PANTHER PRIDE | A big win for the mountain men tonight has them firmly entrenched in the top eight, ...
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Queensland v New South Wales
And so the New South Wales Blues find themselves only 80 minutes away from winning the 2013 State of Origin Series. It feels almost ridiculous to even contemplate. This Queensland team has been so good for so long that the image of Paul Gallen holding up the shield still seems a fantasy. Does it all become a reality at Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday night?
One thing is certain; it will be the toughest match these New South Welshman have played in their footballing lives. The Maroons have spoken outwardly of revenge, they’ve spoken outwardly of unfair play and their fans will be loud and angry, as usual. But this time they'll be fuelled by more than just booze and a bloodlust for victory. Maroons players and fans have a way of assuming they are hard-done-by and downtrodden in the most bizarre circumstances. It’s what makes Origin great and by gum, it is great.
You just need to look at the response to the Nate Myles affair in Game 1 to see that many people had never before witnessed the greatest rivalry in Australian sport. Origin deserves this kind of attention and will demand it again in Game 2. Cameron Smith and his front rowers will need to stop a dominant Blues forward pack and they'll do whatever it takes to control the ruck and the advantage line. NSW will not back down and the result will be 80 minutes of high tension and high niggle as promised by the Queenslanders after the series opener. The ruck could get messy but after the Smith and Robbie Farah have their say, we’ll be quickly reminded that Jonathan Thurston played injured in Game 1.
Perhaps because Luke Lewis ran at him all night but either way, one of the most influential players in Queensland's last few campaigns was not right to go. He will be this time and he'll have 50,000 screaming rednecks behind him. A huge ask for New South Wales. With two debutants in their starting side and a rabid opponent, they’ll be on the back foot early. It’s how they finish that will matter most here but this mountain will be a tough one to climb.
My tip: I pass out before kick-off in a fit of origin excitement
Man of the Match tip: Jonathan Thurston