STATE OF ORIGIN: Who wins each match-up?
SINCE the sides were announced all the talk around this year's State of Origin series has centred around NSW's injection of fresh blood and Queensland snubbing loyal stalwarts.
Blues coach Brad Fittler named 11 debutants in his team while Maroons counterpart Kevin Walters could find no room for Darius Boyd or Matt Scott.
So will the youth and raw pace of NSW win out in Game 1 or will Queensland's famous never-say-die attitude trump whatever speed and skill the Blues have in their line-up?
The short answer is we won't know until about 10pm on June 6, but in trying to make an estimated guess, we've taken a look at who wins each individual match-up across the field.
Fullback: James Tedesco vs Billy Slater
NSW fullback James Tedesco is one of just six survivors from last year's series defeat and while he took time to settle into his groove at new club the Roosters this year, he's getting back to his attacking best.
Solid in defence, safe under the high ball and with speed to burn, Tedesco won't let anyone down. He poses a threat bursting onto inside balls from his halves around the ruck, and he'll also be sniffing around for offloads from his forwards in the middle of the field.
But there's a reason Billy Slater - who on Tuesday announced this year's Origin series will be his last when he retires from rep footy after Game 3 - is in the conversation as the best fullback to ever play the game. A proven performer in Origin, it's impossible to find fault with the Melbourne No. 1 with and without the ball in hand.
We're predicting he'll grow an extra leg in the absence of retired stars Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Johnathon Thurston and be one of the Maroons' best. We're giving him a points victory in the battle of the fullbacks, even if a knockout blow is unlikely.
Slater > Tedesco
Wingers: Josh Addo-Carr vs Dane Gagai, Tom Trbojevic vs Valentine Holmes
Both Blues wingers will be on debut in Game 1 and Manly fullback Tom Trbojevic will be out of position, adding to the nerves. He's a big body who'll be handy bringing the ball out from his own end while Josh Addo-Carr is one of the quickest men in the game who has a reputation for scoring long range tries.
Dane Gagai has been huge for the Maroons since making his debut in 2015, as evidenced by his winning the Wally Lewis Medal for Queensland's best player of the series last year.
His metre-making from kick returns and dummy-half runs inside his own territory during his brief Origin career has been second to none among wingers.
Valentine Holmes is a try-scoring machine at every level and is fresh off a hat-trick in Game 3 last year. Overall, Queensland has the edge on the flanks because at this stage, proven performance outweighs potential.
Gagai > Addo-Carr, Holmes > Trbojevic
Centres: James Roberts vs Greg Inglis, Latrell Mitchell vs Will Chambers
Two more Blues debutants in James Roberts and Latrell Mitchell will be tasked with scoring points - and lots of them.
Like Addo-Carr, Roberts is as quick as they come and when at his best, Mitchell has been likened to a young Greg Inglis because of his combination of speed and strength. They have plenty of firepower but their defence is questionable and the Maroons will exploit them without the ball.
As Paul Kent said on NRL 360 on Monday, the prospect of Inglis stepping up to another level as the new Queensland captain is "terrifying", particularly when you consider he finally looks fully fit after being plagued by knee issues. If Inglis leads from the front as expected, his teammates will follow and that will spell danger for the Blues.
He and Will Chambers are experienced campaigners who won't want to be upstaged by two rookies, so have added motivation to perform.
Chambers > Mitchell, Inglis > Roberts
Halves: Nathan Cleary vs Ben Hunt, James Maloney vs Cameron Munster
Dragons halfback Ben Hunt is the form No. 7 of the competition but has only played one Origin off the bench as a utility. He may be eight years older than 20-year-old NSW halfback Nathan Cleary but he's almost just as inexperienced as the Blues rookie in the interstate cauldron.
Hunt's game management has been impressive all year while Cleary has been a revelation for the Panthers, answering every challenge with a pinpoint kicking game and the ability to challenge the defensive line by running the ball himself.
We're giving the points to Cleary, but it's the toss of a coin.
Cameron Munster is a running five-eighth while NSW will be relying on James Maloney to steer the ship around and be an organiser. Maloney is used to absorbing pressure while Munster - as good a player as he is - may find it difficult to accept more responsibility in a key position without Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston around to pick up the slack. Maloney wins this duel.
Cleary > Hunt, Maloney > Munster
Hooker: Damien Cook vs Andrew McCullough
Souths hooker Damien Cook only established himself as a regular first grader this year and his best asset is his speed, which helps him take advantage of sloppy defending around the ruck and pick up valuable metres.
Andrew McCullough is an NRL veteran who deserves his chance in the No. 9 jersey following Cameron Smith's retirement. He's reliable, a good defender, can play 80 minutes and has an underrated kicking game that gives him an advantage over his opposite number.
McCullough > Cook
Props: Reagan Campbell-Gillard vs Jarrod Wallace, David Klemmer vs Dylan Napa
Queensland has urged Dylan Napa to fire up but the red-headed front-rower needs to be careful not to cross the line. He's explosive at his best but inconsistent at his worst and his pedigree in big games is questionable, particularly after being overrun in last year's NRL finals against the Cowboys.
Jarrod Wallace is a workhorse who debuted last year. He's solid without Napa's game-breaking ability.
David Klemmer has been a shining light for the horribly underperforming Bulldogs and his confrontations with Napa will be a highlight. He showed against the Tigers on Sunday he has learnt to pass and offload, which makes him more of a threat than the Maroons big boys.
Reagan Campbell-Gillard said on Monday he couldn't wait to put the sky blue jersey on and "start killing some people". Based on that we're too scared to bet against him so he gets our vote.
Klemmer > Napa, Campbell-Gillard > Wallace
Back row: Boyd Cordner vs Gavin Cooper, Tyson Frizell vs Felise Kaufusi and Jack de Belin vs Josh McGuire
NSW wins the battle of the back row. Boyd Cordner has been below his best but has stepped up in every Origin contest and Game 1 will be no different. Tyson Frizell is a battering ram who can also cause havoc on the edges while Jack de Belin hits harder than anyone in the NRL and is in the form of his career.
For Queensland, Gavin Cooper hasn't done anything special for the Cowboys this year as North Queensland slumped to second last on the ladder. Originally picked for Origin because of his combination with Johnathan Thurston, he'll have to start from scratch when running off the Maroons' new halves.
Felise Kaufusi has already played for Australia but is untried at Origin level and Josh McGuire will be underdone, having missed the last month of club footy with injury.
Cordner > Cooper, Frizell > Kaufusi, de Belin > McGuire
Interchange: Paul Vaughan, Jake Trbojevic, Angus Crichton, Tyrone Peachey (NSW) vs Michael Morgan, Josh Papalii, Coen Hess and Jai Arrow (QLD)
Like the back row, we believe NSW has the stronger bench despite it including three first-gamers. Paul Vaughan deserves his chance after a year-and-a-half of strong showings, Angus Crichton provides an ability to break the line, Jake Trbojevic is a future NSW captain and Tyrone Peachey - who can play anywhere - has been a major reason the Panthers now sit on top of the table.
Michael Morgan and Coen Hess have both offered little for the Cowboys in their disappointing season, Josh Papalii was dumped to reserve grade this year and Jai Arrow will be under pressure on debut.
Vaughan > Papalii, Trbojevic > Arrow, Crichton > Hess, Peachey > Morgan
Based on our maths, we have NSW ahead 7-6 on individual match-ups across the park in the starting line-ups (and 11-6 if you include bench players). But the NRL has been a tipster's nightmare in 2018, and we're predicting Origin will be no different.