The 2020 State of Origin series will be decided mid-November at a steamy Suncorp Stadium, packed full of Queenslanders, well mostly, certainly no Sydneysiders. It will be a tough task for the Blues who have travelled north for a decider 11 times in Origin history and have won only twice.
It could be argued that the gulf between the teams is approaching the levels it was those two times in 1994 and 2007 when the Blues were putting together consecutive winning series. That would overlook the fact that the 2020 Queensland team, despite being talked down, were able to win Game 1 through sheer grit and determination. They are two qualities that carry enormous weight in front of their home crowd.
Queensland should have Cameron Munster back after his unfortunate early departure in Sydney. His absence proved extremely costly to the Maroons. It appears that he is the only current Queensland player capable of counting backline numbers at a scrum, as the Maroons conceded two tries by lining up three defenders against four Blues.
Daly Cherry-Evans really went missing when it came to leading the Maroons on Wednesday. It might have been because Munster's departure threw most of their plans out the window, but it seemed that Queensland were, at times, rudderless. Certainly the defensive numbers issue should have been sorted out by the halfback and captain.
Fittler's Blues will be riding on a wave of confidence gained in their convincing victory at ANZ Stadium. Nathan Cleary and Cody Walker both had terrific games, but Luke Keary may have played out of his skin as well behind what was a dominant pack on the night. The inclusion of Isaac Yeo, Nathan Brown and Dale Finucane really gave the Blues a big lift through the middle and on the edges. Junior Paulo lifted his game as well after moving to the bench. The Maroons were on the back foot all night and that extra room allowed Cleary to pint the Maroons deep inside their own half through his kicking game; both he and Walker also flourished with ball in hand amid the extra time and space.
Wayne Bennett will have to come up with ways to win back the ground lost in the forwards battle. Christian Welch may be fit to take his place in the front row, where the Maroons really struggled in Game 2. Josh Papalii would have been disappointed with his 68 metres, while Dunamis Lui could only manage 46 metres. Bench prop Lindsay Collins clocked up a more respectable 105 metres, with Jai Arrow chipping in for 88 metres. Compare those numbers to the 165 metres from Payne Haas, 127 metres from Daniel Saifiti and 123 metres from Dale Finucane, all up the middle, and you start to see where the game was won and lost.
There is talk that hooker Harry Grant could be named for the decider. Whether he would take over from Jake Friend or play a role from the bench is unknown, but he certainly could add something around the middle of the ruck. However, even the best hookers need the team to be rolling forward before they can be fully effective. Blues hooker Damien Cook was hardly seen in Adelaide, but was back to his darting, scheming best in Sydney.
No one understands how to win State of Origin games in Brisbane better that Bennett. He looked relaxed after the loss in Sydney, laughing and joking with his players. He even took time out to meet up with Rabbitohs five-eighth Cody Walker for a congratulatory chat in the corridors of ANZ Stadium.
Maybe the great man has something up his sleeve for Suncorp Stadium. He will certainly need to light a fire under his forwards if Queensland are to take the series.