ANDREW JOHNS – NINEMSN COLUMN

Two of Origin’s greatest stars Andrew “Joey” Johns and “King” Wally Lewis go head to head in a preview of State of Origin I. Enjoy this exclusive Wide World of Sports feature and have your say in the comment box below.

The opening game of every State of Origin series is always vital, where will this game be won and lost and who will go into Game II with a 1-0 series lead?

Joey Says:We saw last year that there is not a lot between these two teams and once again it will come down to who wins the little moments in the game. The surface at ANZ Stadium will be greasy after the recent rain, so a good kicking game will be vital, as will the work of the forwards in the middle of the park. I think this game will be won in the forwards and I believe the New South Wales pack can get on top of the Maroons. The secret will be denying Queensland as much possession as possible by keeping the error rate low and working hard for each other. It’s a simple formula, but at Origin level it is incredibly hard to achieve.

New South Wales have decided to dump Todd Carney in favour of James Maloney – is this the right move?

Joey Says:I feel a bit sorry for Todd Carney, I don’t think he did much wrong last year and has been performing well for the Sharks since coming back from injury. I thought the way he responded to being dropped the other night against South Sydney was brilliant. James Maloney deserves his place though and his club combination with Mitchell Pearce should really help the Blues, as will his goal kicking.

Is Queensland’s backline looking vulnerable out wide with Justin Hodges carrying injuries and Darius Boyd possibly playing with a dodgy ankle?

Joey Says:No… simply, no. These guys are complete professionals who know their bodies and how far they can push themselves. They are also Queenslanders who lift and feel no pain at all once they take the field for an Origin match. There will be no weaknesses out wide for the Maroons.

Paul Gallen will go into Origin I underdone, taking a dodgy knee into the front row for New South Wales – is this a wise move?

Joey Says:I’ve heard it’s actually his hamstrings that are giving him trouble now and he’ll definitely be underdone. We’ve seen in the past couple of years that he is an inspiration for New South Wales and has had no problem handling the front row. Coach Laurie Daley will use him wisely, there’s no way he’ll be playing the full 80 minutes, he’ll come on in 20-30 minute bursts. His Sharks teammate Andrew Fifita was incredible the other night against South Sydney and he’ll be ready to step into the Gallen role, during his breaks on the bench.

Queensland prop Petero Civoniceva has retired and Ben Hannant is out injured, Sam Thaiday and Nate Myles will be called on to play up front at times, is this something that New South Wales could exploit?

Joey Says:Queensland may be a bit vulnerable up front with those two missing, but Thaiday has been playing prop for the Broncos and Nate Myles has played there before as well. The one thing about Queensland is that behind the superstars who grab all the headlines and the awards there are blokes like Ashley Harrison, Thaiday and Myles who do all the little things right, roll their sleeves up and never let the team down.

Jarryd Hayne is playing fullback for New South Wales for only the third time – will he handle the role?

Joey Says:I think so. I have been really impressed with the intensity that Hayne has been showing this year for Parramatta, particularly in defence. Hayne will be key to how New South Wales go in this series. He’ll have to be close to man of the series for the Blues to win it.

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