Surprised by Josh Reynolds’ axing, Queensland assistant Michael Hagan says the Maroons are still bracing themselves for a “hammering” in Wednesday night’s State of Origin opener in Sydney.
Hagan admitted on Wednesday that the aggressive Reynolds proved Queensland playmaker Johnathan Thurston’s nemesis when NSW won game two last year in Sydney, snapping the Maroons’ record eight-series hold on the trophy.
Yet NSW coach Laurie Daley overlooked Reynolds, opting to launched the Blues’ title defence with Sydney Roosters halfback Mitchell Pearce out of position at pivot.
“He (Reynolds) was fantastic for them last year and put a lot of pressure on Johnathan Thurston in game two in Sydney,” Hagan said.
“Mitchell Pearce is a quality player but I thought Josh Reynolds would be there given the job he did for them last year.
“He is a whole-hearted player, he gets in faces, puts pressure on the kicker. Origin is about that sometimes. But I am sure they have got a couple of other guys to do that job tonight.”
Newcastle’s Beau Scott looks set to take over Reynolds’ in-your-face role after battering Thurston in a round two NRL clash with the Cowboys.
Scott has also had past Origin run-ins with Thurston and fullback Billy Slater.
Hagan believed Slater in particular would be in NSW’s sights and they will test him for the shoulder complaint that kept him out of the trans-Tasman Test.
“We will try and look after our halves tonight,” Hagan said.
“Billy Slater at fullback I think he is going to take a hammering so we need to get back there in numbers and support him as much as we can.
“The ball players understand they are going to be under pressure but they are tough and know what Origin is all about.”
Hagan hinted that NSW’s rookie forwards David Klemmer and Josh Jackson may also be out to make a name for themselves.
“They have a reputation of being nice and hard,” he said.
“I am sure they will try to put their mark on the game at some stage.”
But Queensland will also be out to flex their muscle in attack, with Hagan confirming coach Mal Meninga had spoken with officials about maintaining the 10m in defence – a major complaint after last year’s game two loss.
“We probably didn’t see that last year in Sydney,” Hagan said.
“Hopefully the fans get to see a bit of footy.
“If I was a fan I would have been disappointed with the lack of footy that was played last year (in game two).”
Hagan backed Greg Inglis (tonsillitis) to be at his best despite spending three nights in hospital during a disrupted Gold Coast camp.
He said Queensland’s rookies Josh McGuire and Michael Morgan received their jerseys from ex-skipper Adrian Lam on Tuesday night.
Lam inspired the team with tales of a “no names” Queensland team’s shock 1995 Origin whitewash.