PERTH, AUSTRALIA – JUNE 26: Angus Crichton of the Blues celebrates with Siosifa Talakai (L) and Nathan Cleary (R) after scoring a try during game two of the State of Origin series between New South Wales Blues and Queensland Maroons at Optus Stadium, on June 26, 2022, in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
With New South Wales coming into Origin Game 3 on Wednesday at $1.35 favourites, it’s fair to say that Queensland at Suncorp Stadium in a decider should be a lot shorter than $3.25.
There are some big outs from both sides, and club combinations cannot be understated. It should also be acknowledged that it’s not unusual for players to be picked out of position when their form is too good to be ignored and team depth is competitive.
Without a whole amount of confidence in getting the tip right, here are the 2022 positional head-to-heads from NRL matches and the Zero Tackle Fansided predictions for the big one!
QLD – Kalyn Ponga (12 NRL 2022 appearances): 3 tries, 6 try assists, 42 tackle breaks, 6 line breaks, 13 missed tackles, 76% tackle efficiency, average 130 running metres
NSW – James Tedesco (15 NRL 2022 appearances): 8 tries, 6 try assists, 100 tackle breaks, 11 line breaks, 19 missed tackles, 75% tackle efficiency, average 210 running metres
Fansided player with the edge: James Tedesco
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Built for the big occasions, Tedesco has the runs on the board and a less broken body at this stage of the season.
Wearing the captaincy adds another level to a player that seemingly has no higher levels to possibly reach. Ponga won’t go missing in this match, however.
Expect Kalyn to have a big second half, particularly when the stark realisation kicks in that game-breaker Cameron Munster isn’t around.
QLD – Selwyn Cobbo (14 NRL 2022 appearances): 12 tries, 1 try assist, 67 tackle breaks, 12 line breaks, 17 missed tackles, 82% tackle efficiency, average 129 running metres
NSW – Brian To’o (9 NRL 2022 appearances): 6 tries, 0 try assists, 40 tackle breaks, 7 line breaks, 4 missed tackles, 93% tackle efficiency, average 186 running metres
Fansided player with the edge: Brian To’o
A tough one to call, but To’o gets the nod over Cobbo in this department based on big-game experience.
Selwyn has the stats on his side in a break-out 2022 but it’s worth noting that To’o missed a fair chunk of the season through injury – one that he took almost no time at all to return to top form from.
Errors aren’t noted here but in general play, To’o has a bit more glue on his hands. Look for Queensland to send a bomb blitz down this side.
QLD – Valentine Holmes – primary goal kicker (15 NRL 2022 appearances): 6 tries, goal conversion rate 83%, 0 try assists, 56 tackle breaks, 6 line breaks, 31 missed tackles, 75% tackle efficiency, average 147 running metres
NSW – Matt Burton (16 NRL 2022 appearances): 3 tries, 10 try assists, 40 tackle breaks, 85% tackle efficiency, average 70 running metres
Fansided player with the edge: Valentine Holmes
Holmes has played three times as many first grade games as Burton, as has 12 Origin caps to Burton’s one.
Based on stats and experience, Holmes has the edge. Having said that, Burton was one of NSW’s best in Game 2 and has a multitude of additional strings to his bow, notably his fear-inducing kicking game, creativity, halves experience and being the current reigning Dally M 2021 Centre of the Year.
He also slots in easily to a Panthers-dominated team where he won a premiership last year. I’m tipping Burton to be player of the game.
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QLD – Dane Gagai (12 NRL 2022 appearances): 3 tries, 49 tackle breaks, 4 line breaks, 50 missed tackles, 81% tackle efficiency, average 124 running metres
NSW – Stephen Crichton (15 NRL 2022 appearances): 9 tries, 5 try assists, 32 tackle breaks, 8 line breaks, 41 missed tackles, 83% tackle efficiency, average 143 running metres
Fansided player with the edge: Stephen Crichton
In another tight contest, Crichton takes the edge due to a number of factors beyond his slight advantage in stats: he is part of the Panthers team and Origin combination, he has a number of big-time games under his belt despite a relatively short career, he knows how to find the try line and is a solid option as stand-in goal kicker.
But keep in mind that only fools write off Dane Gagai in Origin games – the Queenslander sure knows how to grow a leg when wearing Maroon.
QLD – Corey Oates (15 NRL 2022 appearances): 14 tries, 2 try assists, 55 tackle breaks, 15 line breaks, 15 missed tackles, 63% tackle efficiency, average 174 running metres
NSW – Daniel Tupou (14 NRL 2022 appearances): 8 tries, 2 try assists, 47 tackle breaks, 11 line breaks, 1 missed tackles, 79% tackle efficiency, average 163 running metres
Fansided player with the edge: Corey Oates
Two of the most consistent and physically attributed wingers in the competition across eons, Oates and Tupou are both the subject of harsh questioning from footy columnists.
But despite the other options in the position, it’s hard to go past either of them when it comes to past performances and stepping up in the big games.
Tupou is the safer of the two, but Oates is flashier and his form revival on the back of increased confidence in a team that is now competing for the title brings him into the lead here – just.
QLD – Tom Dearden (15 NRL 2022 appearances): 5 tries, 5 forced drop-outs, average 68 kick metres, 9 try assists, 7 line break assists, 90% tackle efficiency, average 86 running metres
NSW – Jerome Luai (15 NRL 2022 appearances): 6 tries, 4 forced drop-outs, average 62 kick metres, 10 try assists, 7 line break assists, 87% tackle efficiency, average 69 running metres
Fansided player with the edge: Jerome Luai
A surprise call up brings Dearden into the fold to step into the almost impossible-to-fill shoes of Cameron Munster.
Struggling to get a gig in a cellar-dwelling Broncos team, he’s found his feet alongside Chad Townsend and under Todd Payton at the high-flying Cowboys. Stats alone, these two are neck and neck in 2022.
Luai has the big games and big performances under his belt, and will be comfortable alongside halves partner Nathan Cleary in a Panthers-dominated NSW side.
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QLD – Daly Cherry Evans (14 NRL 2022 appearances): 3 tries, 17 forced drop-outs, average 454 kick metres, 11 try assists, 8 line break assists, 90% tackle efficiency, average 86 running metres
NSW – Nathan Cleary – primary goal kicker (12 NRL 2022 appearances): 2 tries, goal conversion rate 85%, 13 forced drop-outs, average 482 kick metres, 13 try assists, 10 line break assists, 85% tackle efficiency, average 95 running metres
Fansided player with the edge: Nathan Cleary
Another contender who is twice the player when wearing a rep jumper, Cherry Evans wears the (C) in the decider. But unlike James Tedesco, he has an occasional tendency to let the captaincy weigh his shoulders down instead of lifting him up.
Cleary has been the form halfback and arguably the game’s best over the past few seasons, and will feel far more comfortable with his club team mates around.
The pressure may appear to be on NSW, but it is Queensland who will feel the heat of a disappointed home crowd if they’re behind on the scoreboard at full time.
QLD – Lindsay Collins (14 NRL 2022 appearances): 0 tries, 19 tackle breaks, 9 average hit ups, 613 post-contact metres, 0 offloads, 95% tackle efficiency, average 101 running metres
NSW – Junior Paulo – (14 NRL 2022 appearances): 0 tries, 13 tackle breaks, 11 average hit ups, 750 post-contact metres, 24 offloads, 93% tackle efficiency, average 146 running metres
Fansided player with the edge: Junior Paulo
Lindsay Collins fits seamlessly into the Queensland culture and plays every game with contagious passion.
But it’s the post-contact metres and offloads that makes Junior Paulo far more dangerous in this contest.
He will be in the starting lineup this time around, so there is a possibility that his output may be affected with fatigue towards the tail-end of the game.
Collins on the other hand seems to run harder as the game grows longer. Defensively, these two both have the ability to crack in the final stanza, so keep an eye on their energy levels.
QLD – Ben Hunt (15 NRL 2022 appearances): 3 tries, 5 forced drop-outs, average 415 kick metres, 13 try assists, 11 line break assists, 75% tackle efficiency, average 98 running metres
NSW – Api Koroisau (16 NRL 2022 appearances): 3 tries, 2 forced drop-outs, average 6 kick metres, 9 try assists, 11 line break assists, 92% tackle efficiency, average 44 running metres
Fansided player with the edge: Ben Hunt
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Such as his form has shown this year, Koroisau managed to knock seasoned performer Damien Cook to the bench, bringing the element of X-factor and creativity that NSW clearly built on in Game 2.
Ben Hunt on the other hand is regularly one of the best players on the field in many creative and pressure-building departments, and that is whether his team is winning or losing. Hunt will be extremely dangerous in this decider, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he is responsible for a match-winning play.
QLD – Josh Papalii (15 NRL 2022 appearances): 2 tries, 33 tackle breaks, 11 average hit ups, 733 post-contact metres, 24 offloads, 98% tackle efficiency, average 119 running metres
NSW – Jake Trbojevic – (16 NRL 2022 appearances): 0 tries, 0 tackle breaks, 7 average hit ups, 421 post-contact metres, 1 offload, 96% tackle efficiency, average 86 running metres
Fansided player with the edge: Josh Papalii
Despite the lop-sided statistics match-up with Papalii, Jake brought a host of virtues to a lackluster NSW team to lift them to a win in Game 2. Enthusiasm, starch in defense, a wrestling ability to slow Queensland’s play the ball down and an enormous work ethic, Jake can still be the key to a side winning without being one of the competition’s form players.
Papalii has been far from his best and still dominates in the stats department, particularly taking into account Trbojevic’s 0 tackle breaks and one offload for the entire year. Both of these guys love to represent their state and are both potential game-breakers.
QLD – Kurt Capewell (12 NRL 2022 appearances): 2 tries, 3 line breaks, 1 line break assist, 5 offloads, 89% tackle efficiency, average 70 running metres
NSW – Cameron Murray – (13 NRL 2022 appearances): 3 tries, 24 tackle breaks, 10 average hit ups, 407 post-contact metres, 21 offloads, 95% tackle efficiency, average 111 running metres
Fansided player with the edge: Cameron Murray
Capewell is a good player made better when wearing Maroon but Murray dominates in the important categories in this match up, namely tackle breaks, offloads and running metres. The New South Welshman knows how to run a devastating line against a tiring defense and will likely be the bearer of a try assist or two for lucky recipients in the backline.
QLD – Jeremiah Nanai (14 NRL 2022 appearances): 12 tries, 3 line breaks, 0 line break assists, 9 offloads, 89% tackle efficiency, average 92 running metres
NSW – Liam Martin – (14 NRL 2022 appearances): 5 tries, 4 line breaks, 1 line break assist, 7 offloads, 87% tackle efficiency, average 97 running metres
Fansided player with the edge: Jeremiah Nanai
Contesting bombs, breaking tackles and running strong lines out wide are what made Liam Martin into the reliable block of granite he is today. But the edge is with Nanai, for the very attributes associated with Martin. Nanai has a few errors in him, but he also has a taste for a meat pie, particularly when it’s delivered off a bomb.
QLD – Tino Fa’asuamaleaui (15 NRL 2022 appearances): 4 tries, 32 tackle breaks, 987 post-contact metres, 14 average hit ups, 11 offloads, 93% tackle efficiency, average 149 running metres
NSW – Isaah Yeo (14 NRL 2022 appearances): 3 tries, 24 tackle breaks, 681 post-contact metres, 10 average hit ups, 6 offloads, 96% tackle efficiency, average 141 running metres
Fansided player with the edge: Tino Fa’asuamaleaui
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Arguably the lock of the year, Yeo forms an integral part of the Panthers and NSW teams as a workhorse, ball-player and staunch defender. So it is definitely a big call to give Fa’asuamaleaui the nod over him, yet the stats don’t lie.
Tino has been carrying the Titans on his back all year, so there’s a chance his stats will be irrelevant when it comes to a game where there’s talent all across the park. Yeo is the better and more important player for mine, but Tino has the edge here.
QLD – Harry Grant (Hooker); Jai Arrow (Lock, Prop); Patrick Carrigan (Lock, Prop); Tom Gilbert (Lock, Prop, Second Row)
NSW – Damien Cook (Hooker); Angus Crichton (Second Row); Jacob Saifiti (Prop); Siosifa Talakai (Centre, Second Row)
Fansided bench with the edge: Queensland
Grant and Cook almost cancel each other out, surprising bench hookers who are used to starting and playing 80 minutes. Cook has more speed and experience, but Grant has more creativity and natural ability.
Angus Crichton has had a tough year at the Roosters with glimpses of form, but cannot boast consistency in 2022. Further, for someone who loves to find the try line, he’s had quite a dry spell of late. Arrow sits in the same boat, but Carrigan has been one of Queensland’s best and looks to be a future captain of state and possibly even country.
Gilbert has been exceptional for the Cowboys, but the occasion may prove too big for him. Saifiti appears to be the Steven Bradbury of the Blues, and likely won’t play too many minutes.
Talakai was kept quiet in an acceptable Game 2, and can be a match winner, but his big performances are all limited to club land for now.
Zero Tackle Fansided big calls
Series winning team: NSW
Game 3 margin: NSW by 6 points
First try-scorer: Dane Gagai
Game 3 player of the match: Matt Burton
Player of the series: Nathan Cleary