For the first time since the second game of the 2016 State of Origin series a player other than James Tedesco will don the full-back jersey for New South Wales. That comes after Penrith Panthers stalwart Dylan Edwards finally usurped one of the greatest Blues in State of Origin history to clinch the No. 1 role. Edwards is one of five Panthers selected in the New South Wales squad and one of a slew of players who will be making their State of Origin debut.

Next Man Up

Incoming New South Wales coach Michael Maguire will be hoping fresh changes can spearhead a return to series success for the Blues, who have won only one of their last four series and not come out on top since 2021. It’s certainly a fresh start for the Blues with six players selected in their first 17 expected to make their State of Origin debuts while only J’maine Hopgood is set to make his debut amongst the Queensland Maroon’s first 17.

Indeed, the Queensland top 17 (120) boasts 35 more games of State of Origin experience than the New South Wales equivalent (85) and features two of the most experienced players currently in the NRL in Ben Hunt (323 NRL games) and Daly Cherry-Evans (317 games).


The battle of the full-backs will be a hot one, with Dylan Edwards (NSW) and Reece Walsh (QLD) no strangers to high-stakes duels against one another after the pair faced off in the historic 2023 NRL Grand Final. Walsh was rubbed out of the game early when the Penrith Panthers and Brisbane Broncos clashed in a Grand Final rematch earlier in the 2024 NRL season, but this time will be hoping to showcase the attacking flair that has made him one of the hottest properties in the sport.

Edwards vs Walsh full-backs head to head NRL 2024

Edwards has been the preeminent metre-eater of the NRL across the current campaign. His 233 run metres per game is easily the most of any player, and makes him one of only three to average 200m or more per game. The Panthers full-back is also regularly involved in the points – with seven tries and six try assists from 11 games – but it’s Walsh who springs to mind first when thinking about the razzle-dazzle of rugby league. Walsh has scored nine tries in as many games in the 2024 NRL season and has either scored or assisted a try in 15 of his last 16 games in the competition when he’s played at least 10 minutes on the day.

The 2024 series will be Walsh’s second on the State of Origin arena and he already looked at home when he made his debut last year. No player made more try assists (3) or linebreak assists (4) than him in the 2023 men’s State of Origin series, despite the Queensland full-back featuring in only two of the three games.

An Olympic Effort

There won’t be much time to settle in for the new faces in the New South Wales squad, with recent history suggesting Queensland will be ruthless from the get-go. The Maroons have won the first game in four of the last five men’s series, including each of the last two, and have won each of the last three times they’ve opened the series at Accor Stadium (2015, 2016, 2022). Given that eight of the last 10 men’s series have been eventually won by the team that won Game 1, New South Wales have to be ready to hit the ground running.

Accor Stadium has been a happy hunting ground for the Blues overall in recent State of Origin history, though. New South Wales have won four of the last five men’s State of Origin fixtures at the Olympic Park venue including a 24-10 win to round out the 2023 series in their most recent clash there.

State of Origin 2023 - Live Win Probability Game 3
State of Origin 2023 - Momentum Game 3

The Blues had nearly all the momentum and led 18-10 at the half, but that wasn’t enough to stop a typical backs-against-the-wall performance from Queensland to keep themselves in the game.

A second-half Queensland onslaught saw the momentum swing violently in favour of the Maroons, but a spirited New South Wales line held them scoreless to hold on for their 24-10 win. It was a victory that would help the Blues save some face, despite losing the series 2-1.

There is no doubt that both teams have the offensive prowess and form to manufacture points from anywhere on the field, so it will be that defensive resolve that both the Blues and the Maroons will need to summon to take a crucial series lead after Game 1 of the 2024 men’s State of Origin series.

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