IT IS time to prepare the annual bout of self-flagellation following tonight's first State of Origin match.

Hopefully New South Wales will win the opening clash of the series in Sydney, but recent history doesn't engender much confidence.

The count over the past decade is nine series to Queensland and only one to the Blues - I hardly need to remind NSW readers of that sorry statistic.

And while the Blues have experimented with more line-up changes, the core of the Queenslanders' line-up that has served them so well remains the same.

That is what makes it hard to hope for any other result than another defeat, although maybe this will be the year when age catches up with the Maroons' champions.

Another defeat tonight will spark the now traditional excoriation of players, coach and selectors and suggestions that a whole different line-up would do better.

What frustrates me about that attitude is that it pays to no credit to the outstanding talents that have graced the Queensland team for so long.

Johnathan Thurston, Cameron Smith, Greg Inglis, Cooper Cronk and others have created a once in a generation side.

While their constant triumphs are painful for Blues supporters, I hope those fans also appreciate the level of skill they are watching.

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