Queensland doesn’t have to look far for examples of how to recover from a tough game two defeat after 13 changes to the last two Origin deciders.
In 2019, after winning game one, Queensland was defeated 38-6 in Perth in game two, before trying a last minute James Tedesco attempt in a 26-20 thriller in the Sydney- decision maker.
In 2020, the Maroons also won game one before being defeated 34-10 two weeks later. Master coach Wayne Bennett then inspired his squad to a 20-14 bounce back win in the decider at Suncorp Stadium.
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In 2019, Queensland made five changes with Cameron Munster moving to fullback for the injured Kalyn Ponga and Corey Norman coming in five-eighth. Moses Mbye started in the middle, while Michael Morgan moved towards the bench. Joe Ofahengaue came in as a prop for Dylan Napa. Ethan Lowe replaced Matt Gillett in the second row and Christian Welch came in for Jarrod Wallace on the bench.
In 2020, the Maroons made eight changes: Corey Allan came in at fullback, Valentine Holmes moved to the wing and Edrick Lee replaced Phillip Sami on the other wing. Brenko Lee entered the centers with Kurt Capwell moving to the second row and Jaydn Su’A going to the bench. Christian Welch came in for Dunamis Lui at prop, while Lindsay Collins replaced Moeaki Fotuaika on the bench and Harry Grant also came in for Ben Hunt on the pine.
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Despite recent history and after a disastrous 44-12 beating at the hands of NSW, Andrew Voss urged Queensland to keep the same 22.
The reason? A lack of better options waiting in the wings.
“To make changes, you have to be pretty sure you’re going to get a lot better instead of just getting a reaction,” Voss said on SEN 1170 Breakfast†
“If those are the players who did the job in Game I, I think he should stay.
“Certainly in the key positions he has the two best whores he can have in Hunt and Grant.
“You are scratching your head to see if there could be any forward improvement but I think he will work within the 22 he had last night and not go beyond that.
“I don’t think now is the time to put seven changes in a decision maker with one last camp.”
Voss believes that the Blues, on the other hand, have a shyness of wealth and can even make changes to a winning side.
“I’ll throw in another name and he’s never played Origin in Ryan Papenhuyzen,” said Voss.
“He would have beaten it last night, can you imagine, once New South Wales came to the fore when thrown into a roll around the middle last night? He would have killed him too.
“That’s a big contrast, they’re not light for players, are they? Jack Wighton a Dally M medalist and Clive Churchill medalist, Latrell Mitchell (is a star) and Papenhuyzen was also man of the match in a Grand Final. It is a wealth of wealth for New South Wales.”
Maroon’s great Wendell Sailor also begged for loyalty in the wake of the Maroons’ loss of game two in Perth, but also admitted that Billy Slater’s side doesn’t have much better options waiting to get in.
“I don’t think Cotter has a chance to come back,” Sailor continued triple M†
“One thing about Queenslanders, we are faithful and we are not panicking.
“Tonight we are just absolutely outplayed in the whole park.
“I don’t think we need too many changes. We just have to reset.”
Queensland legend Wally Lewis admitted Cotter was a huge loss in the first game but doesn’t think the Maroons have enough depth to make massive changes.
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“Cotter has also done a lot of cleanup in game one,” Lewis said.
“When they needed someone to pick up the ball in difficult situations, Reuben Cotter was the man that night.
“I think the selectors will sit down and see who’s available, but the ranks are a little thin.
“They probably realize they’re going to have to come up with a team that’s probably not that different from the one that took the field tonight and that certainly won’t cause any fear for NSW.”
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Sailor believes Slater will focus on correcting the mistakes the Maroons made in game two, rather than major changes to his personnel.
“When you think about Billy, I don’t think he’s going to freak out too much,” Sailor said when asked if Jeremiah Nanai was under pressure after some defensive errors in the first game.
“You have to have someone better to bring in. Sure there are some options, but I would stick with Nanai.
“Queensland just didn’t play well until the middle third. We didn’t start well and only our execution.
“I think we missed 56 tackles. You cannot win Origin if you miss 56 tackles. NSW only missed 14.”
However, former NSW player Ryan Girdler can see the Maroons change their proposition to bolster their center amid a worrying lack of input from Josh Papalii in the first two games.
“They don’t get much out of Papalii,” Girdler said.
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“It was interesting in the first game that Lindsay Collins and he and Patrick Carrigan were middle players and they came up with Harry Grant and really made a difference.
“They only went with one real midfielder. I know Jai Arrow plays a bit in the middle, but Carrigan was really their only midfielder they wore on the bench.
“So maybe they’re looking to put in like a Thomas Flegler and have Carrigan and try to have more impact in the middle of the field.
“That was where they got tired and it was clearly due to the sin binning and all the property NSW had.
“They were just outplayed tonight and NSW were good enough and patient enough to get on with the job, but the great equalizing goal is Suncorp Stadium.”
The fact is, however, the Maroons were thoroughly beaten by an NSW side that will be very confident in game three, even if it is at Suncorp Stadium.
Cameron Munster’s injury could also set a major backbone for game three if he is ruled out.
Munster is the focal point of their attack and his potential unavailability due to a shoulder injury sustained in Game 2 could result in massive forced changes.
Ben Hunt would line up to get in the half if Munster gets ruled out with Harry Grant coming in at the starting hooker and Tom Dearden or even Reece Walsh potentially getting on the bench as an X factor type utility.
Another option could be to get Kalyn Ponga in the No. 6 jersey and put Walsh at fullback, but that would be a big risk going into a decider with a rookie in the No. 1 jersey.
Another utility option could be veteran Moses Mbye, who has never let the Maroons down in three Origins to date.
Another veteran Corey Oates could be brought in to bolster the wing position after Murray Taulagi struggled at times on the debut in game two.
David Fifita looms up as another option to bring some spark and impact to the couch.
However much changes Queensland makes, Lewis admitted they will have to be much better than in game two.
“No apologies will be made or accepted,” Lewis said.
“They were just heavily outplayed, muscular and thoughtful.”
After Fittler made seven changes to get back into game two, it’s now up to Slater to make his rosters right for the decider or the Blues win a fourth Origin Shield in five years.
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