RUGBY LEAGUE: The atmosphere has become electric and the battle lines have been drawn as mate goes up against mate, and state goes up against state.

The NSW Blues have ushered in a new era of State of Origin: the era of speed.

Eleven debutants adorn the side named by Fred Fittler, with a fresh-faced backline packed to the brim with raw talent.

But Queensland plan to fight fire with steel. Cold, hard steel in the form of the ageless Greg Inglis and Will Chambers.

While they have lost plenty of experience in what is a newly-minted Maroons spine, they might just make up for it across the rest of the park.

But where will this game be won and lost, and who is going home with the glory. Moose is joined behind the sports desk by sepcial guest, and diehard Maroons supporter, Rob Burley to find out.

MATTHEW 'MOOSE' ELKERTON: Blues chance to hook into Origin glory

EVERY year a week out from Origin I, there is a part of me that says "This is our year."

For almost 15 years I have been sorely disappointed, and that is before the full 80 minutes have passed.

Despite the annual dejection, there is something about this Origin series that makes me truly believe this is it.

It appears the two sides are very evenly matched heading into the first game, if not slightly skewed towards the Blues for the first time in years.

But it is also a fresh-faced NSW side, packed with 11 Origin debutants, and that could be a recipe for disaster.

I think there is one position on the field where the game could be won and lost for both sides, and that is hooker.

It's a role that has been dominated by the Maroons' Cameron Smith since his debut in 2003. With The Accountant's retirement it has opened the door for a new era.

Both sides will be running with a debutant hooker with Andrew McCullough and Damien Cook staring across the scrum at each other.

This is the deciding battle and all the pressure is on the shoulders of the Maroons' rake.

While he had to fight Cameron McInnes for the spot, not a lot has been made of the Cookie Monster. Barely a question of his selection has been raised.

And for good reason, you can't question it. He has been the form hooker of the NRL this season. He is in the Smith mould but a decade younger.

If he can get the roll out of dummy-half then the series is the Blues' to lose.

ROBERT BURLS BURLEY: Origin isn't a game won on paper

NSW look great on paper, with in-form players selected, instead of the usual names running onto the park.

Freddie Fittler is taking his players around the traps doing charity work and building their internal belief as well as raising their profile as a unit. All positive steps in pumping more air into the Blues' balloon in preparation for battle.

The Maroons, on the other hand, have the loss of JT, Cronk and Smith to cater for and have selected a good mix of in-form and established players. Players like Munster, Gagai and Hunt all have bright futures in Origin and Queensland are in the rebuilding phase.

Origin is not like any other NRL game... 80 minutes here is not dissimilar to 120 minutes on a wet field. It's physically gruelling, emotionally draining and a career milestone.

The Cockroaches have the on-paper edge and the perceived advantage of the Cane Toads missing their long-term players to fend off the battle cry of the northerners.

"Queenslander!"

But it is not just a word to a proud Maroon. It carries the heart of past heroes, the will to carry on the legacy of the recent legends and the need to mark the last battles for those who have indicated retirement.

If that's not enough to burst the thin fabric of NSW's balloon and expose the space left behind, then the futures of Munster and co should simply be another driving force.

In the end, Origin is won on the day, not on paper.



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