Make or break


FOR the first time in a long time, history is finally on NSW’s side. The Blues will enter Sunday night’s second State of Origin as the shortest-priced favourites they’ve been since the TAB first offered markets in 1998.
And the good news is that every time they’ve been anywhere the $1.36 on offer, they’ve won.
Of the five times they’ve been priced at $1.50 or below, they’ve won. On four of those occasions, the win has been by at least 10.
The most recent of those was at the MCG earlier this month, where they set up their 1-0 series lead over the Maroons.
But the Blues aren’t buying into the hype.
More than a decade of Origin misery is still in the back of their minds, even with the most relaxed and positive vibe around camp in years. “I don’t know about feels,” five-eighth James Maloney — the most experienced member of their crucial spine — said.
“Sometimes it feels good and it doesn’t go so good. Other times it doesn’t feel good and it goes well.
“It’s irrelevant. I don’t think it all correlates. We need to make sure everyone of us plays our best and we’ll be right on Sunday.”
Maloney has every reason to be scarred.
This is the third time in his four Origin series that the Blues have held a 1-0 lead with a game to play in Sydney.
Yet still he’s empty-handed at Origin level.
In total, this is the sixth time in Queensland’s run that NSW have won Game I but again they’ve only won one series in that time.
“We’ve been in this situation years before and I’ve been saying it for years. We can turn the tables,” Maloney said.
“We owe it to NSW — they’ve stuck solid for a long time and we haven’t got the result. I suppose as players the responsibility is on us.
“There’s never been much in it. As players that experience tells you there is still a lot to do. There is some work left to do, it’s not over.
“Hopefully we can prepare and understand that.”
State of Origin II, New South Wales v Queensland, Sunday, 7.40pm at ANZ Stadium
Key match-up: Experience versus X-factor. When the result is on the line, few players seal games better than the king of crunch time James Maloney. The Panthers pivot has the uncanny knack of making each team he’s part of a winning one. His duel with Melbourne No.6 Cameron Munster will go a long way toward determining the result of the all-important game two.
For the Blues to win: Good as it must feel to be up 1-0 in the best of three series, NSW might be better off with the approach that it’s still 0-0. That might be the only way to stamp out any cockiness lingering from their 22-12 game one victory. James Tedesco might not reach his Man of the Match heights from game one, meaning other players will have to be ready to step up. When the Blues briefly fell behind in game one there was no panic and they better be armed with exactly the same poise and belief on Sunday.
For the Maroons to win: There’s nothing like the fear of failure to bring out the best in elite athletes. The Queenslanders know the series hinges on this game and will be desperate to avoid heading home to Brisbane for a dead rubber in game three. Inglis has to lead from the front like he did so stoically in game one, but he needs help from every one of his teammates if Queensland are to keep the series alive. They can’t afford to let Tedesco get his confidence up like he did in the first game and the forwards have to stand up and be counted.
NSW Stat Attack: The Blues have only secured a series win at ANZ Stadium three times, in 2003, 2004 and 2014. Brad Fittler meanwhile is looking to become the sixth NSW coach to claim victory in his first Origin series, after Terry Fearnley (1985), Ron Willey (1986), Phil Gould (1992), Tom Raudonikis (1997) and Ricky Stuart (2005).
Queensland Stat Attack: Billy Slater will play his 30th State of Origin match, the 10th Maroons player to do so and the 11th overall. Meanwhile Kalyn Ponga is set to become the youngest Queensland Origin debutant since Israel Folau in 2008.
And another thing: The largest crowd to watch a State of Origin match was 91,513 in 2015 at the MCG, while the smallest was 16,559 at Lang Park in 1984. NSW hold the record for most points scored in a single game when they beat the Maroons 56-16 in game three in 2000. That was also the game when Ryan Girdler racked up an Origin-high 32 points in one game — an individual record that will almost certainly never be broken. Cameron Smith holds the record for most games played (42), while Greg Inglis has scored the most Origin tries (17). Petero Civoniceva was the oldest Origin player at 36 in 2012 and Ben Ikin was the youngest at 18 in 1995.
NSW: 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 Matt Prior, 11 Boyd Cordner (c), 12 Tyson Frizell, 13 Jack de Belin. Interchange: 14 Paul Vaughan, 15 Jake Trbojevic, 16 Angus Crichton, 17 Tyrone Peachey.
QLD: 1 Billy Slater, 2 Valentine Holmes, 3 Greg Inglis (c), 4 Will Chambers, 5 Dane Gagai, 6 Cameron Munster, 7 Ben Hunt, 8 Dylan Napa, 9 Andrew McCullough, 10 Jarrod Wallace, 11 Gavin Cooper, 12 Felise Kaufusi, 13 Josh McGuire. Interchange: 14 Kalyn Ponga, 15 Josh Papalii, 16 Coen Hess, 17 Jai Arrow, 18 Tim Glasby
NRL’s prediction: The Blues will be full of confidence, following an impressive win in the opening game of the Origin series. James Tedesco and Damien Cook were outstanding and the key for the blues will be to not be complacent and go to another level. They were in the same position as last year and unfortunately couldn’t get the job done. Queensland need to improve out of sight. They need more from their forward pack and they need more from their spine to take control of the game. Without Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston, the Maroons need to find the next leaders and this responsibility falls on the shoulders of Ben Hunt and Cameron Munster. There is no greater opportunity for the blues than to take the series on home soil this weekend. TIP: Blues by 8. –

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