New South Wales have made two 11th hour changes to their start 13 ahead of tonight’s State of Origin opener in Sydney.
The State of Origin series opener kicks off tonight at Sydney Olympic Park, with the New South Wales Blues looking to defend their title.
The Queensland Maroons will be desperate to get their 2022 campaign off to a good start after last year’s shellacking.
80,000 fans are expected to walk through the gates for tonight’s sold-out event.
Stream the FOX LEAGUE State of Origin Game 1 REPLAY on Kayo with no ads while playing. Both full and abbreviated reruns available from 11pm Wednesday. New to Kayo? Try now for 14 days for free.
Blues makes two late changes
NSW Blues coach Brad Fittler took some last minute shocks before game one, and no, it had nothing to do with Stephen Crichton or Jack Wighton.
All week rumors had circulated that Panthers center Stephen Crichton, who was named in the 14 jersey, would move to the starting side, while Raiders would shift five eighths Wighton from center to the utility role.
But the Blues coach has thrown a curveball that few have looked for when he revealed two changes to his starting 13.
Eels prop Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Panthers back rower Liam Martin have been parachuted from the starting side.
Campbell-Gillard replaces club mate Junior Paulo, while Martin was traded for Rabbitohs skipper Cameron Murray.
Meanwhile, Queensland national team manager Billy Slater has confirmed there will be no changes on the side of the Maroons.
Queensland’s illegal act caught
The Maroons were in trouble before they even left their hotel.
As revealed by Channel 9’s Peter Fagan, a parking inspector from the city of Parramatta was seen marking the tires of the Queensland team bus on Wednesday afternoon and taking photos of the vehicle.
The bus was reportedly in a 15-minute zone and the Maroons were able to accommodate a parking violation.
It has never been so clear that all of New South Wales is against the Maroons tonight.
Gould’s Tweet Makes Fans Angry
In a disappointing revelation, Channel 9 pundit Phil Gould has confirmed on Twitter that he will not be performing his famous “Final Word” gee-up before kick-off.
“It’s going to be a smashing match. Don’t miss it,” he tweeted.
And to make matters worse, legendary commentator Ray Warren – aka the Voice of Rugby League – won’t be behind the mic tonight after announcing his retirement last week.
Mathew Thompson will be commentating his first State of Origin game in place of Warren.
When and where is it?
The series kicks off on Wednesday, June 8 at the Accor Stadium in Sydney.
How to watch?
You can watch the match live on Channel 9. The broadcast will start at 7pm (AEST) and post-match coverage will run until approximately 11pm.
You can then watch a replay of the match on Kayo from 11 p.m.
What time is the kick-off?
Kick-off is scheduled for 8:10 p.m. (AEST). However, as fans are well aware, the actual start time of any Origin game changes to a match of kick-off bingo, so it may be a little later than the scheduled time.
Blues: 1. James Tedesco 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 16. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 12. Tariq Sims 15. Liam Martin 13. Isaah Yeo 10. Junior Paulo 11. Cameron Murray 14. Stephen Crichton 17. Ryan Matterson. 18th man: 18. Nicho Hynes
Coach: Brad Fittler
Maroons: 1. Kalyn Ponga 2. Selwyn Cobbo 3. Valentine Holmes 4. Dane Gagai 5. Xavier Coates 6. Cameron Munster 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 8. Tino Fa’asuamaleaui 9. Ben Hunt 10. Josh Papalii’i 11. Kurt Capewell 12. Felise Kaufusi 13. Reuben Cotter 14. Harry Grant 15. Lindsay Collins 16. Patrick Carrigan 17. Jeremiah Nanai. 18th man: 19. Jai Arrow
Coach: Billy Slater
Fans are starting to pour in
Coach selection interview questioned
Former QLD Maroons hardman Corey Parker has been confused by Brad Fittler’s decision to start Stephen Crichton on the bench for the series opener.
Fittler chose to go with Jack Wighton in the middle on the premiership-winning outer back.
Many thought the call could be a smokescreen and lead to a belated change, but Blues advisor Greg Alexander, however, stopped those rumors.
“Jack will start in the centers,” Alexander said on the Fox League podcast.
“Those rumors have been circulating since the side was announced, but Jack will start in the centers.”
Former Knights player Alex McKinnon supported Fittler’s decision to go with Wighton.
“I love it,” he said.
“Jack Wighton is a player I would have on my team any week. Any Origin (side) I would pick would definitely be in it.
“He’s tough, he’s sincere, he competes, he’s a good ball runner and in the middle he defends in that position as a half anyway, so it’s not really much of a difference.
“I think it’s a big question for Crichton to debut in Origin at center left. Dane Gagai, who he will be up against, is a very experienced player and I don’t think I’ve ever seen him play a bad game for Queensland.
“It’s all about kick-chasing, fighting and carrying from your own side. I think Jack Wighton does that really well. He’s such a strong body, he’s physical and he’s a bit older.”
Parker, however, was not in the mood for it.
“I kind of agree… He’s a great player, Crichton, I really do,” he said.
“I just don’t see the value of a rookie – especially an outsider – sitting on the couch for that long and expending that nervous energy (and) how it’s going to be positive.
“Jack is Jack and he can play anywhere, but I don’t see Stephen Crichton going in at fullback when things don’t go well – it just doesn’t happen – because that’s even more pressure. Interesting to watch.”
“I think it’s a safe decision from Freddy,” McKinnon replied before answering Queensland’s “risky” call to pick 20-year-old Selwyn Cobb, who has played just 19 NRL games.
“If you look at Queensland, they picked Cobbo on the wing. He was incredible to start the season – I think that’s a huge call as well.
“I think he will blow them apart on Wednesday night, really I think he will be incredible. Corey Oates was probably one of the wingers of the league this year.”