Queensland has wrapped up yet another series after beating the Blues by eight points in Game II at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium. Broncos fullback Darius Boyd has been one of the Maroons’ best players this year along with fellow Bronco Matt Gillett and former Knights teammate Dane Gagai. Rookie coach Kevin Walters has the luxury of not having to worry about a series-deciding game. However, given the professionalism of the Queensland Great, Kevvie’s game plan and instructions will not differ to those of the first two matches.
The Blues have been far from ordinary in this year’s series, but with Queensland fielding a team considered one of the best in, not just State of Origin, but rugby league history it is hard to match it with the cream of the crop. New South Wales’ plucky performances in both games can be put down to inexperience and the fact the Maroons are fielding some future immortals. Game III gives coach Laurie Daley a bit of wiggle room to experiment with some fresh blood.
State of Origin is the most irresistible, hard fought, sensational and brutal theatre in world sport and not even a dead rubber will be enough to deter the millions of people all over the globe from tuning into this epic … bring on Game III.
Queensland won Game 2 to confirm another season victory and now go about completing the clean sweep for the fifth time in their history.
In team news the Blues selectors could no longer ignore the form nor public outcry to select Wests Tigers fullback James Tedesco, with Jack Bird replacing Adam Reynolds in the halves and Matt Moylan on the bench we will get a good look at the NSW of the future. Wade Graham also makes his debut and Josh Dugan returns in the centres.
Queensland lose bench players Josh Papali and Michael Morgan, replaced by Nate Myles and a much deserved debut for Gavin Cooper. There is no doubt though that they lose something from their recent game plan without Morgan.
The overall trends when teams are attempting a clean sweep are very even. However, the recent trends, albeit on a small sample, point to a high-scoring open match and a NSW victory.
There will be plenty of emotion on either side with retiring players, but for NSW in what will surely be Paul Gallen’s last match they will have that small added incentive.
All of NSW has been waiting for the injection of Tedesco and with Moylan and Bird in the side and provided they aren’t overawed by the occasion I think the Blues can prevail.
The game will be played at ANZ Stadium with kick off scheduled for 8.00pm AEST.
The Maroons have already clinched the 2016 series, winning the opening game 6-4 before prevailing 26-16 last month in Brisbane.
While Queensland have already secured an incredible 10th State of Origin shield in the last 11 years, don’t make the mistake in thinking this ‘dead rubber’ Game 3 clash won’t be any less intense or ferocious.
Origin is Origin. Nobody will be taking a backwards step at ANZ Stadium, with Queensland aiming to add further misery to Laurie Daley and his Blues side, while NSW will be hoping to save face and lay a solid foundation and platform for the 2017 series.
Prediction: Like most Origins (at least in Sydney), this clash is quite tough to predict. Queensland say they won’t take the foot off the pedal, and with Corey Parker retiring at the end of the season, you can’t doubt them. But naturally they will have enjoyed this week and perhaps their preparation won’t be as meticulous as the first two games. Which could work in two ways – either they play without pressure and blitz the Blues, or NSW take advantage and are in superior shape in the last 10 minutes where so many Origin games are decided. It’s really a toss-up, but I’ll back NSW and their desperation to salvage something from the series to get them through in another close one.