If Laurie Daley learnt anything from the Blues’ eight-year wait for a State of Origin title, it’s that revenge is a dish best served cold.
The NSW coach is bracing his young squad for a blistering backlash from Queensland’s chastened galaxy of stars when the Blues start their Origin title defence in Wednesday’s crucial first game at ANZ Stadium.
Back in Sydney after a problem-free Blues camp in Coffs Harbour, Daley admitted on Monday the Queensland fear factor was still very much alive.
And he said talk of an ageing – “Dad’s Army” – Maroons squad hadn’t done his team any favours.
“Everyone’s been quick to write Queensland off given Australia got beaten (by New Zealand) in the Test match,” Daley said on Monday.
“Queensland have shown – and in particular some of the guys that are on the other side of 30 – that they’re champions.
“And if you kick a champion while they’re down, they’ll always come back and bite you.”
Both teams head into Wednesday night’s blockbuster knowing that coming out on top in game one is most often key to securing a series win.
In the 33 series since the introduction of the three-game format in 1982, the team that has won the first instalment has gone on to clinch the title 24 times.
Triumph appears particularly crucial for NSW, who’ve won the first contest in 11 of their 13 series victories to date.
For Queensland, the goal will be to stop their physically larger but less experienced southern rivals in their tracks early on.
“Game one is always important given we play a game on neutral territory this year,” captain Cameron Smith said.
“It’s a big challenge for us playing in Sydney in game one against a very confident Blues. We have to try and take it off them.”
Smith insisted the Queensland veterans’ motivation levels had not diminished and were elevated by last year’s sobering series loss.
“It was definitely hard to swallow given that we had a great football side,” he said.
“(But) I don’t think we ever lost the hunger. I don’t think this team has ever been bored of winning.
“Last year was very disappointing no doubt, it was a pretty shallow feeling.
“But it’s the same old story – this is a new series.”
And that’s exactly what Daley is wary of.
“We all fear Queensland,” he said.
“We fear Queensland every time a State of Origin game is played, regardless of who’s in it, because they have pulled off some of the most remarkable victories in State of Origin history when no one has given them a chance.
“So we respect whoever runs out in that Maroons shirt.”