Fittler's Blues rue missed opportunity

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For years, NSW was tormented by a Queensland team including Johnathan Thurston, Cameron Smith and Billy Slater.

And now they have moved into coaching, the trio still find ways to make life difficult for the Blues.

After wrapping up his first series as head coach, Slater has forced Brad Fittler's Blues into a period of self reflection after Wednesday's 22-12 defeat at Suncorp Stadium.

It was the second time in the space of three years that Fittler's men have had the chance to wrap up the series in Brisbane, only for a depleted Queensland side to pip them and leave them soul searching.

"I'll take tonight off if that's okay (before worrying about next year)," Fittler said.

"Plenty went wrong throughout the whole campaign, from the start.

"I love it, it's great. This contest, this crowd, everything about it is fantastic - it's a shame we didn't nail it."

Fittler's success with the Blues coming into this series - three wins in four years - resulted in him being linked to a future in club coaching.

He is contracted to NSW for next year and missed a golden opportunity to strengthen his appeal by failing to win on Wednesday.

Without Cameron Munster, Queensland were there for the taking but the Blues' inability to knock over a Maroons side playing with a two-man bench for 75 minutes will shape as a big chance gone begging.

There was a sombre tone in the NSW dressing room and for prop Junior Paulo it felt like another opportunity missed.

"That one really hurts," Paulo said.

"We were able to stick in it right until the end.

"It sort of mimics that 2020 series, losing a decider again, it was almost a replay of game three 2020.

"The emotional rollercoaster drives you to come back better. And hopefully the opportunity presents itself in the future.

"There's a bit of luck in rugby league and you create your luck and Queensland got some.

"You've got to give them credit for what they did tonight, it was an arm wrestle which went both ways.

"They had to reshuffle as well and they turned up, we knew it would be hard coming here."

Queensland were galvanised by a series of spot fires, most notably the Matt Burton-Dane Gagai brawl which led to both players being fined by the NRL on Thursday morning.

The Maroons hounded NSW in defence but the Blues were also the victims of their own doing and made basic errors.

Daniel Tupou knocked on just before half-time with Queensland scoring on the next set through Kurt Capewell. Burton was coy compared to his debut in Origin II in Perth and interchange forward Siosifa Talakai struggled.

All the while Jack Wighton - the Blues' best performer in game one - sat on the extended bench.

Another centre, Stephen Crichton, failed to make an impact and five-eighth Jarome Luai threw a stray ball into touch as the Blues lost their cool chasing the game in the Suncorp cauldron.

"I've been doing this a long time and you win and lose - it's just disappointing," Fittler said.

"The guys have worked so hard and sacrificed in and amongst club footy. Normally that's what makes people strive harder, and we've got to be better."

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