So, we come to the end of another enthralling State of Origin series, with everything up for grabs in front of a full house at Suncorp Stadium. Blues coach Brad Fittler made plenty of changes to find the winning formula in Perth, while Billy Slater was sticking firm with his squad after that Game II thumping, until COVID threw him a nasty curveball.
Which state will come out on top at the end of this intense Origin battle for Australian rugby league supremacy?
Wednesday, July 13
Queensland: 1. Kalyn Ponga 2. Selwyn Cobbo 3. Valentine Holmes 4. Dane Gagai 5. Corey Oates 6. Tom Dearden (TBC) 7. Daly Cherry-Evans (c) 8. Lindsay Collins 9. Ben Hunt 10. Josh Papalii 11. Kurt Capewell 12. Jeremiah Nanai 13. Tino Fa'asuamaleaui Bench: 14. Harry Grant 15. Jai Arrow 16. Pat Carrigan 17. Tom Gilbert
Reserves: 18. Thomas Flegler, 21. Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow
New South Wales: 1. James Tedesco (c) 2. Brian To'o 3. Matt Burton 4. Stephen Crichton 5. Daniel Tupou 6. Jarome Luai 7. Nathan Cleary 16. Junior Paulo 9. Api Koroisau 10. Jake Trbojevic 11. Cameron Murray 12. Liam Martin 13. Isaah Yeo Bench: 14. Damien Cook 15. Angus Crichton 8. Jacob Saifiti 17. Siosifa Talakai
Reserves: 18. Jack Wighton, 24. Dale Finucane
Verdict: The decider has been tipped on its head with the news that Queensland's best, Cameron Munster, has tested positive to COVID-19 and is out of the game. Coach Billy Slater has brought in Tom Deardon, as well as Corey Oates who replaces winger Murray Taulagi who is also out with the virus. Slater is being coy about what he will do with his halves, although he has said he has every confidence in the abilities of Deardon. Could Deardon go to the bench, Harry Grant to hooker and Ben Hunt to five-eighth? We'll have to wait until just before game time to find out for certain.
Blues coach Brad Fittler came under fire for some of his selections for the opening State of Origin loss in Sydney and he apparently agreed with the critics, making some sweeping changes for the second game. Something clicked and the Blues put Queensland to the sword in Perth, with the questionable assistance of a referee more intent on speeding up the ruck and pinging the Maroons for slowing tactics.
The final 44-12 scoreline was embarrassing for Queensland, but it exaggerated the difference between the two teams and the Maroons will be working with that in mind. They will have the power of a full Suncorp Stadium behind them and a proud history in deciders. There have been 12 series deciders in Brisbane over the years, with Queensland winning nine, losing two and drawing one.
The Blues have lost front-row battering ram Payne Haas, who usually has an enormous impact on the big stage. His replacement Jordan McLean pulled out with a hamstring injury and was replaced by Jacob Saifiti, who is arguably the second best prop in his family. The Blues look a bit light on for front-row grunt, with Jake Trbojevic already moving to prop from his preferred lock position. Fittler has announced that Junior Paulo will start the game in the engine room, with Saifiti on the bench.
Queensland haven't escaped the loss of a key forward, with Felise Kaufusi out of the decider for personal reasons. Kaufusi is an important part of the Maroons pack and his experience and guile will be sorely missed.
This could have been a classic Origin clash, but with Munster out, it is going to take a monumental effort from Queensland to reverse the Perth result. The amount of confidence Nathan Cleary and his men gained from Game II should see the Blues home comfortably.
Tip: Blues by 14
All odds correct at time of publication. Check tab.com.au for the latest.