For the fourth time in the last six years, the men’s State of Origin series will go to a decider after Queensland and New South Wales traded big wins in the first two games of the series.

The swing couldn’t have been more jarring between the two results, making it difficult to wrap our heads around exactly what the decider is going to look like.

Can a Queensland backs-against-the-wall performance spurred on by the imposing Suncorp Stadium crowd bounce them back for another series win? Or will New South Wales continue their momentum from Game 2 to clinch their first win in an Origin decider since 2019?

We break down the numbers that matter going into the biggest game of the year so far.

Decision Paralysis

A 23rd deciding game is on the cards for the men’s State of Origin series and the first since 2022, with Queensland and New South Wales tied on one win apiece. Even before we consider the 18th man that is a boisterous Brisbane crowd, Queensland come into this game with an imposing record when it’s all on the line. The Maroons have won nine of the last 10 men’s State of Origin deciders including the last two in a row, with the Blues’ only success in that time coming in 2019, when an iconic James Tedesco try with less than a minute left on the clock broke their drought.

The tale of the tape makes for even less inspiring reading for the visiting Blues when we consider only deciders played in Queensland. The Maroons have won 10 of the 13 previous deciders in Queensland (D1 L2), including the last six in a row, and haven’t lost a deciding fixture at home to the Blues since 2005, with the only other instance occurring in 1994.

2022 was the last men’s State of Origin decider and the last time the series was decided in Queensland. New South Wales held a slender 12-10 lead at the half-time break after the sides traded tries but couldn’t keep up with the pace of the Queensland machine, going on to lose 12-22 with a Ben Hunt try late on sealing the result.

QLD vs NSW momentum graphic
QLD vs NSW momentum graphic

Game In Focus

New South Wales have hit the ground running in each of the first two games of the 2024 men’s State of Origin series, completing 21 of 22 sets by half-time in each game. Comparatively, they completed just 67% and 86% in the second halves of Games 1 and 2 respectively, and scored just one second-half try in each game.

The last time the Blues scored more than one try in the second half of a men’s State of Origin game was in Game 1, 2023, and the last time they scored more than two was in Game 2, 2022 (5).

Late-game has been the domain of Queensland in recent series, with the Maroons scoring at least three tries in the second halves of four of the last five games including each of the two games so far this series.

Queensland have led New South Wales in line breaks overall in 2024, logging 12 to the Blues’ nine this series, as well as covering nearly one metre per run more than New South Wales.

State of Origin Team Comparison

Michael Maguire’s men have flexed their muscle this series, earning more run metres, post-contact metres, offloads, and tackle breaks than Queensland after the first two fixtures. An average play-the-ball speed of 3.4 seconds is also markedly quicker than Queensland (3.71s), while their sets have been more effective as well – advancing an average of 45.8 metres per set compared to the Queenslanders’ 41.5m.

The Blues power men have kept Queensland’s defensive line on the back foot with lightning-quick play-the-balls this series, with Penrith Panthers duo Brian To’o (2.9s) and Liam Martin (2.95s) boasting the fastest average play-the-ball speeds of any players and the only players under three seconds.

It’s not until we get to the eighth-ranked player on the list that we find the first Queenslander, North Queensland Cowboys’ half Tom Dearden (3.22s) who has a sample size of just eight play-the-balls across two full games.

State of Origin PTB Speed

The Maroons’ secret weapon could come in the shape of a player desperate to rekindle some form this season – Valentine Holmes. The Cowboys flyer – who is the third-highest point scorer in men’s State of Origin history as of the end of Game 2 this series – is a Game 3 specialist.

Holmes has scored seven tries and kicked 13 goals for a total of 54 points from six appearances in Game 3s in State of Origin, the joint-most tries of any player (alongside Dale Shearer) and the second-most points behind only Jonathan Thurston (78).

Valentine Holmes stats in Game 3s

He’s one of only five players to have scored a hat-trick of tries in the third game of a men’s series and has scored at least one try in every one of the three deciders he’s played in, with Queensland winning all three of those games.

A tight contest would also see Queensland lean heavily on Holmes but this time for his impeccable kicking record. He’s long been regarded as one of the best kickers in the NRL but a perfect 10/10 record in the 2024 State of Origin series is a run of form impressive even for him.

Holmes Kick Predictor Opta

Build It and They Will Come

167,298 people have made the voyage to the stadium across the first two games of the 2024 men’s State of Origin series and with another big crowd at Suncorp Stadium on 17 July this could be just the fifth time in the tournament’s history that there has been a combined attendance of 200,000 people across the three games – and the first time since 2018 (220,559). While the series’ record attendance of 224,135 in 2015 will be ever so slightly out of reach, the popularity of the game in 2024 is conclusive – this series is set to be one of the most talked about in State of Origin history.

It all comes down to a final 80-minute blockbuster in the heart of Queensland. The Maroon’s Origin mindset against the technical dominance of the Blues machine.

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