Origin III: Queensland’s last stand

It will be the last stand of the greatest State of Origin side of all time, Cameron Smith’s Queenslanders, up against the rising tide of a young NSW side hell bent on success.

Another fascinating Origin series concludes in Brisbane next month with the Blues chasing their first win in a decider in Queensland since 2005 – also the last time NSW secured back-to-back series win.

A resurgent NSW head into the Suncorp Stadium encounter with plenty of momentum after their 26-18 win at the MCG. But the Maroons, written off as Dad’s Army before this series, will be readying for an ambush.

“It’s not all doom and gloom,” Queensland coach Mal Meninga said.

“The series is still alive, we’re one each and the effort that we put in in game one away from home put us in this position to get up to Brisbane and try and win the series.

“We’ve played two games away from home and we’re looking forward to playing at Suncorp.”

Justin Hodges, who has been a regular feature of Maroons sides since 2002, has already indicated this will be his final Origin series and a number of his teammates could follow.

The July 8 fixture could also herald the end of Blues skipper Paul Gallen’s career after 10 seasons in the sky blue.

NSW’s comprehensive 32-10 win in game three at Suncorp Stadium in 2005 signalled the end of an era in which the Maroons had won just one series in seven years. It also signalled the beginning of their unprecedented run of eight successive series wins.

NSW snapped that streak last year and are still stung by the perception, or otherwise, that the Maroons still view themselves as the true Origin champions. That can all, of course, be sorted out on the field next month.

And just like Origin II, it will be game on says NSW prop James Tamou.

“Shots will be fired early with the animosity going into game three – bites will be taken,” he said.

“Someone will say something. It’ll be on.

“You saw game two, how frustrated they were and how under the skin we got them. I think us doing that early in the game put them off their game,” Tamou said.

On the Blues’ side is that they are no longer in awe of this Queensland team as they perhaps once were, they have belief and winning in enemy territory no longer holds any fears for them.

“We are a new side – things have changed. We are the champions; we will go anywhere to play them. We came down to the MCG; we will play them anywhere,” Tamou’s NSW front-row partner Aaron Woods said.

“We have copped a lot of flack and that win will shut a lot of people up. I wonder if Queensland will cop it this time?

“We go to Suncorp now, it is one-all and everything is on the line.”

Melbourne halfback Cooper Cronk is likely to return to the Queensland side for the decider for Daly Cherry-Evans after missing game two with a knee injury. However, Billy Slater remains in doubt with an ongoing shoulder injury.

Gallen is expected to be fit, despite suffering a rib complaint in Origin II.

Blake Ferguson could be the only change for NSW, coming in for Will Hopoate on the right wing, but the Sydney Roosters’ three-quarter has played little football this year due to a foot injury.

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