NSW are determined to avoid a repeat of their late-game brain fade in State of Origin I, when they take the field at the MCG on Wednesday.
‘Clutch’ sessions have been a focus of the Blues’ preparation in the lead up to their do-or-die Origin II encounter, after they squandered a number of opportunities to kick for field goal late in game one that, if successful, probably would have handed them victory.
Halves Trent Hodkinson and Mitchell Pearce have worn the brunt of criticism over the Blues’ inability to close out Origin I.
At a joint press conference with Queensland mentor Mal Meninga on Monday, NSW coach Laurie Daley said his playmakers were better for the experience of the heartbreaking 11-10 loss in Sydney last month.
“You want to execute when the big moments roll around, but I will always support my players if they are prepared to back themselves,” Daley said.
“At one stage (in Origin I) there they wanted to run the ball, that’s their choice.
“Sometimes you have to fail, but you have to learn from it and I am sure they have. It’s one of those things, in the second half we didn’t get a lot of chances
“While it’s a concern of everyone else it’s not a concern internally. We are pretty comfortable with where we are at but the proof will be in the pudding on Wednesday.”
Hodkinson, nicknamed `The Iceman’ has shown tremendous composure in late-game situations for Canterbury, including kicking the match-winning field goal in their golden point win over Manly in last season’s NRL finals series.
Daley said Hodkinson would be the Blues go-to man late in game two, if the match is again as tight as the series opener. “When you work with Trent Hodkinson you know what you get,” Daley said.
“He copped a lot of criticism after game one, which I thought was unfair.
“But he’s been good this week. He knows what we are about, he knows what he can do for a footy team, we will back him to the hilt.”
Both NSW and Queensland enjoyed a day off on Monday. The Blues will have their final training session prior to Origin II at their captain’s run at the MCG on Tuesday morning. Queensland will do likewise on Tuesday afternoon.
A crowd of over 90,000 is expected to attend the first Origin match at the MCG in 18 years, which would be a record for a rugby league match at the iconic venue.