Underdogs out to ruin Queensland Maroons winning streak.
New South Wales will be without their inspirational leader Paul Gallen as they bid to end Queensland’s record seven straight State of Origin series wins in Wednesday’s decider in Sydney.
Gallen, who fired up the series opener with a flurry of punches on Queensland forward Nate Myles, succumbed to a foot injury and was ruled out as the Blues seek to win their first interstate title since 2005.
Wests Tigers prop Aaron Woods will join recalled James Tamou in the front row, while hooker Robbie Farah has been handed the captaincy by coach Laurie Daley.
Gallen’s loss is a massive blow for NSW, who won the spiteful opener 14-6 in Sydney only for Queensland to take the 2013 series to a decider with a conclusive 26-6 victory in Brisbane.
Daley has plenty of firepower in the starting side and off the interchange bench as he attempts to rid the monkey off NSW’s back in the fiercely-fought Origin showdowns with Mal Meninga’s Maroons.
In addition to the giant Tamou returning from suspension following a drink-driving charge, Daley has the damaging Andrew Fifita to come off an all-forwards bench, along with Trent Merrin, Boyd Cordner and Anthony Watmough for added impact in what is shaping up to be a brutal encounter.
“Fifita’s been one of their best forwards in both games. We know he is going to be a handful,” Queensland backrower Sam Thaiday said.
“They are going to look at blokes like him, (James) Tamou and Boyd Cordner to share the load with Gallen out.”
The Maroons may be the dominant state in Australian rugby league, but they will have to overcome a poor record in Sydney to win their eighth straight series.
Queensland have registered just four wins in 20 games since Sydney’s 84,000-capacity Olympic stadium was opened in 1999, with their last victory there in 2010. Only once during their recent dominance have the Maroons sealed a series in Sydney, back in 2008.
“We are under no illusions that in Sydney you have a lot of things going against you,” Queensland backrower Corey Parker said.
“From our point of view you have to flip and use it in your favour with a united side and sticking together. State of Origin is a tough game, you only get three cracks at it.”
Origin warrior Greg Bird, who has battled an ankle injury to play in the decider, is dismissive of talk that all is stacked against NSW to finally overcome the Queensland dominance this week.
“The general punter doesn’t really give us a chance. They haven’t given us a chance for the last seven years. They’re probably right,” Bird said.
“But the general punter ain’t going to be running out there on Wednesday night, and taking hit-ups and making tackles. To be honest, I don’t care what they think. We’ll be out there, we’re confident in what we can do, and we’ll get the job done.”
Queensland have a Test-strength backline with virtually all of their plays and decision-making emanating from the trio of Cameron Smith, Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk.
It will be how NSW can effectively shut down the influential trio and win the forward battle that will decide the outcome of the series.