Do-or-die for NSW to save Origin series
RUGBY LEAGUE: New South Wales will be out to prevent Queensland from achieving an unprecedented seventh straight State of Origin rugby league series in the pivotal match in Sydney tonight (June 13).
Wednesday 13 June 2012, 12:29PM
Mal Meninga’s Maroons again have the edge in this season’s series after winning the Melbourne opener 18-10 last month and head to Sydney where they have won five of the last eight encounters at the Olympic stadium.
There has been the usual argy-bargy in the leadup to the kickoff of the fiercely-contested interstate series.
Upset by Meninga’s barbs that the Blues lacked the mentality to win Origin, NSW coach Ricky Stuart retorted in his weekend newspaper column: “To be honest, I have had a gutful of Queensland’s smugness and their fake graciousness in victory.”
Queensland have developed an era of dominance over NSW winning 14 of their past 19 encounters since NSW’s last series win in 2005.
The Maroons have a settled combination, a Test-strength backline led by Johnathan Thurston and a never-say-die forward pack that lays the platform for victory.
But Queensland have had a setback for game two with Test backrower Sam Thaiday ruled out with a shoulder injury and replaced by South Sydney’s Dave “Coal Train” Taylor, who has been scattering defenders in club matches this year.
“I’m hoping to play for as long as I can because Origins don’t come around too often,” Taylor said, adding “I’m just looking forward to the first 20 minutes, just ripping and tearing and we’ll see how it comes.”
Blues’ back-rower Greg Bird is lining up for his 10th Origin match and risks being part of a losing series campaign for a fifth time.
“We can’t go out there and play the way we did in game one, we’ve got to go out there and improve on that because if we play the same way we’ll get beat,” Bird said.
“We can’t just expect because we’re playing at home it’s going to happen. We’ve got to go out there and work hard for each other and do all the things right that we train to do.”
NSW are looking to the power up front of rookie Penrith prop Tim Grant to help the Blues level the series, while feisty Manly backrower Anthony Watmough is expected to see plenty of game time off the interchange bench.
NSW won the corresponding fixture 18-8 last year before going down 34-24 in an emotionally charged decider in Brisbane, where Darren Lockyer was farewelled in style by Meninga’s men.
Former Australian Test great Meninga with a winning 14-5 coaching record in Origins has more wins than his legendary predecessors Arthur Beetson and Wayne Bennett, both with 11 wins.