Matty Johns and Cooper Cronk give predictions, tips and judgments on who will win

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Four-time NSW Blues player Matty Johns and 22-time Maroons star Cooper Cronk have unpacked tonight’s State of Origin series opener – and they’re not short of some bold predictions.

The pair made a call about who will win, where the battle will be won and lost, and who will put their names in the light.

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WHO WINS?

Cooper Cronk:

“Of course Queensland. I say 18-14. I think it’s going to be tight,” Cronk said.

“In terms of how it all unfolds, I think this is an exciting battle and I think someone like Reece Walsh, like Harry Grant, someone with a bit of experience in that key position, coming out with an excellent game will make the difference makes. ”

Matty Johns:

“I’ve got New South Wales, 14-10,” Johns said. Both legends believe it will be a low-scoring affair, in typical Origin series opening fashion.

“Those Sydney Origins and those Melbourne Origins are different from Queensland State of Origins. Advantage defense,” Johns added.

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KEY MATCH UP?

Cronk: Payne Haas vs. Patrick Carrigan

In an earlier episode of the podcast, Cronk claimed Payne Haas was the only front rower in the NRL to hold the keys to his club’s success – and he thinks that translates to the Origin arena.

For Queensland, the prospect of undoing Haas is made increasingly difficult due to absentees in the centre-forward position. That includes Tom Flegler and Tom Gilbert, but especially Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, who has made a habit of going after Brisbane’s center in the past Origins.

Cronk believes the responsibility now lies with Haas’ club teammate Patrick Carrigan.

“If there’s one man in the Queensland pack who can stop Payne, I think it’s Carrigan,” Cronk said.

“I really think he’s making this personal. I think these two will clash in the middle of the pitch for a long time to come and I think Carrigan has the ability to overpower Haas.”

Johns agreed: “Carrigan has to, because a lot of times it was Tino.”

“After Payne went to the Broncos, Carrigan stood up. I feel like he’s ready to launch (and) for me this is the most important match,” Cronk added.

Origin great Myles on Queensland game plan | 04:11

Jansen:NSW’s defense against Reece Walsh

For Johns, the most important match-up in Game I will be the battle between the New South Wales defense and Queensland’s exciting fullback Reece Walsh.

“In this game we have tough, hard-working guys, great guys. Reece is that X-factor,” Johns explained.

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When Cronk asked him how he would undo Walsh, Johns replied:

‘I would defend him from the outside in. Because Coops is going to be a tough match for full-backs. It’s going to be wet, they say it’s going to be slippery. It’s going to be difficult to make a purchase,” Johns said.

“I’d rush him [Walsh] and don’t give him time. It is a huge test for the New South Wales defence.”

A key player in Walsh’s corner as he prepares to take on a testing New South Wales side is coach Billy Slater. Cronk believes Slater’s tutelage will be crucial in helping Walsh become a decisive factor for the Maroons in this series.

“He’ll understand the defense from the outside,” Cronk said. “He will understand Nicho (Hynes) and (Jarome) Luai’s kicking games. I’m pretty sure Nicho and Luai will kick the ball as high as they can and the New South Wales middle and back rowers will fly down and rattle Reece’s cage early on.

“He has to be tough. He has to be resilient,” Cronk added.

Nicho Hynes in Queensland’s sights | 02:51

MAN OF THE MATCH

Cronk: With Queensland missing many of the center forwards who have been crucial to their previous wins, such as Flegler, Fa’asuamaleaui and Gilbert, Cronk is tipping Patrick Carrigan to reign supreme in the middle and take home Man of the Match honors.

“I’m all in on him dominating the middle and no one can get past him,” Cronk said.

Jansen: Johns believes New South Wales shock hooker selection Reece Robson is a heavy favorite to win the award.

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“I like him and I think he’s a tough player,” Johns said. “If we can get the upper hand in the ruck it will open up for him. He’s not a classic dummy-half in the sense that he’s not going to jump out and get them past the marks. He gives it and goes. He’s a great support player.”

“He takes a try from a prop and ends up making 50 tackles,” Johns added.

NEWSPAPER CREDITS THE MORNING AFTER?

Cronk: “The new Billy Slater” – referring to Reece Walsh’s performance.

Jansen: “Sydney’s Daily Telegraph: You Bluety.”

“Brisbane’s Courier Mail – Rare Blue Steak.”

King gives a glimpse behind the NSW curtain | 04:17

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