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The highlight of the rugby league calendar returns, with the game's best ready to resume hostilities.

As is the case almost every year the Blues are expected to start favourite, but that matters little once the whistle is blown.

With doubts remaining over some key Maroons players, the experts at NRL.com have had their say on who they think will emerge victorious in the first Origin match played in Townsville.

Experts' view - Who'll win Origin I

Steve Renouf (Maroons legend)

On the back of last year's series win, Queensland should get another win. NSW seem to have the form team on paper but as long as we can get our big game players on the field the spring can carry them to a win. Maroons by 10

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Brett Kimmorley (Former Test halfback)

NSW's back five will be amazing, just as they all have been in club football so far this year. Add to that the great combinations Nathan Cleary will have with both Jarome Luai and Isaah Yeo. Blues by 4

Jamie Soward (2010 premiership winner)

They've got points in the backline and their forwards will match it with the Maroons pack. If Jarome Luai and Nathan Cleary get the chance to show what they can do NSW will win. Blues by 8

Robbie Farah (Wests Tigers great)

The X-factor of the NSW backline will prove the difference. Tedesco, Trbojevic, To'o, Addo-Carr and Latrell are all match-winners. If they click NSW will have plenty of points in them. Blues by 10 

Mary Konstantopoulos (Ladies Who League) 

The game may have moved to Queensland but NSW will still win. With the best halves pairing in the competition at the core of the team, NSW ooze talent in the spine. Their forwards will lead the way. Blues by 8

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Brad Walter (NRL.com senior reporter)

This is one of the most exciting NSW teams I can recall, with strike out wide, ball-playing forwards and the NRL’s form halves combination calling the shots. Brad Fittler has also ensured the Blues have enough versatility to cover for the loss of any player due to injury or being sin-binned. Blues by 14

Paul Suttor (NRL.com editor)

The Townsville atmosphere will be intense - this may be the only time Origin ever comes to northern Queensland and the locals will be getting in enough jeering to last a lifetime. A lot will depend on Cameron Munster's availability but he looks like he'll play and he proved last year he has the gravitas to lead Queensland to victory. Maroons by 8 

Alicia Newton (NRL.com reporter)

A dry Townsville track will suit the Blues, who have gone with a very up-tempo forward pack and a bench that looks far more dangerous than the Maroons. Blues by 8.

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Paul Zalunardo (NRL.com senior journalist)

Queensland won last year and they have a stronger looking side this year - provided Munster and Grant are both play. Despite the absence of Josh Papalii they look to have an advantage in the forwards and that's where Origin matches are won and lost. Maroons by 4

Dan Walsh (NRL.com reporter)

The Blues simply have Queensland covered for points across the park with ball-playing ability right throughout the forward pack and strike weapons Trbojevic, Mitchell and Tedesco to capitalise out wide. Blues by 8

Zac Bailey (NRL.com reporter)

NSW have a superior backline, so a dry track in Townsville helps their cause. The Blues attack is spearheaded by the game’s best player Nathan Cleary and his combination with Panthers Jarome Luai, Isaah Yeo and Brian To’o will see NSW reap the rewards. Blues by 8

Chris Kennedy (NRL.com reporter)

A wave of injuries and suspensions affecting both squads make this super tough to pick but with the in-form Panthers playmaking trio of Nathan Cleary, Jarome Luai and Isaah Yeo calling the shots, NSW should get the job done. Blues by 10

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Troy Whittaker (NRL.com reporter)

Brad Fittler has analysed exactly where the Blues fell short last year and picked a squad to rectify that. Skill doesn’t always come out on top - as we saw in 2020 - but NSW should have too much strike-power. Blues by 12 

Lone Scout (NRL.com Fantasy guru)

The Blues are deserved favourites but there are a lot of reasons to suspect this one will be close. NSW have the better team on paper but that was the case last year and they lost. I’ll tip the Penrith combination to prove the difference. Blues by 1

Martin Lenehan (NRL.com senior journalist)

The Panthers are the NRL’s hottest team by a hundred miles and the presence of five of their big guns gives NSW a clear advantage in terms of confidence and combinations. The return of Latrell Mitchell and Tom Trbojevic makes NSW far more potent than they were in 2020. Blues by 10

 

Alexa (Your Trusted Voice Assistant and Footy Fan)

It’s always close when the cockroaches and cane toads clash, but I think NSW have a stronger spine this year. If you have an Alexa-enabled device, try saying, “Alexa, who will win the State of Origin?” If you don’t have one yet, you can grab one here .

 

With the NRL Alexa skill, you can sign up for match reminders, catch the latest news and listen live to every match of the season, including State of Origin. Just say, “Alexa, open NRL”  

 

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The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARL Commission, NRL clubs or state associations.