The 2022 State of Origin series is here and so is Your Edge. We’re digging into some of the numbers behind the game to see how the Blues and Maroons might perform in Game 1.
State of Origin Starts In The Middle
Rugby League is a simple game, really.
If you can win the battle through the middle and promote fatigue in the opposition, there is a good chance you’ll eventually crack the line and end up on top. The best teams in the NRL are leading the net yardage numbers and – yep, you guessed it – the worst are at the bottom. It’s not quite as simple as run hard and fast, win the middle and win the game. There is a lot more that goes into it. However, we can start to paint a picture around what the yardage battle might look like in State of Origin Game 1 by looking at how the middle players have performed for their NRL clubs.
Payne Haas is in a world of his own averaging 176 running metres per game this year. He isn’t asked to play the same minutes and put up the big numbers for the Blues, but he’s going to have a huge impact on this game early with his speed and footwork at the line. Junior Paulo will be the same but it won’t show so much in the numbers. His ball-playing will be a feature of how the Blues get up the field and his combination with Isaah Yeo has stacks of potential.
For the Maroons, Tino Fa’asuamaleaui is in career-best form and doing everything he can for a poor Titans side this season. Still only 22-years-old, Fa’asuamaleaui continues to add to his yearly averages, upping his 136 metres per game in 2021 to 148 metres per game in 2022. Relatively inexperienced, Fa’asuamaleaui will line up beside Josh Papalii who is playing in his 21st State of Origin game. He’s been there and done it all before and can be trusted to do it all again in this one.
It’s on the bench where the Blues have somewhat of an advantage in yardage. Although, Lindsay Collins has played well for his 100 running metres per game this year and tends to play better in short and sharp bursts. Meanwhile, Patrick Carrigan is also playing the best football of his career and can pile up the big numbers when required. However, Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Ryan Matterson are combining for 313 metres per game for the Eels this season. They won’t be asked to do that for the Blues on Wednesday, but it gives us with an idea of just how well they are playing right now.
We’re sure to see an arm-wrestle early. It’s a hallmark of State of Origin that the game starts tight and direct. New South Wales holds a slight advantage to start and can really take control of the match when their bench forwards are introduced before halftime.
With the hard work done in the middle of the field, the key playmakers can get to work.
Cameron Munster and Harry Grant stick out at the top of the list with both averaging over three attacking involvements (tries+try assists+linebreaks+linebreak assists). However, they’re not going to play with quite the same freedom they do with the Melbourne Storm in this one. In fact, Grant will start this one off the bench with Ben Hunt to start at hooker. It’s one of Slater’s more controversial decisions but one that might change by kickoff.
James Tedesco’s place in the side came under some question earlier in the season as Ryan Papenhuyzen piled up what is still an NRL-high 127 points in only nine games. It was always unlikely that Tedesco would be unseated as the Blues fullback but he made sure of it by producing some incredible numbers in the buildup to the series opener.
James Tedesco’s Last 6 Games:
2 try assists
8 line breaks
257 running meters per game
8.3 tackle breaks per game
1.5 offloads per game#RandomStats
— Jason Oliver (@JasonNRL) May 30, 2022
And, of course, there is the Panthers pairing – Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai – pulling the strings across the field for New South Wales. Combining for over four attacking involvements per game, their familiarity and cohesion, alongside Isaah Yeo, is a crucial element to the Blues and should ensure they start the series well given they don’t need to spend time learning how to play with each other in the limited training sessions the week prior.
The NRL numbers can be deceiving. Where Munster and Grant are unlikely to replicate their club output, Kalyn Ponga is still performing well in what is a beaten Knights side most weeks. With Daly Cherry-Evans and Damien Cook providing more experience at their respective positions, it’s difficult to split the two spines ahead of Game 1.
Backing It All Up
Out wide and ready to make the most of the work done inside them, the back three for each team have been the biggest talking points ahead of Game 1.
Josh Addo-Carr’s axing in favour of Daniel Tupou was met with surprise. Less to do with Tupou’s ability (he will be just fine as one of the best wingers in the world) and more to do with the shock of Addo-Carr being dropped and the strange reasoning to go with it, the Roosters winger will be under some pressure on Wednesday night. He is there to help handle the aerial threat of Xavier Coates and Selwyn Cobbo and Brad Fittler has sacrificed one of the most prolific try-scorers in Origin history to get Tupou into the side.
Regardless, Tupou, alongside Brian To’o and Tedesco, will add more to the expected dominance the Blues hold through the middle. All three are averaging more running metres than their opposite number throughout the 2022 NRL season. For Coates, in particular, it’s an area of his game he really needs to focus on for this one. He averaged only 89 metres per game throughout the 2021 series and has managed just 97 metres per game for the Storm this season. He’s an excellent talent in the air and has speed to burn, but needs to provide more than that if the Maroons are to keep up with the Blues in yardage.
Given how well all six players can produce tries, try assists, linebreaks and linebreak assists, the extra yardage output gives the Blues an advantage in this department.
Defensively, there aren’t any obvious weaknesses in either side. Liam Martin misses his fair share of tackles but it’s a misleading number given his propensity to rush out of the line and make effective contact despite bouncing off the attacking player. Notably, Valentine Holmes has made a name for himself in the centres and is clearly a big part of how the Cowboys defend. Kotoni Staggs’ improvements also rate a mention. His missed tackle figure is also somewhat misleading with the jamming defensive style the Broncos employ on the right edge. It’s going to be interesting to see how Fittler has Staggs defend in this one with how well he has performed for the Broncos without the ball this season.
We’ve done a Punter’s Preview & NRL Draftstars Preview for Game 1 of State of Origin. The Punter’s Preview looks at try scorer & player performance markets as well as Player of the Match. The NRL Draftstars Preview covers strategic advice for beginners as well as value players & fade options. If you’re enjoying our free content & data tools, follow us on social media & join our Discord channel where we discuss all things NRL, NBA & Cricket.
Being 2 of the best try scoring middle forwards in the comp is just a small part of why Big Papa & Tino are 2 of our favourite value plays for Game 1 of #NRL #StateofOrigin 🔥 Read why we think they're great value for try scorer & Player of the Match 👇https://t.co/BKSVyzL3ym pic.twitter.com/bluKKJW17P
— Wicky (@wickyai) June 7, 2022