New South Wales took care of business at home, but will they regret having Game 1 in Adelaide taken away from them?
The Blues have not won a decider in Queensland since 2005, and with Suncorp Stadium allowing full crowd capacity, the task for Brad Fittler might have got tougher.
New South Wales are continuing to ride the highs of winning by naming an unchanged 17. Meanwhile, a struggling Phillip Sami was replaced with Corey Allan, while Christian Welch is returning to the starting line-up.
Harry Grant has been selected to make his Origin debut in favour of Ben Hunt as the utility off the bench, which is a bold but positive move. He will certainly add a dynamic edge to the Maroons in attack and the Blues defence will need to be warier of him.
During this series I’ve been mentioning how Queensland are fielding an overall weaker team on paper based on individual abilities. There is no doubt that the same situation occurs for Game 3.
If you go down both team lists, most people will take a Blues player head to head over their opposite number across a majority of positions.
The talent and ability of New South Wales players were irrelevant in Game 1. Despite holding a 10-0 lead early on, the Blues succumbed to the Maroons consistently applying pressure. They were outworked and ultimately failed to hold on.
The Blues then managed to get a hold of Game 2 and run away with a comfortable win.
It’s interesting to note that both coaches had similar comments during the post-game press conference for Game 2. Fittler mentioned the improved intent of the Blues and Wayne Bennett mentioned the Maroons’ poor attitude, which were the difference makers at ANZ Stadium.
However, everyone knows it will be a completely different game once again inside the fortress of Suncorp Stadium. Queensland always seem to perform above and beyond when at home than they otherwise would.
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The key aspect of the game to monitor will be whether all the positives in Game 2 can carry over into Game 3 for the Blues.
Nathan Cleary was the star in Sydney after a poor game in Adelaide. Will he be able to lead the Blues and guide them in a hostile environment or will he wilt under immense pressure?
Can the addition of Corey Allan improve Queensland’s defensive capabilities on their left-side edge? New South Wales have been able to exploit Kurt Capewell and Phillip Sami defensively, scoring most of their tries on that side. Allan will have a major task defensively to stop James Tedesco, Cody Walker, Clint Gutherson and Josh Addo-Carr.
Meanwhile, the centres pairing of Gutherson and Jack Wighton must be a concern for the Blues. In two games both Gutherson and Wighton have missed six and 14 tackles respectively. If the Blues can hold on out wide, that would bode very well for their chances to win the series.
Having Cameron Munster available for a whole game will certainly aid the Maroons’ chances. He is a player who can create plays out of nothing.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see Munster, Daly Cherry-Evans, Jake Friend and Harry Grant on the field at the same time. If Queensland can wear the Blues forward pack down, having multiple options to attack the line could cause New South Wales some trouble considering the struggles out wide.
Overall, Game 3 will demonstrate the characters of each team. If there is anything that is certain, it’s that Queensland will perform for a full 80 minutes in Brisbane. They won’t provide any major gifts to the Blues, and New South Wales are going to have to perform well to earn a victory.
Even when the Blues won the series in 2018 and 2019 they failed to win the games at Suncorp Stadium. There’s just a unique aura that comes with playing Queensland in Suncorp.
The pressure is all with New South Wales. They have been labelled the favourites in all three games in this series. On the other hand, the Maroons can simply give 100 per cent at home with nothing to lose considering they weren’t expected to achieve much at the start.
Given Queensland’s strong record of defending their home turf, the Blues winning on Wednesday night would be a great achievement that should not be discounted. Although the Blues may be fielding higher quality players, the Maroons as a team are just a different animal in Brisbane.