16/04/2024

History books could add the 2023 Queensland side if they sweep the NSW Blues. (Image: QRL)

The Queensland Maroons are looking to sweep the New South Wales Blues for the first time since 2010.

After winning the first two games in this series, the Maroons have claimed the series. However, to sweep would put them in elite company in the history books.

The Inner Sanctum will break down what to expect from game three of the State of Origin series.

NSW Blues

Losing the first two games of the series has put the Blues in a desperate win-now scenario.

Coach Brad Fittler has made a lot of changes ahead of the clash in Sydney.

Two debutants have been named in Bradman Best from the Newcastle Knights and Keaon Koloamatangi from the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

Best has displayed a month’s worth of solid and consistent performances, being more aggressive with his running game and using his speed direct at the defensive line for scoring opportunities.

In the last five games, Best has been averaging 172 running metres per game and 46 post-contact metres in the same stretch, and scoring just about a try per game during the last month.

With the centre depth weakened due to injuries to Campbell Graham, Latrell Mitchell, and Tom Trbojevic, Fittler has chosen another centre to take on the challenge.

Being famous for his performance in the U16s State of Origin, Best had high wraps before joining the NRL.

Koloamatangi has been one of the most consistent back-rowers in the competition since 2021 and has finally been called up to play for the Blues.

The ball-playing skills and red zone play Koloamatangi has shown is continuing to improve, attacking thin defensive lines easily.

Being able to play off-the-ball when short ball pass plays are called, the Rabbitohs’ back-rower has transitioned into being one of the best line runners in the competition.

Since returning from injury, Koloamatangi is averaging 140 running metres per game, only having one game less than 140 metres ran in his last five games, as well as averaging 53 post-contact metres per game in the last month.

The other changes to the lineup include replacing Jarome Luai with Rabbitohs five-eighth Cody Walker, as he has been the best five-eighth in the competition, making the right reads and passes, and putting his teammates in the best position to score.

Playing as the leader in the playmaking department, Walker has been a huge reason why the Rabbitohs have the third-best scoring average in the competition, with the club averaging 24 points per game.

Against the Warriors in rainy conditions and when the Warriors started in control of the game, Walker with his passing ability and footy IQ put on a playmaking display, moving the ball precisely and drawing out defenders to give space for his wingers to score easily and build momentum.

Cameron Murray has also replaced Isaah Yeo as the lock forward, going with a smaller, appropriate ball-playing and mobile forward that has worked not only at the club level but also at the Origin level for the Maroons.

Yeo has moved to the bench, with Reece Robson keeping his spot in the seventeen on the bench.

With the Knights playing some of their best footy, Jacob Saifiti joins Bradman Best on the team, coming off the bench as the only front-rower listed on the bench.

One of the most consistent fullbacks in the game currently Clint Gutherson will wear the number 17 and claims the last spot on the bench.

Gutherson will most likely not play, with the expectations not existing for Fittler to sub on later in the game unless there are any injuries to the backline.

Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Jake Trbojevic will return to the Origin scene, after returning from their injuries and some time at club level.

With no Payne Haas due to injury, the Blues’ front-rower play will need to be superb. Expect a lot of grit and grind, as well as physical ball-carrying from the experienced duo.

Queensland Maroons

If it was not for a couple of injuries, it would have been the same squad as game two that led the Maroons to their second consecutive series heading into the clash in Sydney.

Due to Reece Walsh’s suspension, opposing fullback AJ Brimson will take his place for the concluding game of the series.

Canberra Raiders front-rower Corey Horsburgh will replace Broncos front-rower Thomas Flegler, who has a foot injury.

Transitioning into being the Raiders lock forward, Horsburgh’s versatility has improved and his defensive efforts have been huge in their run into being a legitimate top-eight team this season.

Queensland has a unique element in game three with Brimson, as the Gold Coast fullback offers a lot more in the middle third moving left and right off the ball.

Being the receiver of the inside ball plays, utilising his speed with the ball in his hands, and being a viable playmaker, Brismon offers simplicity for his teammates to finish plays or build momentum in their fast break play through the Blues half.

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How will both sides play strategically?

Fittler’s tweaked offence

The Blues will mix their ball movement up, and be more direct at the Maroons’ defensive line.

Cody Walker at five-eighth will utilise his teammates on his side and turn them into line and hole runners.

Assuming Bradman Best will play on his preferred left edge, having a high-calibre playmaker next to him will allow early ball when the Blues are playing with space.

New South Wales’ grit and grind forward pack will drive up the field along with yardage production from the backline, specifically Josh Addo-Carr, James Tedesco, and Brian To’o.

Mitchell Moses’ kicking game has range and versatility, allowing the game to be played according to his pace, from deep-range kicks or grubber kicks that aim to collect repeat sets of six.

In game two, the offence was rushed and horizontal, which is why against the Maroons when they were defending on their try-line, failed to capitalise on scoring points in the first half when the momentum was in the Blues’ favour.

The combination of Damien Cook and Reece Robson will influence the drive up the field for good sets of six that allow the Blues to slow down the Maroons’ heavily influenced out-the-back offence, with one hand scoop ups from the play-the-ball.

When the Queensland Maroons’ defensive line has players fatigued, the Blues can overload and put numbers on either side.

Billy Slater’s two-way game

After winning two series in a row with a heavy principle, effort and a winning attitude first system, Slater’s philosophy in Origin will continue to stay the way it is.

Mistakes in the first half led to the Blues’ temporary spark of empowering attack, however, their defence was the shining light, holding the Blues to only six points in game two.

Brimson’s game is similar to Reece Walsh’s, and Horsburgh’s job in the middle will be similar to players with similar skill sets in Reuben Cotter and Patrick Carrigan.

If there are any changes to the lineup, expect Lindsay Collins to swap with Cotter depending on how Slater feels on the day of the game.

Game three will be played on the 12th of July at Accor Stadium at 8:05 pm.

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