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The shield has been won - but Paul's back for his preview of 2014 Origin Game Three.
Disclaimer: Paul is a devout New South Welshman. Queenslanders... look away.
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Queensland Maroons v New South Wales Blues
Wednesday 8:00pm at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
In the wash up of game 2, we heard from the talking heads that QLD were gracious in defeat and should hold their heads up high. Garbage. These blokes are absolutely filthy about the Sam Thaiday ‘try' and Aaron Woods' phantom touch. Queenslanders face the media with class and composure but if you look and listen a bit harder, you'll see them talk subtly about the refereeing and fall back comfortably into feeling hard done by.
NSW, by contrast, would say that we are still not even, by any stretch of the imagination. We still owe them one or two bits of bad luck. The Inglis knock-on ‘try'? You guessed it. The Justin Hodges obstruction ‘try'? You got it. Brad Fittler's pass to Tim Brasher in game 2 of the 1995 series called back for being forward? We won't forget. Brasher's try would have won that game and tied this famous series. I don't sound jaded, do I?
To digress, history is just that, history. On Wednesday night we will see more history being made as New South Wales hold up the Shield for the first time in looong tiiiime… This will bring Goosebumps to all Blues' fans who have been hard done by in reality, as opposed to a fantasy wrong-doing from 100 years ago. Rejoice, my friends, as Paul Gallen hoists up the spoils of victory for himself, his team, an entire state and for all those who could not do it before him for 8 horrible years.
The 80 minutes preceding this moment is probably what I should be talking about, so here goes. Prepare for 50,000 cane toads to pretend they want revenge. To pretend they are the good guys and to start drinking from 10am. If you thought game 2 had some niggle, keep a close eye on the ruck in this match as Queensland show their true sporting colours and do everything they can to turn this match into a street fight, before throwing the ball to Jonathan Thurston and begging him to flourish.
New South Wales, conversely, will win the forward battle as they have done in games 1 and 2, and then use a fired up Boyd Cordner and origin hero Ryan Hoffman to target the QLD halves. With a more expansive game being predicted by many pundits, we may even see the ball spread further to Josh Morris and Josh Dugan, if we're lucky. Their battles with Greg Inglis and Justin Hodges will be a highlight.
So, sit back and enjoy this celebration of the greatest sporting event in Australia but be prepared for the grind to take over again. Another defensive struggle could take place but the first team to give an inch or make a mistake will pay for it dearly. The Blues' spine will look more cohesive, now that they've had 3 camps together, but it may not be enough to overcome a very angry and very ruthless home team. Fingers crossed they shake hands afterwards.
My tip: The shield comes home
Man of the Match tip: Ryan Hoffman (NSW Blues)