Maroons chase another underdog Origin win

Ed Jackson
·3-min read

There is no more dangerous rugby league team than a Queensland State of Origin side given no hope of beating NSW.

Just like in 1995 or 2001, the Maroons were written off by many heading into this year's interstate battle.

At 10-0 down at halftime in last week's game one it appeared the tipsters were right and Queensland would do well to avoid a series whitewash.

The Maroons though, flipped the script and came away from the Adelaide Oval with an 18-14 win and a 1-0 series advantage.

The victory was achieved with eight debutants for the Maroons, the least-experienced Queensland lineup since Wayne Bennett picked 10 rookies for the 2001 opener.

One of those new faces 19 years ago was Petero Civoniceva, who would play all three games as Queensland claimed a 2-1 series win against all the odds.

The Maroons legend, who would go on to play 33 games for his state, said Bennett had clearly instilled the same spirit and belief in his 2020 charges as he did with his lineup in 2001.

"At the end of the day it's understanding that the players have the ability, it's being able to have the confidence to be able to compete at that level," Civoniceva told AAP.

"That's what it looked like to me. They went in with confidence, the younger players. The debutants didn't seem overawed and they got into the rhythm and did a fantastic job.

"Looking at parallels between us, for instance in that 2001 group, or the group before that in '95, it's just about confidence and belief in your own ability to be able to compete at that level.

"That was certainly the case last Wednesday night. Hopefully that will all play out again in that same vein come this Wednesday."

This year's format featuring back-to-back-to-back matches was expected to be a war of attrition and already both teams have been forced to make changes for game two.

Valentine Holmes will replace AJ Brimson at fullback for his first Origin match since 2018 after the young Gold Coast flyer suffered a series-ending foot injury in game one.

Prop Christian Welch is also out after his late head knock, with Canberra's Dunamis Lui to make his Origin debut in the front-row.

The Maroons may also be forced into a backline shuffle with Kurt Capewell yet to train fully due to his ongoing groin issue, with another rookie in Edrick Lee the man most likely to come into the lineup if Capewell is ruled out.

Bennett has also dropped Coen Hess, with Jaydn Su'A rewarded for his strong Origin debut off the bench with an elevation to the backrow, while Gold Coast's Moeaki Fotuaika will make his own Queensland bow from the bench.

The Blues have axed five-eighth Luke Keary, with Cody Walker elevated to the No.6 from the bench while captain Boyd Cordner (concussion) and Cameron Murray (hamstring) are both out of the series.

Angus Crichton will replace Cordner in NSW's run-on side while Payne Haas and Junior Paulo have swapped roles from game one.

Melbourne premiership winner Dale Finucane returns to Origin from the interchange bench while Isaah Yeo and Nathan Brown will debut for the Blues, who'll be skippered by fullback James Tedesco.

History suggests Queensland's game one triumph will go a long way to winning the series.

Game one victors have gone on to win 27 of 38 series since the three-game format was introduced in 1982.

However, two of the past three series have been won by the loser of game one including last year's campaign, where Queensland surrendered from 1-0 up for the first time since 2005.

"They'll definitely take a lot out of that performance, giving them some confidence around playing at that level but no doubt NSW weren't at their best," Civoniceva said.

"It is going to be a more hungry NSW side that they'll be facing in game two."