A FAMILY bereavement has had me in New South Wales most of this week and believe me, the cockiness of Blues fans has never been higher - in the past nine years, anyway.

And it is not just because heading into Origin II the Maroons resemble a train wreck. Smug Blues supporters, who have copped an absolute whipping from their northern counterparts for as long as most of them can recall, are starting to dream of their own dynasty.

On paper, Wednesday's clash in Sydney looks as one-sided as any in recent times. And to greet the Maroons will be a seething 84,000-strong crowd which will generate the highest-grossing purse in Origin's 34-year-history.

With Cooper Cronk, Corey Parker and Josh Papalii already sidelined and Greg Inglis, Billy Slater and Daly Cherry-Evans in extreme doubt, the Maroons resemble lambs to the slaughter. Queensland will field a competitive 17 no doubt, but once the Blues smell blood in the water there will be no sympathy.

The usual 'we relish being the underdogs' hymn will be sung by the Queenslanders, but with not as much sincerity as in the past. Anyone with an ounce of knowledge of the game understands this is looking like the greatest mismatch of the past decade.

Yet I have heard rumblings among those southerners, chastened by an eight-year drought and still feeling coach Laurie Daley has not taken all his advantage.

Some former Origin greats are scratching their head in wonderment at the naming of skipper Paul Gallen at prop. Why they ask, is the man with the biggest engine but not the biggest body, being asked to play in the middle where his V8 motor is likely to burn out quicker?

And why has Josh Dugan, a fullback with outstanding attacking and jumping skills, been asked to play in the centres where his defence is suspect? And is Anthony Watmough, with a much-publicised bicep injury, up to 80 minutes of Origin brutality?

Deservedly, the Blues are hot favourites. And, just as arguably, the Maroons are gross underdogs. But as I pen these thoughts my mind goes back to 1995 and Fatty Vautin's misfits who won that series 3-nil against all the odds.

Is there any wonder we just love Origin.

Yes, yes, yes: The ability of wingers to score implausible tries continues to astonish. Last weekend Warriors young gun David Fusitua displayed the skills of an acrobat in Perth, and Roosters flyer Roger Tuivasa-Sheck scored one of the most brilliant tries in recent memory against the Storm.

No, no, no: The signing backflip by James Tedesco once again illustrates the idiocy of a clause that gives players until round 13 to renege on contracts. Not only does it breed contempt along all parties involved, it nurtures a culture that a man's word is no longer his bond.


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