After winning State of Origin game one in Brisbane, NSW can end nine years of hurt with victory in front of 84,000 fans at ANZ Stadium on Wednesday.
Nine years after their last State of Origin series win, NSW will have no better chance of ending Queensland’s dominance in game two at ANZ Stadium on Wednesday.
Boosted by the 12-8 win in the opening encounter in Brisbane – the Blues’ first victory in a series opener north of the Tweed since 2003 – Laurie Daley’s side now find themselves in the unfamiliar role of favourites.
Unlike the Maroons, NSW have enjoyed a reasonably smooth build-up to the game with no fresh injury concerns despite the presence of two new faces in Josh Dugan and Will Hopoate to replace Josh and Brett Morris.
In contrast, Queensland had to abandon their elaborate team announcement, featuring the music of Eminem and Cotton Eyed Joe, last Monday with a delayed naming of a 22-man squad due to worries over the fitness of Greg Inglis, Billy Slater and Daly Cherry-Evans.
Experienced Test pair Cooper Cronk and Corey Parker have already been ruled out and Brisbane rookie halfback Ben Hunt has been training all week as back-up for Cherry-Evans who’s nursing a knee injury and only ran out with the team for the first time on Tuesday afternoon.
With home advantage and a crowd of more than 84,000 expectant fans to roar them home the stars appear to be finally aligning for NSW.
The return of star back-rower Greg Bird from suspension is also a huge boost as is the form of Jarryd Hayne who was man of the match in the 12-8 win at Suncorp Stadium.
But despite all of these factors the man who skippered the Blues to series victories in 1993 and `94 refuses to concede his side have the upper hand going into a game that could further etch his name in NSW rugby league folklore.
“They’re downplaying everything and want us to think they are carrying all of these injuries,” Daley said.
“But it’s an Origin series and everyone will be ready to go.
“We went into game one as massive underdogs and have plenty of people patting us on the backs telling us how good we are.
“I’d be extremely disappointed if any of our players started to listen to their own publicity and got ahead of themselves because this is a mighty Queensland team.”
Meninga has already seen off Graham Murray, Craig Bellamy and Ricky Stuart in the opposite coaching box since taking over from Michael Hagan in 2006 and admits the fear of losing his 100 per cent series record is the driving force behind his team’s success.
“Fear is good, you have to confront it and make sure you get on top of it,” Meninga said.
“It’s about playing to your potential every time you put a maroon jersey on.”
Given the upheaval in the build-up to the game keeping the series alive to take it to Brisbane for game three could well be the greatest achievement of Meninga’s brilliant career.
“We don’t think about those things,” he said.
“We think about how we prepare and how we front up tomorrow night.
“We don’t talk about outcomes, we talk about playing good footy and doing the right thing by your mate.”
“I realise we have a great challenge in front of us but I think those who support us know if we put in the right effort and play as well as we can, we will be happy with that.”