Bring in the hostile crowd – the NSW Wheelchair Rugby League team is ready to take the heat.
The Blues head to Townsville in north Queensland this Saturday for the 2022 State of Origin match and they know they’re heading into a firestorm.
That’s partially because of the 22-12 win by Queensland against the Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues in Game Three of the Ampol State of Origin series at Suncorp Stadium on 13 July.
“The social media since Wednesday night’s Origin win has been massive – ‘If the Queenslanders can do it with a big home crowd then let’s get that for the wheelchair guys too’ - that’s what they’ve been saying,” NSW co-captain Brad Grove said.
“The Queenslanders are already whipping things up. They want a big crowd up there and it sounds like they’ve got it.
“We know what we’re going into. Some of the newer guys might find it a bit tough but it’s a mindset thing – zone it all out and do the job.”
His co-captain and fellow Wheelaroo Craig Cannane said the six Australian members in the NSW Origin side, who have been named for World Cup squad later this year, will receive valuable preparation in Townsville for dealing with hostile fans.
“I told my guys to watch the Origin game at Suncorp Stadium and you’ll see how the players react and lift to the crowd,” Cannane said.
“We’ll be in the same boat – most of the crowd yelling for them.
“And we need to get used to that because our first game in the World Cup is against England – it’s sold out already and no-one will be cheering for us.
“As players we need to deal with that – it’s a challenge.”
The other challenge is more obvious – win back the Origin shield which the Queenslanders claimed in January with a 50-30 victory in Sydney.
“We have to play for 80 minutes,” Cannane said.
“We went try-for-try for 50 minutes last time and then dropped off.
“Queensland stepped up then and they will do it again, so we have to shut down that momentum this time by playing strong defence.
“If we do that then we’re capable of a lot of points ourselves.”
Grove said the NSW side was better prepared for Townsville.
“We’ve had the chance to prepare a bit more together this time around with no lockdowns,” Grove said.
“All the boys have done their fitness stuff, practised hard, so we’ve done pretty much everything we should have done.
“We’ve had the local club comp, then City-Country so we’ve all had far more time in the chairs. I’m more confident this time.
“There’s nothing much we needed to change – just be more prepared, and we are.”
Wheelchair Rugby League is played over two 40-minute halves, with the same points scoring as the running game. The ‘field of play’ is 50-metres in length and 25-metres wide, across three indoor basketball courts.
Rules are similar – players must pass backwards, possession changes after six tackles. A ‘tackle’ is made by ripping off the Velcro shoulder tag of an opposition player, similar to Monarch Blues Tag.
Kicks downfield, conversions, penalties and field goals are hand-punted. A play-the-ball is made by tapping the football on the ground before passing.
Click here to watch the Wheelchair State of Origin.
NSW Wheelchair Rugby League squad
Jason Attard (Wests Tigers)
Cory Cannane (St George Illawarra Dragons)
Craig Cannane (c) (St George Illawarra Dragons)
William Derederenalagi (Parramatta Eels)
Rick Engles (St George Illawarra Dragons)
Brad Grove (c) (Wests Tigers)
Diab Karim (Parramatta Eels)
Liam Luff (Parramatta Eels)
Chris O’Brien (Canberra Raiders)
Toby Popple (Canberra Raiders)
Zac Carl (Canberra Raiders)
Edge Iole (St George Illawarra Dragons)