Meninga’s 10-point plan to beating the Blues
QUEENSLAND has the team to win State of Origin I on Wednesday night - and I use that term deliberately.
As much as Origin history is littered with examples of individual brilliance that have decided matches, it has always been the team performance at the heart of every victory.
NSW have picked a very good team, no question.
But I feel like the credit due to the Maroons has been diluted somewhat because people are focusing on the players who are not there, instead of the players that are.
This Maroons team can get the job done at the MCG and these are the 10 areas I think will be the keys to Queensland's success:
1. CONTROL THE MIDDLE
Queensland's forwards need to be aggressive and work together and work for each other, making smart decisions.
The pack will decide whether Queensland win or lose.
They need to concentrate on getting numbers into the tackle - this will slow the ruck down and help negate Damien Cook's running game.
If we control the ruck through the middle, NSW become less effective out wide because they will be trying to shift the ball to the edges off a slow play the ball, giving our defence more time to get set and shut them down.
2. DEFENSIVE LINE SPEED
NSW have some big boppers, but not a lot of off-loads in them.
What that means for our defence is that we can assume NSW will be condensed in the middle of the field, looking to open up space for their quick men outside.
Our line speed has to be good out wide because they will try to use their pace on the edges.
If we get the kick-chase right and get numbers around the footy in defence, we can nullify the amount of metres their back five can make out of their own territory.
As good as their centres are in broken play, they are not know as guys who make a lot of yardage with hard carries out of their own end of the field.
We really need to get stuck into them physically on those early carries after a kick.
Whatever decision you make has to be in the best interests of the team. You can't put the team under pressure because of a bad choice.
We know the referees are looking for guys jumping out of the defensive line early, so don't get sucked in.
We should be aiming for a completion rate of around 90 per cent, because that is what the Blues will be aiming for.
5. PRESSURE ON THEIR KICKERS
They have a great kicking game in James Maloney and Nathan Cleary, but realistically they are their only real kicking options, so our defence should be on top of them at every opportunity late in the set.
6. WORK OVER THEIR CENTRES
Both Latrell Mitchell and James Roberts are very good players when their confidence is high, but if you can get to them early and force them into an error or two, they can be kept quiet.
They are vulnerable from an experience point of view.
7. NEVER SWITCH OFF
Origin requires effort upon effort upon effort - not relaxing because you think the ball has gone past you and your job is done.
It is a test of attrition, a test of character. Origin will find out exactly who you are.
So be the player you want to be, and the player every Queenslander is hoping you are.
8. PRESSURE THEIR ROOKIES
Inexperience matters in big games. The more you build pressure and the more physical you are, the more you can own the game.
The pressure of Origin is unique and these guys are experiencing it for the first time. Ask big questions. Test them mentally.
9. BENCH IMPACT
We have good size on the bench with Josh Papalii and Coes Hess and I am a huge fan of Jai Arrow.
There has been some criticism in Sydney about the majority of the Queensland team coming from teams well down the NRL ladder.
What they don't see is how these players, like Arrow, are over-achieving in underachieving sides.
Hess is another. Paul Green has turned him into an 80-minute player.
Hess now has the stamina to go with his explosiveness. He will be a huge asset for Queensland in this series.
10. MORGAN MAGIC
Michael Morgan will be a gamebreaker for the Maroons despite an indifferent start to the year. His season will ignite from here.
I would expect Morgan to come on to replace McCullough late in the game, with Ben Hunt moving to hooker to accommodate Morgan at halfback.
Queensland will lose nothing with that combination on the field.
Against tiring defenders, they could even go up another gear.