Already accused of playing mind games, Queensland have given NSW more to ponder by vowing to fight fire with fire and play an all-forwards bench if Cooper Cronk is ruled out of the State of Origin opener.
Warriors forward Jacob Lillyman will feature on the interchange and not Manly playmaker Daly Cherry-Evans if bench utility Michael Morgan has to step up for injured halfback Cronk on Wednesday night in Sydney.
Lillyman featured in Queensland’s final training session at their Gold Coast camp on Sunday but Cherry-Evans was a no-show after being sent back to NRL club Manly.
Cronk hasn’t been sighted since rolling his ankle at training on Friday.
Queensland assistant Trevor Gillmeister insisted the injury scare was real – but NSW coach Laurie Daley isn’t convinced.
“I think that is typical Queensland trying to get the underdog status, trying to play with your mind,” Daley said.
“Cooper will be out there.”
Gillmeister said Cronk could be given until match eve to prove his fitness.
“I would be very surprised if he (Cronk) didn’t play,” Gillmeister said on Sunday.
“Cooper will do everything he can. We will give him until Monday or Tuesday.
“The physio says he’s coming along nicely. Hopefully he has enough time.”
Gillmeister said they could afford to pick an all-forwards bench due to their squad’s utility value.
“We are pretty fortunate in that regard that our blokes can interchange (positions),” he said.
Lillyman was initially the only incumbent Maroon overlooked in new coach Kevin Walters’ original 17 for Origin I.
The 104kg, 183cm Lillyman will bolster a Queensland bench that also features Canberra battering ram Josh Papalii, Sydney Roosters backrower Aidan Guerra and Brisbane’s Test prop Josh McGuire.
“I thought Lillyman had his best game for Queensland in game three (last year’s 52-6 win) and was unlucky to miss out,” Gillmeister said.
“I love Jakey. You know what he brings.
“If he gets a chance he won’t let us down.”
Queensland half Johnathan Thurston admits NSW have made their intentions clear by picking a huge pack and bench.
“It’s no secret they are coming through our front door,” he said.
Backrower Sam Thaiday said the Maroons had already discussed ways of countering NSW’s “bash-and-barge mentality”.
“We will probably have to play a little bit different style of football – a faster, more direct style,” he said.
“Hopefully bringing guys like GI (Greg Inglis) into the middle as well and have Darbs (Darius Boyd) sniffing around the ruck when those big guys get tired.
“The pace and intensity is hopefully where we can get the advantage.
“But they are going to come with a bash-and-barge mentality.”
Queensland fly to Sydney on Monday.