Country v City
Caltex Stadium, Sunday, May 4
Referee: Gerard Sutton
Broadcast: Channel 9
With just over three weeks until State of Origin One, all eyes will be on Caltex Stadium today as the GIO City Origin team take on Country in Dubbo.
With New South Wales Origin positions on the line and some of the game’s most exciting young prospects taking the field, the 2014 Country v City Origin fixture is one of the most eagerly anticipated clashes between the two sides in recent memory.
GIO City Origin Coach Brad Fittler has declared that this year’s City team is ‘the most experienced side’ in his five years at the helm and with eight players who have played State of Origin in the line-up; City have all the ingredients to win back the title.
Despite winning three of the previous four clashes between the sides, Country will enter the match as underdogs and perhaps wouldn’t have it any other way. With a vocal home crowd behind them and the experience of Beau Scott mixed with the talent of Jarrod Mullen, the boys from the Bush will certainly be ready for the challenge.
With the six Blues players in the Australian team, Mitchell Pearce, Jarryd Hayne and Robbie Farah all but guaranteed positions in Origin One, there are arguably eight positions up for grabs and you can guarantee that all 34 players taking the field in Dubbo will putting their best foot forward and aiming to impress.
Key Match Ups:
Josh Reynolds v Jarrod Mullen
With incumbent Blues five-eighth James Maloney and his predecessor Todd Carney facing stints on the sideline through injury, the stage is set for Reynolds and Mullen to lead the way and prove to Laurie Daley that they are the right man for the job of taking on the Queenslanders. Reynolds has been in sterling from for the Bulldogs in 2014, and after returning from an injury sustained in the Auckland Nines; Jarrod Mullen will be looking to make up for lost time. This battle will decide the outcome of the game.
Jorge Taufua v Daniel Tupou v James McManus
Yes, we realise that Taufua and Tupou are on the same team, but both men are incredibly talented footballers for completely different reasons and both will be aiming to outplay incumbent Blues winger James Mcmanus and partner Brett Morris in Game One. Taufua has been sensational for the Sea Eagles since his return from injury and looks to be back to his powerful best. An incredibly strong runner of the football, Taufua also possesses a deft touch and his finishing skills are not to be underestimated. Daniel Tupou is already arguably the best player under the high ball in Rugby League. Blessed with height and speed to burn, the young Roosters flyer will be aiming to impose himself on the game early and add to his already overflowing highlights reel. ‘The Flying Scotsman’ James McManus may not have the power of Taufua or the speed of Tupou, but he is one of the most consistent wingers in the competition and is able to hold his own against any opponent. McManus has never let the Blues down before and Laurie Daley will be hoping he puts his best foot forward against the young City pairing.
Will Hopoate v Jamal Idris
Will Hopoate has admitted that he was surprised to be recalled for Representative football so early in his return to Rugby League, but such is the talent of the young Parramatta Eels centre, that no one would be surprised if he walked away as the best player on the field today. Blessed with speed, agility and hands that would make a half-back proud, Hopoate is the complete package and is a real chance of earning a return to the Origin arena. After leaving the Titans and moving to the foot of the mountains, Jamal idris has rediscovered the form that once made him one of the most feared players in Rugby League. A happy-go-lucky character off the field, Idris is a fearsome sight in full flight and could be the difference between Country retaining the shield or succumbing to their City brothers.
With only a short preparation leading into the game, the recent representative experience of Woods, Fifita, Williams, Hoffman and Josh Reynolds makes City a formidable opponent for the Country boys. In Moylan, Taufua, Tupou, Walker, Hopoate and Adam Reynolds, City also boast a backline that could easily become the future of the New South Wales Origin side. City by 10.