New South Wales Blues are one victory away from winning the State of Origin series for just the second time in 12 years and face off with the Queensland Maroons in Game 2 at ANZ Stadium in Sydney on Wednesday.
The Blues thrashed the Maroons 28-4 in Game 1 at Suncorp Stadium on May 31 and now have the chance to seal a first State of Origin win since 2014 on home soil.
Per News.com.au, the Maroons are likely to be boosted by the return of playmaker Johnathan Thurston, who missed Game 1 with a shoulder injury but is “a definite starter” for Wednesday, according to skipper Cameron Smith.
Maroons coach Kevin Walters has overhauled his side for Game 2 as he looks to mastermind a comeback victory in the series and extend Queensland’s winning run to three in a row.
Along with Thurston, Billy Slater and Gavin Cooper also return to the side, while Nate Myles, Sam Thaiday, Jacob Lillyman, Corey Oates, Aidan Guerra and Justin O’Neill are all dropped, and Anthony Milford is injured.
Valentine Holmes, Coen Hess, Tim Glasby and Jarrod Wallace have all been handed debuts, per NRL:
It is the first time the Blues have named an unchanged State of Origin side in 21 years, and coach Laurie Daley said he was delighted to be able to pick the same players, per Matt Encarnacion of the Australian Associated Press (h/t Stuff.co.nz):
“It’s great to be able to name the same 17 guys again. They did such a great job in game one. But the key for us is to try and repeat that performance.”
A repeat of the hammering the Blues handed out in Game 1 is unlikely.
Per Sporting Life’s Ian Millward, the Maroons’ squad for Game 2 looks much better equipped to deal with the Blues and Thurston’s return could prove crucial in a potentially tight encounter.
Certainly NSW are likely to have to work harder to earn scores than they did at the end of May as the Maroons now boast a potent blend of youth and experience.
Nerves could play a crucial role on Wednesday. The Blues have largely been starved of State of Origin triumphs for over a decade.
Their 2014 victory marked a first shield win since 2005, so they will desperate to convert their Game 1 triumph into a series win, and they will want to get it done sooner rather than later.
Should the Maroons take an early lead and show that they will not be bullied as they were in Game 1, the tension inside Sydney’s ANZ Stadium will ratchet up and could have a major influence on the outcome of the match.