NSW concede they will be heavily outflanked by Queensland’s experience in the halves for State of Origin III, but playmaker James Maloney believes the Blues’ unpredictability will lead the way to an upset win.
The Maroons boast one of the most-experienced halves combinations in Origin history, Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston playing 12 interstate games together.
In contrast, NSW will boast their 19th halves duo in nine years in rookie pairing Maloney and Jack Bird, after halfback Adam Reynolds’ withdrawal on Wednesday with a shoulder injury.
Matt Moylan, who was drafted into coach Laurie Daley’s 17 for Reynolds, will play from the bench.
Maloney said on Thursday he believed the Maroons would be troubled by the unpredictability that Bird, Moylan and debutant fullback James Tedesco offered in attack.
“We are short on experience, some guys haven’t played a lot in the halves, but it can be a positive – it can bring some unpredictability,” he said.
“Both Birdy and Matty they play what they see, they are natural footballers, that can offer us another dimension there and throw some unexpected things at Queensland.”
“As for Teddy (Tedesco), it will be up to me to find some space for him.”
With Reynolds gone, Maloney conceded the onus for organising the Blues in attack would be mostly with him.
“From an organisational point of view, a lot more will fall on my shoulders – it is more responsibility for me,” he said.
Both Bird and Moylan trained in the first receiver role on Thursday with the Blues, but the Cronulla utility will start.
“He is a talented kid, a natural footballer, not too structured and he plays what he sees,” Maloney said of his Sharks’ teammate Bird.
“He backs his ability and he has a really strong running game that is one of his strengths.
“Laurie will tell him to play his natural game, not to do things he is not comfortable with.”
In the Blues’ favour is Maloney and Bird’s time together earlier this year in the halves for Country. As is their combinations with Sharks and NSW teammates Paul Gallen, Wade Graham and Andrew Fifita.
“I know how Wade likes to play. We don’t have to do too much work,” he said.
“I have played with Jenko (Michael Jennings) before, too. So there are little combinations in the side which are important.
“All the Cronulla boys are in good form. That is another positive. They all come in full of confidence.”