Momentum belongs to Queensland heading into the Origin decider but the reawakened Maroons must contend with an unflattering record at ANZ Stadium if they want to seal an eighth-consecutive series.
It was a relaxed and contented Queensland outfit that was unveiled in the central Queensland city of Rockhampton on Tuesday morning, with the same 17 being carried forward after the dominant 26-6 win at Suncorp Stadium.
It is the first time in the Maroon streak of dominance over the past seven years they have fielded an unchanged 17-man squad from one game to the next.
With no suspensions or health concerns for his players hanging over his head, coach Mal Meninga can enjoy a luxury NSW doesn’t have given their injury predicament and ordinary showing in game two.
As if to illustrate the point, the Maroons are spending the evening on a tropical island owned by brewer XXXX and won’t train until Thursday. Meninga joked he would finally be able to walk behind a bar without fear of being shown the door.
But the Queensland side, which swiftly acknowledged their lack of intensity in the series opener, remains under no illusion as to what awaits them on Wednesday week at Homebush.
It is a venue that continues to prove a thorn in their side, with the Maroons winning there just four times in 20 outings since 1999 (one draw). They have lost their past three in Sydney, including game one where the Blues jumped out of the gates and were never headed.
“It’s a challenge for us. We haven’t done well down in Sydney for a number of years now. It all comes down to how we want to play and what we’re willing to do for each other,” Meninga said.
“Momentum is a good thing but in Origin, it’s game by game. It’s important you do everything you possibly can. It comes down to that week, what you think about, and your desire.”
The Maroons won the clean sweep game in Sydney in 2010 and a deciding game in 2008, both of which Queensland captain Cameron Smith will channel as his side tries to further their record run.
“We knew we could play well in game one but we were outplayed early. Just looking at those matches where we’ve gone down there and been successful, it’s nice to have that in the back of the mind,” Smith said.
“They are beatable down there, even though it’s a hostile environment. We have to get stuck into them and hope it generates a result for us.”
Meninga also said NSW would be foolish to single out Billy Slater in game three, with the fullback the latest Villain of the Week after his elbow on Mitchell Pearce in game two.
“That’s good. We’ve got 16 other great players. We’re happy with that,” Meninga said.
“I know Billy went on The Footy Show on Thursday night and tried to explain himself. But it’s a game of rugby league. These things happen. Cop it on the chin and get on with it.”
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.