Queensland’s shock 18-14 victory in game one has added extra intrigue to the second match of the State of Origin series on Wednesday.
However, also adding to the theatre surrounding the contest is the trading of verbal blows and opinions surrounding both the strength of the Maroons side and form of the Blues halves.
Read on for all the latest news and updates ahead of the second game of the series.
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NSW LEGEND ‘EXTREMELY CONDIFENT’ IN BLUES WIN
Ben Elias is not afraid to confidently back the Blues in for victory, even after that same mentality helped the underdog Maroons to a shock win in game one last week.
Queensland were widely considered long odds of taking down New South Wales but pulled off a stunning 18-14 upset.
They are still heavy outsiders for game two but few experts are taking them lightly anymore.
Elias though has declared he is “extremely confident” in a Blues victory.
“I’m extremely confident and that’s the way the players should be feeling,” Elias said on 1170 SEN’s Mornings with Matty White.
“They’re a way better side in every way, they had their backsides whacked in the first game.
“They took things for granted, and at this level you never should do that.
“The quality of the players they’ve got, with Freddy (Brad) Fittler and the people around him, they will show their worthiness and why we’ve invested in them over the last couple of years.
“I think we’ll win and we’ll win well, I’m saying 20 plus (points).”
FITTLER FIRES BACK AT JOEY’S CLEARY CRITICISM
Andrew Johns argued in the lead-up to this week’s game that Nathan Cleary should be rested after a tense past month that saw him miss out on the NRL title and put in a quiet showing in game one.
Instead Luke Keary was the one that was left out and NSW coach Brad Fittler leapt to the defence of his star halfback.
“Joey is not the captain or coach, we pick players for the reason to win big games,” Fittler said.
“Over the past couple of years they have done a fairly good job.
“Sometimes we haven’t played as good as we’d like, and I think individuals would say the same.
“But I think in general he has done a pretty good job.”
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The Daily Telegraph’s Dean Ritchie argued though that given Johns’ success in the Origin arena his voice had more weight in the debate than most others.
“Guys like Andrew Johns and Phil Gould are entitled to do that [give an opinion],” he said on Sky Sports’ Big Sports Breakfast.
“They have achieved more at Origin level than most. They’re mates with Freddy, who is probably thinking they are supposed to mates of mine and now they’re kicking a bit of sand in my face.
“That’s what Origin is about. It is about the theatre. It is about the anger. It is about the scrutiny.
“The Blues’ disappointment rose to a level I haven’t seen before.”
JOEY CALLS ON BLUES TO TARGET QLD’S MILLION-DOLLAR MAN
The injury to fullback AJ Brimson has seen Valentine Holmes brought into the Maroons squad after sitting out the opening game through suspension.
Holmes has an impressive try-scoring record in the Origin arena with eight tries from just five games played in 2017 and 2018.
He is not on the wing though and is also coming off a seven-week layoff without playing.
Johns argued in a column for the Sydney Morning Herald that Holmes is worth targeting.
“Queensland have a new fullback in Valentine Holmes, who hasn’t played in seven weeks – and not much in the No.1 jumper,” he wrote.
“Cleary needs to kick early and isolate him, especially with towering winger Daniel Tupou coming through — something NSW didn’t exploit in the series opener.”
BLUES LEADERSHIP VOID LEAVES DALEY CONCERNED
Laurie Daley is confident the Blues will be dominant in victory over the Maroons on Wednesday night in game two of the State of Origin series.
However, he still has one major concern surrounding the current squad if things don’t go as planned at ANZ Stadium.
The loss of Boyd Cordner has seen James Tedesco take over the captaincy while Nathan Cleary has been promoted to vice captain.
Both are outstanding players on the field but Daley questions their leadership credentials in adversity.
He says it is a potential void that could hurt the Blues if they fall to an early deficit or are struggling for confidence.
“Who are they going to turn to?,” he asked on Sky Sports’ Big Sports Breakfast.
“Who is going to be that leader or the couple of leaders they need to inspire them and give them that calmness?
“Teddy hasn’t been in that situation before. Is Nathan Cleary going to stand up and calm everyone down or will he go into his shell because of the criticism he has received?
“I’m just trying to find who the leaders in this New South Wales team will be if they are put under pressure.”
Daley pointed towards the fact that man in the past had been Cleary’s former teammate James Maloney, who would be rallying the troops behind the posts when a try was conceded.
Now though, he wonders who will be the one making their voice heard.
“Someone has to do that tonight,” he said.
“I haven’t seen Teddy do it, he may do it for the Roosters, I’m unsure. He’ll need to do it if they are under the pump or they’ll need a couple of people to step up in leadership positions to guide them to victory if it gets tight.”
UNWANTED CRITICISM WILL WORK IN BLUES FAVOUR
It has not just been Queensland copping it though, with the Blues under immense pressure since the 18-14 loss in the opening game.
Former NSW coach Laurie Daley reckons it could be just what the Blues need to bounce back.
“I think it’s helped New South Wales, the fact they’ve been criticised this week,” he said.
“Coming into that first game, nothing makes you more mentally weak than getting pats on the back telling you how good you hear.
“When you’re continually hearing: ‘You’re going to win by 20, you’re the better side’, you can’t help but think that is what is going to happen.”
He continued to argue that the harsh criticism has brought an otherwise dull build-up to life.
“I think it’s a great part of the build-up,” he added.
“It doesn’t feel like Origin. The build-up hasn’t been there like we usually see and something needs to happen for us to be glued to that television and I think there will be more people watching tonight because of New South Wales losing.
“But you always need a bit of drama, you always need something surrounding Origin to take it and elevate it above everything else.”
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Ritchie agreed that the series is missing the kind of rivalry which saw Paul Gallen famously level a sledge at Queensland in 2014.
“It’s an entertainment and it’s a business,” he said.
“If the players weren’t taught to be so benign and vanilla it wouldn’t be up to journos like me to try hype it up. They just don’t do it anymore.
“Paul Gallen called Queensland two heads famously. Look back now laughing, it was a great pre-game motivation and got everyone fired up.
“These days they are told not to say anything. That to me is to the detriment of State of Origin.”