Series: PREVIEW: State of Origin Game III
History beckons for both states as Origin supremacy goes on the line.
With one win apiece in the 2019 series, New South Wales and Queensland will run onto ANZ Stadium in Wednesday night's decider knowing everything that has happened in the opening two matches means absolutely nothing.
The winner of this contest will enjoy the exhilarating thrill of lifting the Origin shield to the heavens, whilst the loser will be left licking their wounds for the next 12 months.
After a comprehensive 38-6 victory by the Blues in game two, Coach Brad Fittler chose to initially name an unchanged line-up remaining loyal to the 17 men who busted their guts to get the job done in Perth.
For the second time in as many team selections, Fittler was widely criticised - this time for making the decision not to include David Klemmer after the inspirational prop proved his fitness with a dominant return from the broken wrist he picked up in game one of the series.
After being criticised for making drastic changes in game two, Fittler's loyalty was this time in the firing line in a sure sign that certain people south of the Tweed and the New South Wales media in particular - have serious problems getting behind their state.
As fate would have it, Klemmer got the call to come into camp late on Tuesday night after Tariq Sims was ruled out at the hands of the NRL judiciary.
The return of Pearce to the sky blue jersey now acts as one of the major storylines. Back in the team for the first time since 2017's deciding game, the 18 game Origin player with a win percentage of less than 28% gets another shot to taste his first series victory.
After taking a pummelling at the hands of the Blues in game two, Queensland Coach Kevin Walters will be ecstatic at all the attention his opposition are receiving. even if he is still refusing to acknowledge them by name.
Losing star fullback Kalyn Ponga to a calf injury, Walters has elected to move Cameron Munster to the custodian position and hand Corey Norman his debut Maroons jersey at five-eighth in what looms as the key decisions to the Maroons chances on Wednesday night.
Fullback is viewed by many as a more natural position for the off the cuff style of player Munster is and the infectious confidence Corey Norman portrays will be a huge boost to a team who could be a touch down on self-belief given the game two shellacking.
The other two changes to the Maroons were made with a view of making them stronger through the middle third, with Dylan Napa and Jarrod Wallace both dropped after their disappointing efforts in Perth.
Game one interchange forward Joe Ofahengaue replaces Napa in the front-row and Melbourne forward Christian Welch will be thrust into the Origin furnace, debuting off the bench.
The Blues, led by a Tom Trbojevic hat-trick turned in their best 80 minute team performance in recent memory to set up Wednesday night's series decider.
Who to watch: Whether you agree he deserves another chance at this level or not, there's simply no hiding from the fact that all eyes will be on Blues halfback Mitchell Pearce as he chases his shot at Origin redemption. After featuring in seven Origin series throughout his career without success, it seemed the red pen was sent through his name after he failed to guide his state to victory two years ago.
The emergence of Pearce as a leader at the Knights and the maturity he now plays the game with put him back in contention and the five man of the match performances he produced in the lead-up to the series made him an undeniable case. After ruling himself out through injury for the opening two games, it seemed the chance to resurrect his Origin career had passed him by, but now he gets the chance to ride the Origin wave once more.
Leading in to the Knights six game winning streak, Pearce made the decision to strip his game right back to its core. He would simply put his body on the line and drive himself to compete on every play. It's those very principles Pearce needs to adopt on Wednesday night. Don't overcomplicate things - just compete and play his natural game.
One of the biggest errors in Pearce's Origin career has been trying too hard and often overplaying his hand. The mind would often frazzle as he tried to make up for a mistake and he'd start playing sideways looking for the big play. His performance against the Broncos last start was a key indicator to how Pearce has transformed his mindset. After failing to find touch twice, Pearce quickly dusted himself off, got back in the game and produced a kick to force a repeat set that turned the momentum back in his team's favour.
Appointed as Queensland Captain prior to a ball being kicked this Origin series, any fears of Daly Cherry-Evans being the right man to lead his state were quickly put to bed after a strong performance in game one in which his kicking game played a key role in the Maroons going one-up in the series.
There hasn't been a whole lot of talk about his game two performance with many simply suggesting he had little chance to get into the game on the back of an outplayed forward pack. That theory is probably fair enough as the team's halfback, but as skipper of the team it's his job to be barking orders and firing his troops to lift when times are tough.
It would be extremely harsh to lay the blame of a very ‘un-Queensland like' performance on Cherry-Evans, but it's a performance that never would have happened under the watch of Darren Lockyer or Cameron Smith.
Blessed with all the natural skills a halfback could want, the Maroons number seven, like his opposite number needs to compete at a higher than normal level in order for his team to follow on Wednesday night.
The favourite: On the back of game two's dominant victory, the Blues are overwhelming favourites to become only the third New South Wales team to win a series after losing game one.
My tip: Have no doubt in the world that Queensland will be burning after their game two performance and will come out firing off all cylinders with a typical Maroons ambush in the opening exchanges. The Blues however, should be fully aware of what's coming and have the unique opportunity of claiming victory and lifting the shield in front of their home fans for the first time in 15 years.
The Blues have been dominant in three of the four halves played this series and field arguably their best line-up of the series. Expecting them to get the job done with James Tedesco playing another starring role to cement himself as player of the series. NSW by 8.