Ready, Set, Go; State of Origin 2019
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MAY 15: Damien Cook of the Blues, coach Brad Fittler, Dane Gagai of the Maroons and coach Kevin Walters pose during the 2019 State of Origin series launch at Bradfield Park on May 15, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

It is Ready, Set, Go; in preparations for another season of representative rugby league. The traditional State of Origin 2019 looks set to add new names to its long and storied history in Australia.

Not only Australia though, as this form of rep league is as popular in New Zealand and England, as it always is in Australia. New South Wales Blues versus the Queensland Marrons.

It will be ‘Mate against mate, State against State’.

That saying is true of NRL club mates, who end up as rivals across three intense encounter midseason.

Ready, Set, Go; State of Origin 2019

In this news update, Last Word on Rugby features the team’s coaches – Brad Fittler of New South Wales. And Kevin Walters (below left) for the Queensland team.

Each has their own tale in the battleground, yet both want to forge their own legacies in the coaching field. Although, in State of Origin 2019, it is more a managerial role, a man to motivate the stars who will line up to kickstart Game One on Wednesday.

Aside from instructions from Walters to ‘not to refer to them as Blues’ the coaching group have the same intentions. To create match strategies that benefit the playing 13, and the interchange players.

The four men who can make impact roles over the course of a game, are integral to the modern game. From big forwards Jack Wighton (NSW) or Joe Ofahengahu (Maroons), to the backs like Damien Cook and Dane Gagai (see main picture) who adapt their game plans, from instructions brought on-field via replacements.

Adjustments and critically, the ability to read the opposition, is where Brad Fittler and Kevin Walters will look to maximize any advantage they hold over the 80 minutes.

Game One – Wednesday, June 5. Suncorp Stadium

Like in previous years, the opening game is where teams can learn the most about their opponents. Knowing club form is one thing, but it is how the halves pairing Cameron Munster and Daly Cherry-Evans will operate. Good research helps, but often the intensity of contests like State of Origin 2019, means that Munster could be heavily defended, possibly offering chances for Cherry-Evans. Or vice versa for the Marrons halves.

The opening game is sometimes more pivotal. It is where an advantage can be gained…..however little. Because this is as close to International quality rugby league, as fans can get.

And over a three-game series, don’t expect the same 17 players to perform for each squad.

Expect changes to the starting squads. The team lists for this Wednesday will reflect that strategy. However, with knowledge gained from the opening game, coaches often look to make adjustments, so while the reduced fixtures of NRL matches means teams like the Brisbane Broncos or Sydney Roosters may be called on to reinforce Walters’ or Fittler’s sides.

And while fan interest will traditionally focus on the State v State nature of the series, for State of Origin 2019, game two has been shifted from New South Wales to Opus Stadium, in Perth.

A new destination, for a sport that wishes to cement its place in the tough Australian market. Scheduled for Sunday June 23, the 6pm start will mean an 8 o’clock timeslot on the Australian Eastern seaboard.

Something new, and a move to build interest across Australasia.

Game three will be played in Sydney which means only one game in each teams ‘home base’. An experiment that will be repeated in 2020, when Adelaide will host one fixture. And the Australian Rugby League (ARL) is hoping it will draw more fans, to the often parochial nature of State of Origin series. With a neutral venue – that could one day include Auckland, New Zealand – it might be a factor.

And like in the past, only time will tell how this year’s series transpires. One that may no longer be dominated by the era of Cameron Smith and Billy Slater, who won consecutive series to deny NSW for so long. But with the 2018 series being won by New South Wales, it has injected new life into the competition.

A contest that will again, take center stage this Wednesday night.

 

“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images

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