Billy’s last stand

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MEMORIES of 2014 are spurring on stand-in Queensland skipper Billy Slater to prevent a NSW clean sweep in his State of Origin swansong.
Before his 31st and final game for the Maroons, Slater said he was determined to steer his team to victory and ensure the Blues did not gain momentum for their own dynasty. NSW are vying for their first series whitewash since 2000.
Slater said Queensland’s current plight reminded him of their past series loss in 2014.
Four years ago the Maroons recorded a 32-8 Origin III win in Brisbane, the catalyst to go on and win the next three series.
NSW’s series win this year marks just the second for the Blues in 13 years.
“We were in this position in 2014, we lost the series. It is important to gain a bit of momentum to go into next year and hopefully get that winning feeling for these boys,” Slater said.
“I know the series isn’t on the line anymore and NSW have wrapped it up and fully deserve it. But we are playing for Queensland.
“This team is pretty important to the people of Queensland. I have always remembered that pulling on this maroon jersey.”
Rather than adopt a “do it for Billy” approach to avoid a whitewash, Slater wanted the new-look Queensland team to remember the support on their regional fan day at Hervey Bay last week when locals queued for hours for autographs.
“We will be doing everything possible to do that, that’s not something you want next to your name,” Slater said of the possibility of a NSW clean sweep.
“We need to go out there and play best we can.
“We went up to Hervey Bay at the start of the camp, I really enjoy going to those fan days in the rural areas.
“It reminds you of how much this team means to the public. That’s who we are playing for on Wednesday night.”
Slater will skipper Queensland for the first time after centre Greg Inglis was ruled out with a broken thumb. Inglis joined the Queensland camp on Sunday.
“He’s just arrived. It’s good to have Greg in camp that’s for sure,” Slater said. “We will go up to Brisbane this afternoon, then it starts getting pretty serious.”
Inglis’s injury ensures Slater is the last man standing from Queensland’s 2006 side that launched their incredible run of 11 series wins in the past 12 years.
He takes over the reins of a Queensland side that has struggled in life without their big three of skipper Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston.
But Slater believed Daly Cherry-Evans was ready to make a statement at halfback after ending three years in the Origin wilderness.
“I think he can play in that No.7 jersey for a long time,” he said.
State of Origin III, Queensland v NSW, Wednesday, 8pm, Suncorp Stadium
Key match-up: Damien Cook v Andrew McCullough. Cook has clearly outpointed McCullough in each of the first two matches and the Blues have used that platform to control large parts of each game. Queensland’s decision to move Ben Hunt back to the bench is likely to result in him being used at dummy half for parts of the match. If McCullough is unable to have a greater impact in the series finale, the Maroons may be looking for a new No.9 in 2019.
For the Blues to win: It’s simple — just keep doing what they did over the opening two matches. After years of over-complicating things, the low-key approach that Brad Fittler has adopted has worked a treat. If they are able to replicate the performances they turned on at the MCG and ANZ Stadium, a 3-0 sweep looms large.
For the Maroons to win: After more than a decade of relying on Smith, Thurston, Cronk, Inglis and Slater to turn the hard work of the forwards into victories, Slater is the only member of that quintet who will be wearing the Maroon jersey on Wednesday night. That leaves the returning Daly Cherry-Evans as the man who needs to make this team his own. It is a big ask of someone considered not good enough to play in the opening two matches, but if DCE stars the Maroons might just be able to squeak home.
Maroons Stat Attack: He may have been on the losing side but Queensland winger Valentine Holmes has produced some strong individual numbers this series, leading all players for points (14) and run metres (448), ranking equal first for line breaks (3) and ranking third for tackle breaks, dummy-half runs and support runs.
Blues Stat Attack: NSW scored a total of 26 points across three games in 2014, their only other winning series since 2005. They’ve easily passed that mark already after two games in 2018, with 40 points.
And another thing: A NSW win would give the Blues a fourth clean sweep in Origin history after tasting success in 1986, 1996 and 2000. The 1986 and 1996 sweeps came with game three wins in Brisbane. The Maroons have been facing the prospect of a 3-0 series loss nine times but have won six of those dead rubbers. Queensland have won nine of the past 11 Origin matches at Suncorp Stadium.
NSW Blues: 1 James Tedesco, 2 Tom Trbojevic, 3 Latrell Mitchell, 4 James Roberts, 5 Josh Addo-Carr, 6 James Maloney, 7 Nathan Cleary, 8 David Klemmer, 9 Damien Cook, 10 Paul Vaughan, 11 Boyd Cordner (c), 12 Tyson Frizell, 13 Jack de Belin. Interchange: 14 Tariq Sims, 15 Jake Trbojevic, 16 Angus Crichton, 17 Tyrone Peachey. 18th man: Ryan James.
Queensland Maroons: 1 Billy Slater (c), 2 Valentine Holmes, 3 Dane Gagai, 4 Will Chambers, 5 Corey Oates, 6 Cameron Munster, 7 Daly Cherry-Evans, 8 Jai Arrow, 9 Andrew McCullough, 10 Josh Papalii, 11 Gavin Cooper, 12 Felise Kaufusi, 13 Josh McGuire. Interchange: 14 Ben Hunt, 15 Jarrod Wallace, 16 Coen Hess, 17 Tim Glasby. – NRL.com

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