By Stephen Gallagher
STATE OF ORIGIN: GAME 03 – New South Wales Blues V Queensland Maroons – Wednesday, ANZ Stadium. 20.10 local time, 22.10 NZ time.
LAST TIME: Queensland stood up, delivered a swamping result which saw them run out 26-6 winners to send it to a decisive Game 3 in Sydney.
THIS TIME: There’s no second chance for New South Wales here. Were magnificent in Game One in Sydney, abysmal in Game Two. There’s no re-runs. There’s if’s or maybe’s. This is it. Injuries have hurt this team, there’s no doubt about it. The spirit and determination need to be there if there’s any slight chance that they can win this.
Queensland ambushed New South Wales in Game Two. That’s the truth. They came out, and destroyed what chance they did have of winning in Queensland in the first two minutes. This team is coming in to this one winners, not just from Game Two, but from the last seven series. They know what it takes to win.
WHAT TO EXPECT: The Blues did not leave it all out on the pitch in Game Two, so I expect a diehard effort from them. Just how desperate does a team have to be to win State Of Origin? The year was 2005. How long will this number haunt the Blues? This will be the performance to change that. Injuries aside, these players want to become legends. Blood, sweat, tears. The forwards will not die wondering. Punishing runs and ruined bodies will be the result. The backs with magnificent pace and tough sliding defence. There needs to be belief.Who will step up for the absent Paul Gallen? Andrew Fifita the most likely candidate, but the entire team needs to rise and pick up the workload of their missing hero.
Maroons won’t accept anything less than a win. They’ve been here before. They know how to do it. Eight straight will be the battle cry that will torture the Blues. The magnificent beast of a forward pack can taunt and run all day long. Halves that can pick up anywhere on the field and deliver the goods. I think the back line will show just how deadly they can be. This is Queensland we’re talking about. The most dominant dynasty in Origin history. They won’t be easy beats.
THE BATTLE OF: Legendary Locks: Greg Bird squares up once again for another battle that will test him mentally and physically. Coming in to this match in a moonboot, will he be 100%? Of course not, but that’s what Origin is all about. He will make sure that his job is done to a point that the Cockroaches can call themselves winners.
Corey Parker has had his best ever Origin series in my opinion. What is it about players that get better with age? The salt n’ pepper hair says it all. His offloads killed NSW in the first two games. He is a profound deadly weapon for the Canetoads.
KEEP YOUR EYE ON: Mitchell Pearce. He knows just how much pressure is on him to perform. MIA in Game Two, if he doesn’t perform this could be the last ever performance he has in a Blues jersey. He needs to play like that. Lay it all out there. Pearce needs to run with it, draw the defenders. Make sure that with every touch of the ball, Queensland are wary of his presence.
Chris McQueen. Could probably have said his selection this series has come as a surprise, but if you look at just how he performed in Game Two you would understand its justification. He can be everything you want with the ball in hand, and can also tackle with force. A player that has a big future in Queensland’s ranks if he continues to deliver at this time of year.
PREDICTION: Okay, there’s a sold out ANZ Stadium. 80,000 + fans predominantly in blue. Seven straight series wins have gone to the Queenslanders. It’s 1-1. It’s a home game. It’s your time. New South Wales to win 22-16 in a thriller.
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