Preparing for a physical assault on his playmakers, Queensland coach Mal Meninga has pleaded with the referees to keep the two sides apart in tonight’s State of Origin opener at Sydney’s Olympic stadium.
Hours out from the kick-off Queensland assistant coach Michael Hagan confirmed Meninga has spoken to referees boss Tony Archer about maintaining the 10m in defence.
It was the major complaint coming out of the Queensland camp following the game two loss in Sydney last year that cost the Maroons the series.
“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 said the Maroons are expecting the Blues’ big forwards to target the Queensland strike weapons, particularly five-eighth Johnathan Thurston and full-back Billy Slater who was in doubt with a shoulder injury
“We will try and look after our halves tonight,” Hagan said.
“Billy Slater at full-back, 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.
Hagan hinted that the Blues’ 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.”
While the Maroons are worrying about their star players getting bashed the Blues are expecting plenty of niggle from several of the Queensland veterans.
“Any team with Nate Myles, Corey Parker and Cameron Smith is always going to have niggle,” Blues assistant coach Matt Parish said on Wednesday.
“I can’t see it being any different.”
Queensland 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.