State of Origin game three has rolled around with the NSW Blues already basking in the glory of their first series win since 2005.
The so-called “dead rubber” on Wednesday night has struggled to sell tickets, with 6000 still available for the Suncorp Stadium clash as NSW try to clean sweep the QLD Maroons for the first time since 2000, a series where Ryan Girdler broke all sorts of point-scoring records.
The Blues have lost Will Hopoate and Michael Jennings to injury, but have been able to bring in the reliable James McManus to replace Hopoate and Josh Morris returns after several weeks out of the game with a knee injury. Boyd Cordner comes onto the bench to replace Anthony Watmough.
The halves pairing of Josh Reynolds and Trent Hodkinson has worked wonders in 2014, with Hodkinson controlling the game superbly, while Reynolds has been successful in getting under the skin of Jonathan Thurston who has had his worst series ever and has struggled to assert himself. Thurston’s unsportsmanlike facial massage of Reynolds in the dying stages of game 2 sum up his, and the entire state of QLD’s, frustrations at being unable to break the Blues.
Unlike in previous years, the Blues have managed to keep a fairly consistent team throughout the series, and surprise surprise, it has yielded success. The spine of Jarryd Hayne, Reynolds, Hodkinson and Robbie Farah have been together in both games and have developed a wonderful combination. In previous years the team was shuffled around too much and this played right into QLD’s hands.
There has been talk of the niggle in both games so far, and with the series already decided, there could be a bit more physicality in this one, but the likes of Greg Bird, Paul Gallen, Reynolds and Beau Scott will love it. QLD’s inability to win either game thus far has them resorting to dirty tactics and with the series already lost, look for them to bend the rules even further in a bid to saviour something out of the series.
The QLD team is old, tired and not used to being beaten, and NSW has them on the ropes. With 8 years of QLD dominance fresh in their minds the NSW players won’t be letting their opposition relax anytime soon and they will be looking to do something the QLD team only managed once in their 8 year reign.