One of the biggest rivalries in rugby begins anew on Wednesday as the Queensland Maroons prepare to face New South Wales Blues in the opening match of this year's State of Origin series.
The first of three fixtures between the two powerhouses of rugby league promises to be a barnburner—as is always the case in this series—and Queensland are chasing a third consecutive title in 2017.
This year's head-to-head kicks off at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium before a three-week respite until Game 2 at ANZ Stadium in Sydney on June 21, with the final meeting scheduled to take place back in Brisbane on July 12.
Two of the last three State of Origin series have been decided after the first two matches, however, and both teams will be jostling to get that all-important tilt towards victory in Game 1 on Wednesday.
Here, we provide a look at all the essential match details to ensure you don't miss out on the action, complete with live-stream information and a preview of the midweek opener in Brisbane.
Date: Wednesday, May 31
Time: 11 a.m. BST/8 p.m. AEST/6 a.m. ET
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
One of the biggest discussion points leading into this year's three-parter was the news that 10-time State Of Origin winner Johnathan Thurston would play no part in the first match of the series due to a shoulder injury.
The official Queensland Rugby League website confirmed Thurston's absence on Thursday, and Dominique Loudon of 9 News Gold Coast provided a shot of the statement with quotes from the Maroons talisman:
This will be the first time in his career that Thurston will fail to feature in all three games of an Origin series—provided he recovers for Games 2 and 3—giving New South Wales hope in their efforts to breaks the Maroons' current streak.
Meanwhile, Blues coach Laurie Daley named his squad for the 2017 blockbuster on May 22, per Fox Sports:
Second row Boyd Cordner will captain the New South Wales team in place of National Rugby League icon Paul Gallen after the 35-year-old announced his retirement from Origin play.
One notable absence from Daley's lineup is Parramatta Eels star Michael Jennings, although the centre responded with humility after learning of his omission from the Game 1 squad, via 7 News Sydney:
There's no overstating just how dramatic Thurston's absence could be for Queensland as 22-year-old debutant Anthony Milford prepares to take his place at five-eighth.
However, Brisbane Broncos centre Justin Hodges expects his club team-mate to stand up well to the pressure, per Phil Lutton of the Sydney Morning Herald:
"It's going to be tough for him. Until you are out there, until you are in the battle and especially in those tight games, it's like you are going to hell and back.
"They are going to throw bodies at him, put him under the pump defensively, throw shape at him. He has to stay composed and he's there for a reason—because he's very, very good.
"There is a lot of pressure ... they are massive shoes and you can never replace a guy like Johnno, even for one game. He is going to have to put his body through things he never thought he could. But it will only make him a better player."
Only on Wednesday will we know the impact it has on the Maroons to see their evergreen star on the sidelines with a rookie taking his spot, even if Samoa international Milford is regarded as one of the brightest prospects on the circuit.
That said, no one individual decides a State of Origin fixture, and while some may say the series has lost some of its feud in recent years, a monstrous tug of war awaits in Wednesday's curtain-raiser.