Desperate to end eight years of heartache, wary NSW are refusing to be lulled into any false sense of security as they close in on a breakthrough State of Origin series victory.
One-nil up, the Blues completed another perfect preparation at their Coffs Harbour hideaway on Sunday before flying back to Sydney optimistic about wrapping up the series in game two on Wednesday night.
Origin I man-of-the-match Jarryd Hayne (cork), skipper Paul Gallen (neck) and fellow forwards Luke Lewis (knee) and Anthony Watmough (biceps) all trained strongly during the side’s final team run to leave the Blues full of hope.
“We’ve got to be confident,” Watmough said.
“We just have to turn up with the right mentality and do our job. If we do our job, we’ll go a long way to winning.”
NSW’s build-up has been a dream compared to injury-hit Queensland’s.
The Blues, though, aren’t falling for the Maroons’ sob stories and fully expect superstar backs Billy Slater (shoulder), Greg Inglis (ankle) and Daly Cherry-Evans (knee) all to play at ANZ Stadium.
“It’s the same team as we played against last time, bar Corey Parker, who unfortunately got injured,” Watmough said.
“We know they’re going to be a lot better, so we know we’ve got to be a lot better and we’re not getting complacent.”
Six-times series loser Greg Bird said the Blues had been burnt too many times before by the champion Queenslanders.
“They do it every year and I’m sure they’re trying to lull us into a false sense of security that we’re going to come up against a team that’s a bit under the weather,” he said.
“But we know better than that.”
Only Gallen, who has come up empty-handed for eight straight years, and Hayne (7), have lost more Origin series for NSW than Bird.
The 29-year-old enforcer admits returning home to the Gold Coast Titans as a series loser for a seventh time doesn’t bear thinking about.
“It’s definitely hard. You’re living in Queensland, you sort of don’t really want to show your face after the series is done the last couple of years,” Bird said.
“People think of it as just a game but this is our livelihood, this is what we do for a living and to go out there pretty disappointed every year, it hurts.
“I’d probably prefer not to go back to the Gold Coast with that shallow feeling.
“The Titans fans don’t give it to me. They do it in a friendly way, I guess, but it still cuts.
“It doesn’t matter how friendly they say ‘go Queensland’ when NSW lost. It still reminds you of the feeling you had when you were out on the field and had an opportunity to do something about it and didn’t.
“We’ve got to back up the good preparation so far with good performances on the field.”