Michael Hagan: Maroons must overcome key absentees

Michael Hagan July 2, 2012, 2:11 am

Queensland will struggle to fill in for Slater

You don't lose a player like Darren Locker and get over it in a match or two and you don't lose a player of Billy Slater's calibre and expect life to continue moving along smoothly.

Queensland head into Wednesday night's State of Origin decider without both players - Lockyer now in retirement, Slater out injured.

I realise Lockyer hasn't been played the opening two games but I cannot downplay how significant he was to the Maroons over many years.

People often think that a legend like Lockyer can be easily replaced. Wrong.

And Slater's absence also hurts us. He is one of the all-time great fullbacks and not having him there on Wednesday evening will have a big impact on us.

He can do the most freakish things on a football field.

That is why I feel Cam Smith and Johnathan Thurston have to step up even more for Queensland.

I don't want to put any more pressure on them but we need their experience to shine through against NSW in Origin III.

Both have been there before and we will need their guile and composure when things get tough - and they certainly will.

But Queensland are known for overcoming adversity.

Slater goes out, Greg Inglis goes in. A fair replacement, you would have to agree but, as I noted, it is very hard to replace someone like Slater.

There is little doubt we need to improve to beat NSW.

The Blues were strong in Origin II, their defence really stood up to some heavy pressure late in the game.

Ricky Stuart has done a fine job preparing his side for this series.

But we are proud of our recent record and we aren't in any hurry to hand back the shield by the way.

Our champion players like Slater, Thurston, Smith and Inglis attract a lot of publicity - and rightly so.

They are among the best of their generation.

But I want to take a few seconds to praise the efforts of Nate Myles.

He has now played 20 Origin games and is a true Queenslander. He gets about his work in every match and the other boys love playing alongside him.

Myles will also have to step up to another level in this game to cover for the injured Ash Harrison.

The greatest strength of this Queensland side is our power to overcome hurdles.

A few have been thrown up in the past weeks but we have simply gotten on with business.

Wednesday night will again test our resolve. But we will be ready. After all, we are Queenslanders.

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