Kevin Walters and Brad Fittler have announced their squads for game 1 of this years Rugby League State of Origin series.
While there were no real surprises, some players can consider themselves very lucky.
While Nathan Cleary has not been in good form this year, three of the form halves didn’t fare well due to injuries.
So with Luke Keary, Mitchell Pearce and Adam Reynolds struggling with fitness, it seems that Nathan Cleary did a “Stephen Bradbury”, being the last man standing.
So, I hear you ask, who’s going to win this years series?
Well, Mr Sport has dusted off his crystal ball, studied the form and come up with a winner.
You may recall that last year I based my pick based on the number of players in each team coming from the leading teams and teams from the bottom of the ladder.
This year I have come up with a formula where each player is given points based on where their own team is on the ladder right now.
You get 4 points if your team is in the top 4, 3 points for teams 5-8, 2 points for teams 9-12 with 1 point for the bottom 4 teams.
It is well known that the spine of the team, the 1, 6, 7 and 9 are vital to a team’s chance of winning — so I doubled their points.
As the other starting players will likely spend more time on the paddock, I give these players a 50 per cent bonus, while the bench players get the base points only.
Based on my formula, NSW gets 79.5 while Qld gets 67.
The NSW spine winds up with 26 compared to 22 for Qld.
My prediction is therefore that NSW will win the series.
To test my theory, I did the sums on game 1 for the 2016, 2017 and 2018 series.
In 2016, NSW got 67 points (24 for the spine), while Qld got 89 (32 for the spine).
Queensland won that series 2-1.
In 2017, NSW got 72.5 points (22 for the spine) while Qld got 89 (32 for the spine).
Queensland won that series 2-1.
Last year, NSW got 84.5 points (30 for the spine) while Qld got 62 (20 for the spine).
NSW won that series 2-1.
It’s no coincidence that teams with an inform spine have won the last three series
While NSW are a bit weaker than last year, with two of our big forwards — Vaughan and Frizell — coming from the lowly placed Dragons, and our key half coming from the struggling Panthers — the formline tells me that NSW will win a close fought contest 2-1.
The big difference could be the brilliant form of Damien Cook.
If he continues his form, it could be enough to get NSW over the line.
It will a huge boost to NSW having the club combination of both Cody Walker and Cameron Murray running off Cook.
For that reason, Cook is my tip for Man of the Series.
In the backs, NSW have genuine try scorers in Latrell Mitchell, Josh Ado-Carr and Cody Walker.
I’m not sure that Walker will have the same opportunities at Origin level as he does at club level, so I’ll tip Ado-Carr as my top try scorer.
As long as Cleary plays all three games, he should be the high scorer, but if Walker does have a big game one, and Cleary is a bit quiet, Fittler may bring in Luke Keary or Adam Reynolds for game two or three.
Well, there are my tips for State of Origin.
Go the Blues!
And remember, there’s no such thing as too much sport.
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