Country v City | Preview
Country Origin v City Origin
Glen Willow Regional Sports Stadium
It will be a bittersweet affair at Mudgee's Glen Willow Regional Sports Stadium as over 100 years of history comes to an end with the last Country v City game.
One of the oldest fixtures in rugby league will be played for the final time; after several years of decreasing availability of top-line players in part due to an increasingly packed schedule, this will be the last time Country Origin hosts City Origin in regional NSW.
After letting in a huge 44 points last year, you can bet the Country lads will be out for revenge in a match where both squads will be desperate to say they notched a victory – for posterity's sake as much as anything.
Despite a poor record historically, Country have had the slight edge over the past decade and have named a strong team despite concerns that the unavailability of large numbers of players would devalue the contest.
Despite a general acceptance that the fixture is no longer a genuine Origin trial, you can bet NSW coach Laurie Daley will have an eye on the likes of Country's Jack De Belin, Paul Vaughan, Dale Finucane and Tariq Sims. Hooker Damien Cook and centre Euan Aitken are also in the frame for higher honours down the track.
The City team has two men who appeared for Australia in last year's Four Nations (Penrith's Matt Moylan and James Tamou), each of whom will be looking to press their Origin claims.
While there has been criticism of two players yet to play an NRL game this year being included on the City bench, the side also includes players like Cam McInnes, Bryce Cartwright, Tyrone Peachey and even Chad Townsend, Clint Gutherson and Josh Addo-Carr who could press for Origin selection down the track.
Why Country can win: One of the biggest strengths of the Country team is the opportunity to import a big chunk of the in-form St George Illawarra pack.
Vaughan, De Belin and Sims have been a huge part of the Red V steamrolling opponents more often than not this year.
The trio have been relentless with ball in hand and a brick wall without it. Vaughan (147 metres), De Belin (131 metres) and Sims (97 metres in just 38 minutes per game) will be looking to replicate those efforts in Mudgee to give their playmakers the chance to flourish.
Why City can win: There look to be plenty of points in the City side.
Moylan, Cartwright, Peachey and McInnes make for a wonderful spine and there are some slick finishers in the backs like Josh Addo-Carr and Nathan Ross.
An all-Test front row of Tamou and skipper Paul Gallen will ensure the City slickers match the fearsome Country pack in the middle.
The history: Played 92; Country 22; City 67; Drawn 3.
Despite a dominant historical record against them, the Country lads have a slight edge of late, winning four and losing two (with one draw) in the past seven years.
Match officials: Referee: Ashley Klein; Assistant Referee: Alan Shortall; Touch judges: Rohan Best and Kasey Badger; Review Official: Luke Patten; Senior RO: Bernard Sutton.
Televised: Channel Nine – Live from 3.30pm.
NRL.com predicts: This is anyone's game but we'll tip the feel good result and say the powerful Country pack will lead the way in a tight but memorable two-point win.
This article first appeared on NRL.COM