NSW Blues out to end seven years of misery in State of Origin series.
New South Wales can finally end Queensland’s record run of seven straight State of Origin series triumphs with a victory in Wednesday’s second match in Brisbane.
The Blues set up their chance with an impressive 14-6 victory over the Maroons in the opening game in Sydney earlier this month.
But they are prepared for a charged Queensland response before their own fans in a bid to keep this year’s series alive until the final encounter in Sydney on July 17.
Blues’ coach Laurie Daley believes his team will have to improve on their first-match win to repel a fired-up Queensland if they are to grab their first Origin series since 2005.
In the eight times NSW have travelled to Queensland following a game one victory, they have won just once – in 2000 – and none of the current squad of 17 have won a live rubber at the intimidating Suncorp Stadium.
“In front of their home crowd they’re going to be a lot stronger and use those opportunities better than they did in Sydney,” Blues’ backrower Greg Bird said.
Scrum-half teammate Mitchell Pearce added: “They’re going to lift and we’re going to have to improve.”
The NSW team is expecting Queensland’s irrepressible Test trio of Cameron Smith, Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk to improve their decision-making under pressure in the big moments to lift the cornered Maroons.
All-conquering Queensland coach Mal Meninga has been working on improving his team’s attitude for the pivotal showdown after the Maroons were outplayed for much of the Sydney opener.
“We have spent the week making sure our attitude is a lot better, particularly at the start,” Meninga said. “Because we need to play better.
“We can’t get away from the fact that we didn’t execute the best that we possibly could (in game one).”
Off-field issues have clouded NSW’s build-up to the big game with prop James Tamou suspended on a drink-driving charge and winger Blake Ferguson dropped after he was charged by police for the indecent assault of a woman in a late-night bar incident.
South Sydney winger Nathan Merritt will replace Ferguson, while St George Illawarra fullback Josh Dugan will make his return to Origin football after Jarryd Hayne was ruled out with a hamstring injury.
Wests Tigers prop Aaron Woods will make his Origin debut after coming in for Tamou.
Meninga has revamped his side with Daly Cherry-Evans and Josh Papalii coming onto the reserves bench for Ashley Harrison and David Shillington.