Four changes the Blues need to make for game two

Another State of Origin opener that began with firm favouritism for the Blues, and ended with a famous Queensland win and everyone south of the Tweed scratching their heads as to how this happened - AGAIN.

There's not much time for New South Wales to rest on their laurels, and changes are going to come for Brad Fittler's team in some capacity - so here's a look at four ways the team can improve for game two.

A variety of backline changes available to the Blues - but will they take them?

The idea of James Tedesco or Nathan Cleary being dropped is so far-fetched it almost doesn't bear thinking about. But it's interesting the way the Blues have been set up in the past few years to be a team built around the Panthers' halfback.

There's no reason for a team chock full of current or former Panthers, paired with Tedesco who has played so much rep football with Cleary now, to be so clunky in attack. But if you look at Penrith at club level, their attack hasn't been red hot either. It's difficult to see what Dylan Edwards being added to the team (as the club themselves tweeted this morning!) would add in their attack. Like Tedesco, he is a high-effort, run-first fullback but not a player who is going to change the game with his passing or playmaking.

Latrell Mitchell will return to this team in the centres in game two, but if the spine fails to click once again, they could do a lot worse than hand him the No.1 jersey if they do want to make a change.

Brian To'o looks as great as ever and is built for Origin, but Josh Addo-Carr did look underdone and should be monitored at club level over the next couple of weeks rather than being an automatic selection for that do-or-die game. Stephen Crichton gave a great account of himself as well, and could well find himself taking that wing spot at Suncorp, or partnering Mitchell in the centres if Campbell Graham's injury issues continue or if Tom Trbojevic, who won't play a club game before the next Origin due to his concussion stand down, isn't selected.

The Manly fullback is one of the game's best players but looked as off the pace in Adelaide as he did for much of the year before turning it on against the Raiders a fortnight ago. Changes have to come, but the boldest and bravest ones might be beyond the Blues.

Middle minutes need better management

The main positive for the selection of Tevita Pangai Jr as a starting forward was that he'd get through his first stint, likely bring an element of physicality and toughness that few others can muster, and then pave the way for the big-minute players to see the game out from there.

Instead, Pangai came back on for a second stint just after half time, gave away a penalty and lost the ball, and was taken off just nine minutes later.

All in all, he finished with 27 minutes on the field - three fewer than Junior Paulo, who is used to playing double that at club level. When you have players like Paulo playing 30 minutes instead of close to 60, and Cameron Murray playing 50 instead of close to 80, perhaps there's one too many forwards going round - and the Bulldogs enforcer seems like an obvious cut for game two.

Hooker rotation needs to return

But, if there's an extra bench spot going, it makes sense to bring Damien Cook back into the fold. Api Koroisau had some nice moments and defended well but did look tired at times. Meanwhile, the Harry Grant/Ben Hunt tandem worked perfectly on the other side of the field.

You're splitting hairs between the two; both Cook and Koroisau are in great form at club level, and their strengths complement each other perfectly. It was the first time that the Fittler-era Blues have been without Cook, and certainly missed his skill and guile around the ruck, as well as that burst of acceleration from dummy half that few others can provide.

Sorting out the edges

Hudson Young is the sort of player that you want on the field at the end of the game to make a winning play. Whatever you think of him, he's one of those guys where when he's near the ball, stuff can just happen. And that sounds simplistic, but it's not an attribute a lot of guys have.

To have him start on debut was a tactical error, and you could see from that opening stink that he was ready to push the envelope and try and make something work whenever possible. Instead, after a penalty and an error he was off the field, not to return.

To make matters worse for the Raiders backrower, his replacement, Liam Martin, was close to the Blues' best and scored a try just moments after coming on. With players like Keaon Koloamatangi, Haumole Olakau'atu and even Angus Crichton waiting in the wings, it could be one-and-done for Young's Origin career.

But regardless of if he comes back in 2024 or beyond, he, along with Pangai, are the easiest scapegoats for Fittler and seem the most likely to make way for fresh faces in game two.