ORIGIN III | Preview
Once again it all comes down to a series decider this Wednesday night. With NSW dominating Queensland in the Game One with a 28-4 victory and letting slip a 16-6 first-half lead in Game Two, another series will be determined at Suncorp Stadium when both teams run out for one of the biggest games in Origin history.
The Blues’ commanding victory in Origin I was their biggest on enemy territory and having enjoyed significant success up until the 50th minute of Game Two, they now look back and view it as nothing more than missed opportunity.
Despite significant injury concerns to captain Boyd Cordner and Tyson Frizzell, it is likely that NSW will use the same 17 across all three games for the first time since 1996 - coincidentally, NSW won that series with a 3-0 whitewash.
Arguably one of NSW’s best players of the series, James Tedesco will take the field despite battling an ankle injury, with the Tigers dynamo averaging 170 metres and eight tackle-breaks in both games, to go with his three try-assists, three line-breaks and three line-break-assists so far this series.
It’s no surprise that NSW’s loss came down to the boot of Johnathan Thurston, but the Game Two match-winner has since been ruled out for the rest of the season with a shoulder injury.
His absence has stirred a large debate as to who will wear the coveted no.6 jersey, with Queensland confirming that Cameron Munster will take the place of the Cowboys maestro, while Michael Morgan will join Will Chambers in the centres in the place of injured Broncos fullback Darius Boyd.
Munster’s admission into the starting line-up will see the Storm spine contingent of Slater, Cronk and Smith completed - the first time in 23 years Queensland has fielded a one-club spine. They've also never won a Series with three separate halves combinations.
One of the biggest selection shocks for Game Three saw maligned Broncos halfback Ben Hunt named to make his debut as a utility on Wednesday night, despite Daly Cherry-Evan’s purple patch of form that has seen him lead the Manly Sea Eagles charge towards the NRL's top four.
Despite the past two games suggesting a changing of the guard is imminent, history says it will be no walk in the park with NSW winning just four series deciders in their history.
Why Queensland can win: The home ground advantage.
Out of the 21 Game Three fixtures that have been played at Suncorp Stadium since the three-game series was introduced in 1982, Queensland have won 14 - including the past three series deciders that have been played there.
There’s no doubting that it won’t be easy for Queensland, despite the mental battle of running out onto Suncorp Stadium for the New South Welshmen, but it’s evident that the Maroons will relish the home ground advantage come Wednesday night.
Winning seven of their past 10 games at Suncorp suggests that NSW have a huge mountain to climb, but considering the performances of NSW so far in 2017 they certainly won’t be taken lightly.
Why NSW can win: Their game plan works.
If you’re a NSW fan you’ll be asking yourself why we’re sitting here in anticipation for an Origin decider. After a dominant victory in Game One, they were brimming with confidence throughout the first half of Game Two with three unanswered tries giving them a handy 16-6 lead.
While they let slip a crucial lead to go down to a Johnathan Thurston sideline conversion, it is evident that they have the game plan to deliver a series victory.
Their forwards have laid a strong platform throughout both games of the Series, with the likes of Andrew Fifita and captain Boyd Cordner leading the way, however the decision to defend their lead with half an hour still to play was their biggest mistake.
Shying away from the game plan was their achilles heel in the final 30 minutes, but they can take confidence in knowing they delivered a clinical performance in Game One away from home and dominated a majority of the contest in Game Two despite their downfall.
There’s no doubt that the pressure is largely on the classy halves pairing of James Maloney and Mitchell Pearce, but with Pearce in career-best form and have delivered a premiership with Maloney for the Roosters in 2013, there is no doubt they have the ability to steer NSW to a famous victory.
Verdict: Fans are certainly in for one of the greatest games of Origin we.ve seen. You can never look past the class of the almighty Maroons outfit, but it’s fair to say NSW would have learned their lesson in Game Two and won’t make the same mistake come Wednesday night. NSW by six.
First try-scorer: James Tedesco
Man of the match: Boyd Cordner