New questions linger over State of Origin

Scott Bailey and Ed Jackson
·3-min read

NSW and Queensland are preparing to take a step into the unknown on Wednesday night.

New ground, new rules, new players, less of a break between games and even a new time of year.

It's a good thing both the Blues and Maroons have been dealing with the unpredictable for bang on 40 years now.

"I can't tell you how it's going to be," NSW five-eighth Jack Wighton said.

"Origin's just its own type of game. It's its own beast. We'll know after the first game what we're in for.

"Even in a normal year, Origin's always a little bit different, isn't it? "

But as is typical of 2020, there are more mysteries than ever ahead of Wednesday night's series opener at the Adelaide Oval.

All year the NRL have been touting that games have been played at Origin-line intensity.

How the new six-again rules have NRL games with more play-the-balls, metres, offloads and ball-in-play time than is usually seen in Origin football.

So what happens when you introduce those rules to the game's elite stage?

"I don't know - that's a good question," Queensland captain Daly Cherry-Evans said.

"We're walking into the unknown a bit. We know it's Origin. We know it's going to be extremely hard.

"It always is, when it comes to Origin.

"The stakes are higher, and the players are giving, just for some reason, there's just that little bit more out there.

"With the rule changes, you'd have to think Origin is going to be tougher. The rules are going to have an impact on it."

Then there's all the other changes.

Like Origin being played later in the year, theoretically leading to less dew on the ground and more free-flowing football.

Or the youthful exuberance, with Queensland set to blood nine rookies and the 34 players across both teams having just 150 Origin games between them.

Not that rookies always find it hard going, with Queensland having taken a similar amount of first-timers into the 1995 and 2001 series and tasting success.

But regardless, it almost all points to a higher-scoring series, just like the finals series gone by where an average of 51 points were scored per game and records were broken.

"Maybe earlier on in the series, we might see some more points, but honestly, I'd be guessing," Cherry-Evans said.

"It's been a really unpredictable year when it comes to the rule changes and what impact it has on the game.

"We'll wait and see but we're hoping we can defend well, so there's not too many points."

NSW aren't so sure the new rules will bring any serious changes on the field as they go for their third straight series win.

Halfback Nathan Cleary reasons that penalties have always been at a premium in Origin.

Momentum swings have also been key, just as they were in this year's finals series.

"The Origin games I have played have been pretty free flowing," Cleary said.

"There hasn't been a lot of penalties, it's always pretty fast. So I'm expecting it to be the same.

"It's always super fast. The biggest difference (usually) is the lack of penalties, the ball is in play for so much longer.

"The things about Origin is the non-negotiables (don't change), just working hard and teamwork.

"They are always going to be tough games and close."