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15 May 2018

State of Origin: Blue moon rising

There's a term in poker called 'pot committed.'

Basically, if you've put so much money into the pot that you refuse to fold, even when it might be in your best interested, you're pot committed.

To that end, this time 12-months ago I wrote a long, eloquent piece outlining why I thought the Blues were about to embark on a significant period of dominance to rival the one Queensland have been relishing for the best part of a decade or so.

After game one, when the Blues bashed and beat the Maroons into submission, I doubled down, I invested a little more and I even dared to dream just how enjoyable it would watching the Blues turn the tables and build a set of great memories.

How wrong I was

Well, I'll spare you the great reveal.

The Maroons won the next two games and the series, locking in yet another State of Origin trophy and denying the hopes and dreams of a legion of New South Welshmen beginning to know nothing but the empty hollowness of defeat.

Even without star halfback Johnathan Thurston, the Maroons rode the talents of Cooper Cronk, Cameron Smith and Billy Slater amongst others and delivered to the delirious hordes north of the border more triumph.

It was hard to watch. It began to feel like no matter what happened, the Maroons would simply prove too strong, too big, too fast and too adept at handling the tight situations that define Origin football.

Flash forward

But now, as we sit mere weeks away from the first game of the 2018 season, there's no Johnathan Thurston, no Cooper Cronk and now, there's no Cameron Smith.

The spiritual leader, the man at the front of the march into battle, Cam Smith has walked away from the Origin cauldron with immediate effect. He confirmed today he won't take part in the 2018 series.

While Smith didn't get the fitting farewell that Thurston did last year, held aloft by joyous teammates forever indebted for his years of service and skill, he might have inadvertently handed his rivals the final straw to clutch onto.

No single player could win an Origin game alone, Smith didn't mean an instant win for the Maroons, but what he did represent was the habit of winning. Few players have made winning part of their yearly ritual quite like Cameron Smith. Love him or hate him, you've got to give him that.

But with Smith joining the sidelined champions, this Maroon team looks far less settled than it ever has.

The Maroons will pick a strong squad, and it will be a tough series, but a bright, blue hue is appearing on the horizon and, 12 months later than I'd hoped, the Blues might just be set to build a dynasty of their own.

Will the Blues win the 2018 State of Origin series? Let us know in the comments and poll below.