Maroons coach wary as Blues seek to stay alive
QUEENSLAND coach Kevin Walters is not allowing himself to think about celebrating a debut State of Origin series win on Wednesday night because of the respect he has for NSW rival Laurie Daley and his experience as an Origin player.
“If I know one thing, it is that Laurie will bring 17 players to Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday night who will be ready do whatever it takes to keep the series alive,” Walters told Australian Regional Media as he stood on the cusp of winning his first series without the boots on.
When Mal Meninga took over in 2006 he won his maiden series 2-1, so Walters has an opportunity to clinch his first series 2-0.
But Walters wasn’t thinking along those lines when he spoke to ARM about what he wanted from his players next week.
“All I am looking for this week is that all our players put on a performance that every Queenslander can be proud of,” he said.
“If we can do that, regardless of the result, I’ll be a happy man.”
It’s a common tactic of sporting coaches to talk up and flatter their opposition before a big game.
But the 48-year-old from Ipswich, who pulled on the maroon jumper 20 times, insists that based on what he saw from the Blues in Sydney in game one – which Queensland escaped as 6-4 winners – they will be extremely hard to stop given the series, for them, is on the line.
“That was one of their better performances in recent years and as a new group you would expect them to get better again,” Walters said.
“They haven’t changed their forward strength, that’s their big weapon, apart from losing Boyd Cordner (foot), who was one of their best in Sydney.
“They like to pour the big bodies through the middle and they’re not going to change too much so we have to limit that damage to reduce what their halves can do.”
Walters again identified fullback Matt Moylan as a danger man on the quicker Suncorp surface, given what he showed in Origin I.
The Queensland coach has history on his side, with the Maroons winning 11 of the past 13 games against NSW in Brisbane, but he also knows the desperation the Blues will bring with them and the consequences a loss brings which would be playing the series’ decider back in Sydney.
Queensland’s camp has gone along smoothly with the only distraction a quad strain to winger Dane Gagai, who is better than an even-money chance of taking his place on the right wing.
If Gagai is to play he will have to run on the weekend.
NSW has kept a low profile at its Coffs Harbour base with Daley confirming long-time Origin hit-man Greg Bird will take over on the left edge, where Johnathan Thurston will be a target, with late inclusion Tyson Frizell starting off the bench.