Vautin backs Qld to repeat 1995 heroics

Ed Jackson and Scott Bailey
·3-min read

Paul Vautin has backed Queensland's unlikely bunch of State of Origin rookies to repeat the heroics of his 1995 side and pull off the biggest interstate boilover in 25 years.

Vautin coached a Queensland team shorn of several key players during the Super League split to a remarkable 3-0 series win.

This year's campaign, which kicks off in Adelaide on Wednesday, shapes as just as difficult.

The Maroons are the biggest outsiders for an Origin game in the TAB's history, dating back to 1998.

They are also at their longest odds in that time to win a series in that time.

They will field eight debutants, their most since Wayne Bennett picked 10 new faces for game one of the 2001 series - a campaign which Queensland won 2-1.

Injuries, retirements and suspension have ravaged the Maroons playing stocks with several incumbent stars in Kalyn Ponga, Moses Mbye and Michael Morgan all unavailable for the series.

Vautin, however, says the formula which he used with his famous 'Fatty's Nevilles' can still apply to this year's team.

"You don't have to be the best players to win Origin," Vautin told AAP.

"You don't have to be the superstars. The fastest. The strongest.

"It comes from within and that's what I got that team to believe in, to believe in themselves and each other.

"This NSW team's full of superstars, as it was in 1995 ... but it didn't matter mate because we just got them and they just believed in themselves and just kept turning up.

"I'm confident.

"I don't care how good NSW are or think they are.

"I'm confident that this Queensland team's got the guts and intestinal fortitude to win."

History is littered with underdog efforts from rookies.

Blues coach Brad Fittler on Tuesday vowed not to underestimate the Maroons, pointing to his 2018 series win when he blooded 11 debutants in Game I.

"We had 11 players playing their first game two years ago, so I know exactly what it's all about," Fittler said.

"The one thing you know is they have very experienced coaches so they know how to get a team working together.

"And they are going to be excited."

Queensland were given a late scare on Tuesday with Brenko Lee limping off from the final training session with a niggling calf issue.

Kurt Capewell will come into the side for Phillip Sami and play out of position at centre, but he too was restricted to light duties due to a groin complaint.

Both Lee and Capewell are, however, expected to play, making for Queensland's first rookie centre pairing in Origin history.

"Obviously there's no Gene Miles and Mal Meningas around, and that's why we've got Brenko Lee," Vautin said.

"I mean, two or three years ago, he was flitting between the Gold Coast Titans and the Tweed Head Seagulls.

"For him to be in this Origin team is outstanding.

"He had a great year with the Melbourne Storm.

"A player like him will find something, he'll just lift, and that's just what we've got to do mate, just got to lift."