with a single step. The Blues again represent solid value in what looms as another low scoring grind.
Our say – New South Wales +3.5 v Queensland
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