New South Wales coach Ricky Stuart has picked a squad good enough to snatch the State of Origin shield back from Queensland.
The key for me this year is the halves combination of Todd Carney and Mitchell Pearce, two outstanding talents who know each other inside out.
When Toddy was with us at the Roosters it was clear to everyone how close the two were. Off the field they did everything together, which helped create a chemistry and trust which transferred onto the field with great effect.
In my opinion, the best traits of both boys are their self belief and confidence there is a controlled brashness which will be necessary to roll over Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk on Wednesday.
Culture The Key
The other factor in our favour this year is the positive environment Sticky (Stuart) has worked so hard to create within the Blues squad.
Last year was my favourite State of Origin series as a player, despite the fact we lost, which tells you a lot.
Strong camaraderie among the boys is absolutely essential and I think we found that in 2011. You'd see it within the Queensland camp, having been together for so long with so much success it's something we were missing.
Passion is a word always thrown around at this time of year, but Sticky and his staff have it in spades, so I don't think that's a factor. The key was getting everyone to buy in and do little things to help that process.
Jersey presentations, the constant stream of NSW legends around the boys, family dinners, flying wives and girlfriends to games and putting them up all of these little things came together to make a massive difference.
The Origin Experience
Origin camps are always very memorable.
The first few days are usually kept quite low-key, giving the boys a chance to catch up over a few beers or properly get to know each other for the first time.
Once that is done, the intensity lifts, and the standard of football goes with it. For a player, it's a wonderful feeling to line-up alongside the best of the best.
By game day, everything has been put together and you're counting the seconds until kick-off. The wait is excruciating, and then before you know it, it's over.
Hopefully this time next week we'll be toasting a Blues victory, led by my good mate Paul Gallen.
A win in the first game is vitally important no one wants to be preparing for game two under a mountain of pressure, especially against a team as good as the current Maroons side.
Facing the Sea Eagles
Back in club land, we've been busy this week preparing for Manly, who always generate a carnival-like atmosphere at Brookvale Oval on Sunday afternoons.
Despite going down narrowly against the Warriors last week, I think our form has been pretty good over the past month, so I'm confident we can get the points.
I am naturally a bit disappointed being left out of the Blues side, but rep selection is out of my control.
Controlling the controllable means doing well with what's in front of me, and if that leads to a call-up in games two or three, I know I'll be ready.Cheers, Mini.