Our weekly feature - The Armchair Expert - returns just in time for the finals!
This week we look a...
16 hours ago
Former NSW coach Phil Gould is worried the Blues will peak too early for their Origin clash with Queensland on Wednesday night.
With squaring the series in game two at Telstra Stadium firmly entrenched in their minds, the Blues undertook a ball-work session at Aussie Stadium without injured centre Mark Gasnier (groin), who did some light running by himself.
Gould predicts a NSW victory with former Test captain Andrew Johns steering the side at halfback, but warned against the Blues playing the game in their heads too early.
"I think NSW will win ... but I have great respect for Queensland and the fact I think that they'll be relaxed on Wednesday night, one-up in the series," Gould said.
"I'm worried about NSW wanting to get revenge and being ready on Monday night and not being ready Wednesday night when it actually happens.
"You want to make sure you peak at the right time."
Gould predicts Blues coach Ricky Stuart to utilise Newcastle skipper Johns in the second line of defence.
"We used him that way a couple of years ago," said Gould, adding the difficult part was curbing Johns' natural enthusiasm.
"We kept him behind the line in an old-fashioned halfback role.
"The problem was, every time a big bloke went to rip the ball up he wanted to race out of the line and smash them. That's what he's like."
Knights and Queensland coach Michael Hagan is sure to direct his big forwards at Johns, who is lacking match fitness but confident he can inspire his teammates to keep the Blues' perfect record at Telstra Stadium intact.
When asked whether he would lift the Blues, Johns said: "I think so. I'll try to anyway.
"Every time we talk football I'm going to make sure I'm really confident in what I'm saying.
"When I'm calling plays at training I'll make sure I ooze confidence and hopefully it rubs off on the other players."
Sydney Roosters back-rower Craig Fitzgibbon has been nursing a corked thigh but he is expected to play after two days off training.
Gould said Johns would find it easier to shine for the Blues than for his club Newcastle, which suffered its 12th consecutive defeat while he, Danny Buderus and Steve Simpson were away in Origin camp.
"He's going to be playing in a side with great players. He only has to look after his job and make sure they get the ball to do their job," said Gould.
"He's not going to be captain. I think he'll handle it comfortably and whatever he does in this game, he'll improve on for game three.
"If the Blues can win game two, he'll be at his best for game three."