Maroons still ahead where it counts - talent, passion

STATE OF ORIGIN

Whose shoes do you want to be in?

I'll give you Mal Meninga's, where you'll occasionally shuffle behind a Brisbane bar to pour your own drink to toast an ageing Slater, Thurston, Cronk and Smith.

Then I'll give you Laurie Daley's, where you'll apparently never see another bar in Origin camp while you still try to work out if Reynolds and Hodkinson are cut out for Origin to lend a hand to Hayne and Farah.

Didn't think it was much of a choice either.

Dig out this exact same column from last year. OK, maybe not the one before the series opener but the columns before games two and three should do the trick.

It will say exactly what will be repeated here before this year's series: NSW will always struggle while Queensland's magicians are defying father time. Haven't they shown they're doing just that over the past month.

Melbourne's Big Three run like clockwork. They just sense when Origin is around the corner and lift accordingly. Thurston is, well, Thurston. And NSW are still trying to figure just how they can even get close to the Cane Toads.

Blues optimists will point to a slight edge in the forwards and on the bench. They may have a case. Without Greg Bird it diminishes a little.

But the reality is if Queensland's forwards can give their playmakers half the chances NSW will have they'll make them count.

Are the Blues getting closer? Probably. Can they somehow ignite their bid to halt Queensland's dynasty at eight years? Not yet. Not in this game anyway.

Their best chance of putting an end to the seemingly inevitable "Cloud Nine" headlines only a few weeks away will lie in games two and three.

Think Queensland will lose the game they retire Arthur Beetson's jersey in front of 50,000 mad supporters? Neither did I.

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