After giving the Maroons an absolute trouncing in Sydney last week, the Blues have their tails up heading into the State of Origin decider, playing a team dubbed the worst in Origin history.
So, anyone else south of the Tweed nervous as hell about tomorrow night’s outcome?
A win’s a win’s a win, especially in a series where for and against counts for naught, but last year’s shield was secured on the back of a sweeping backline movement from deep in NSW’s own half with less than a minute left to play in the final match.
The better team won, sure, but Queensland have a habit of proving themselves the more deserving team in the interstate series.
And the first two matches of 2020 have played out remarkably similar to last year.
The underdog Queenslanders took an unexpected 18-14 win in Game 1 – we’re talking about 2019 and 2020 here, as the scoreline was the same in both.
The Blues then reminded everyone why they were favourites from the outset with a thrashing victory in Game 2 with the scoreboard that was, while not identical, at least dizygotic – 38-6 last year as opposed to 34-10 this.
So we come to Game 3.
Despite the Blues being unbackable favourites after the Perth shellacking and running out to a 20-8 lead by the hour mark, Queensland scored in the 71st and 76th minutes to tie the game at 20-all.
Mr Momentum had changed his address.
As the clock ticked over into the last 60 seconds NSW were pinned deep in their own half and you just knew a bit of ridiculous Origin magic was going to occur.
And it did. Except, going against the form guide for ridiculous Origin magic, NSW pulled the bunny from the hat. All they needed was James Tedesco, the best player in the world, to finish an insane team effort while playing on home turf in front of 82,565 parochial fans.
Again, a win’s a win and no-one cares whether it was decided by 50 and squared away by halftime or a freak try in the final 30 seconds – you either secure the spoils or you don’t.
But it’s a fool who doesn’t at least look at the circumstances that led to victory.
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Based on recent history, we’re in for an absolute nail-biter tomorrow.
But based on Origin legend, it’ll be the home team raising their arms in victory and their middle fingers at the doubters come the full-time siren.
And they’ll have every right if they do the latter, because this Queensland side isn’t bad, just unproven.
As of Monday evening, the average age of the 17 named is 25.5, which doesn’t make them spring chickens, but they are young and it’s worth acknowledging the mean is pulled up by Jake Friend and Dunamis Lui, a pair of Origin rookies who are on the handsome, distinguished and far more intelligent side of 30.
Xavier Coates, Corey Allan, Jaydn Su’a, Tino Fa’asuamaleaui and Harry Grant all look set for long and successful careers for their state, yet none had played Origin before this year, let alone celebrated their 24th birthday.
And this inexperience could prove their greatest weapon as they run into the Cauldron and, for the first time in their lives, experience the unparalleled roar that can only be produced by 52,000 fans with 104,000 heads.
If the home team can harness that energy, they will be far better placed to win the arm-wrestle than the away side.
What’s more, while it might seem silly after only back-to-back series losses as opposed to the eight on the trot the Blues had to endure, there would be no fear of a blue jersey in these tyros – inexperience cuts both ways.
The comparisons to ‘Fatty’s Nevilles’ of 1995 have been made time and again, but these Cane Toads give me 2001 Knights vibes (I know, I know, me bringing it back to Newcastle, what a shock).
Heading into the 2001 grand final, Parramatta were the best attacking and defensive team in premiership history, with all evidence pointing to an easy Eels win – particularly given how green their opposition were.
I mean, who had heard of Newcastle youngsters the likes of Timana Tahu, Steve Simpson or Josh Perry?
These days we look back on that game and wonder how it was ever expected to be anything but a walk in the park for a Knights side littered with rep stars. But back then those big names were just big kids with big dreams.
And while hindsight is 20-20, I’ll offer some foresight in 2020: this Maroons side is stacked with players who will be mainstays of the Kangaroos for the next decade.
To say they’re the worst team in Queensland history is like telling a two-year-old he’ll never amount to anything. There are youngsters on deck who could form the nucleus of the next great Origin dynasty. They could be anything.
And it could all start as soon as tomorrow night.
The Blues are the bookies’ favourites ahead of the decider, and that’s fair enough, but this game is in no way a foregone conclusion.
Because this isn’t the worst team in Queensland’s history, this is the first team in Queensland’s future.