Queensland Hoping History Repeats
Cooper Cronk has admitted that he went to bed on the Sunday prior to Origin I convinced his ankle injury would prevent him from playing but the combination of the Maroons medical staff and the "footy gods" saw him make a miraculous recovery.
While Cronk's ankle attracted much of the focus leading into Game One in Sydney on June 1 attention in Queensland camp for Game Two has turned to Dane Gagai's strained quadriceps muscle that has kept him from training with the rest of the playing group.
After being subjected to a late-night fitness test on Wednesday night at the team's base at Sanctuary Cove, Gagai was put through his paces away from the main group on Thursday morning as Cowboys winger Kyle Feldt acted as understudy on the Maroons' right wing.
New to the fold this year, Queensland team doctor Matthew Hislop and physiotherapist Robert Godbolt were the two influential men behind the scenes that got Cronk to the game sufficiently fit to perform his role in the Maroons' 6-4 win in Game One.
When Cronk went down on the Friday before Game One those in the New South Wales camp claimed it was all an elaborate ruse but the champion Melbourne half was adamant that in the immediate aftermath of the injury he was convinced he would miss another Origin for Queensland.
"There was no smoke and mirrors, I was gone Friday, Saturday... Sunday I didn't think I was a chance and then Monday the footy gods must have looked after me," Cronk said.
"We got the swelling out of the joint and functionally it was OK so just grit the teeth and get stuck in.
"It's not 100 per cent but it's right, there's no excuses. I've been managing it really well and it pulled up fine after the first game.
"I wish it had been in better condition going into Game One but we got through it, had enough time to recover and no ill effects now.
"I wouldn't have played if I didn't feel I could contribute and I think I contributed OK. Been playing OK back at club-land so no ill effects after it.
"We've got great medical staff here. The doctor and the physio were tremendous and if it wasn't for them I definitely wouldn't have been able to play."
It's for that same reason that Cronk is confident Gagai will be cleared to play his third Origin match in a row next Wednesday night.
"I think he's in a better position than I was," Cronk said.
"Mine happened at training, it was impact and it was short-term and I think he has been managing his injury for the last couple of weeks.
"We've got a great medical staff here and I'm sure he'll be right. The other thing is that no one in this football team is going to put their hand up to play if they're not capable of doing their job for the whole 80 minutes."
As well as having the footy gods on their side the numbers also support the notion that the Maroons will win a 10th Series in the past 11 years by holding a 1-0 advantage going into Game Two.
Although the losing team in Game One has come back to win Game Two in 10 of the past 16 Series, since State of Origin went to a three-match format in 1982 the team that has won Game One has gone on to win the Series on 27 occasions.
The Blues ambushed Queensland in Game Two in Melbourne last year but Cronk said the Maroons are determined to wrap up the Series on home soil at Suncorp Stadium next week.
"You look at Game Two last year and they came out and played like the Series was on the line, which it was, and they out-muscled us and out-played us in that second game in Melbourne. I think there'll be a similar mentality," said Cronk, who missed Game Two last year due to injury.
"We can sit here and talk about plays and tactics and trying to isolate this defender but sometimes football is really basic and it's about effort and toughness. Going in there and making the opposition crack.
"You can come up with all the trick plays you want but sometimes it's just about putting your head in a spot that you don't want to or chasing a ball you don't necessarily feel like chasing. Everyone speaks about Origin and moments and that's what this game will be.
"Game Two, Series is on the line for NSW and it's on the line for us.
"We're not thinking that there's an option for Game Three, we want to go out there and put our best performance in front of our home crowd."
This article first appeared on NRL.com
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