Ever since he switched codes five years ago, Wendell Sailor has been trying to grab the headlines from rugby league, and undermine the code that tolerated him for too long.

Yesterday he finally triumphed – but it is a victory (thanks to a failed drug test) that he won’t be celebrating.

Wendell’s “triumph” won’t save him from oblivion if the second sample is positive – and, fortunately, rugby league’s obligations under world anti-doping protocols will block any notion of coming back to rugby league.

State of Origin will soon get the headlines back, with game one at Telstra Stadium on Wednesday week.

The NSW Blues team was entirely predictable, whereas it was the Maroons that made all the changes: usually it’s the other way around. The Maroons will field an unprecedented seven newcomers to State of Origin – the Blues just one, Luke O’Donnell, but he has test match experience.

Those who take but a passing interest in rugby league will be surprised to know there is no Andrew Johns, no Shane Webcke, and no Ben Kennedy – all have retired from representative football.

The fact the Blues are still able to produce a team in which 16 players have State of Origin experience is evidence of the depth that has enabled the Blues to dominate State of Origin in recent years.

The Maroons have opted for a younger, much less experienced lineup, including 19-year-old Greg Inglis who even Blues supporters rate as the best young player in the game today.

Despite the absence of some of league’s best players, this Origin series shapes up as a more interesting contest than in recent years. It’s just not possible to be confident about the outcome of a contest between a very experienced team and a comparatively inexperienced one.

The Maroons selectors had no choice but to go for new blood. The Blues selectors were able to stick with the nucleus of the team that has delivered series victories in recent years. We will know which approach is on the mark in eight days time.

Peter Fray

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