A number of questions will be answered when Queensland and NSW line-up for a deciding Game 3 of the State of Origin series in Brisbane on July 12.
How will the Blues respond from disappointment?
Laurie Daley’s team were 40 minutes away from recapturing the shield in Sydney and several players looked shattered in the rooms afterwards.
Few would have foreseen the Maroons’ comeback given the domination his side had enjoyed over the opening one-and-a-half matches and there’s a ‘one that got away’ feeling to overcome.
Cruising at 16-6 at the break, the Blues were guilty of failing to control the ball and giving away several slack penalties deep in opposition territory.
Queensland needed no second invitation, growing stronger as the match continued and stealing the result courtesy of Dane Gagai’s late try and an ice cool conversion from Johnathan Thurston.
Daley has a huge job on his hands to get his players in the right head space for this clash.
He has had the luxury of naming an unchanged side once again but there’s a big question mark over the fitness of skipper Boyd Cordner.
Jack de Belin is on standby to come into the side should the Roosters backrower, who has already declared he won’t take part unless 100 percent fit, be unable to get up for the game.
Tyson Frizell, Josh Dugan and James Tedesco are all carrying knocks but expected to play given the stature of the contest.
Can anyone replace JT?
By his high standards, Thurston didn’t have the greatest impact on Game 2 (despite slotting the winning points) but there’s no doubt that other players feed off his presence and that’s an intangible quality the hosts will find hard to replicate.
Shoulder surgery deprives the future hall-of-famer of a much-anticipated Origin swansong and with Game 1 starter Anthony Milford also injured, the Maroons have kept fans and pundits guessing slightly as to who will slot in alongside Cooper Cronk.
Michael Morgan (pictured above), who has familiarity with the Maroons’ set-up and has played a huge hand for the Cowboys in JT’s absence, is the most likely to wear the six jersey.
Despite a glowing endorsement from club skipper Cameron Smith as to his capabilities as a half, Cameron Munster will likely make his Origin debut in the centres as a replacement for Darius Boyd.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was the inclusion of the Dragons-bound Ben Hunt as a bench utility ahead of Daly Cherry-Evans, who has filled that role for his state in the past.
Hunt spent time in the ‘Reggie Reserves’ not long ago but Walters knows him well from his time as an assistant coach at the Broncos and feels he can add some value to the position.
How will the match be refereed?
After a frenetic opener at Suncorp, the Maroons were successful in slowing down the ruck in Game 2 and actually won the penalty count 6-4.
Walters deftly accused the Blues of ‘putting pressure on the referees’ in the lead-up to that game and it worked a treat, the Maroons also able to get away with blocking Jarryd Hayne from contesting a couple of high kicks.
The home side were unable to build up as much momentum through the middle of the field with the likes of Andrew Fifita and Aaron Woods well-contained.
Matt Cecchin is the best referee in the game but his handling of the play-the-ball and willingness to keep the teams apart will undoubtedly have a major bearing on the result.
How will this one play out? Scratching my head to be honest.
The Blues have been the better side over the two games and arguably have more game-breakers in their line-up.
History doesn’t favour them though, with NSW never having won two games in Brisbane in the same Origin series.
The atmosphere is sure to be electric and Queensland will feed off that.
Strap yourself in!
Queensland at $2.15
NSW at $1.72
Tip: NSW at $1.72
Line tip: NSW -1.5 (1.83)
Margin: NSW to win by 12 points or less ($2.80)
Man of the Match: Mitchell Pearce ($8.00)
First tryscorer: Jarryd Hayne ($13.00)
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