Kent: Maroons have never been more dangerous
A FIVE-BELL alarm must have rang through Brad Fittler's head Sunday.
It came on the NRL's official mouthpiece, nrl.com, detailing the plight of NSW forward Angus Crichton walking out of Barlow Park in Cairns.
That Crichton was walking out and signing autographs and posing for selfies surprised nobody at all. He is intelligent and thoughtful.
Crichton had no idea, though, that as he signed autographs for the fans his South Sydney captain, Greg Inglis, was on his way to hospital for an x-ray to a broken thumb that would later rule him out of Origin III.
"Crichton will join NSW teammates on Monday in Coogee and admitted there would be a more relaxed approach heading in to the dead rubber …." the story said.
NSW has never been more vulnerable than now.
A relaxed approach is the last thing Fittler needs.
Inglis is out of this series. Kalyn Ponga, the Boy Sensation, is also out after twinging his hamstring. Ben Hunt and Jarrod Wallace were dropped to the bench. Dylan Napa dropped to 18th man.
Beaten twice already, Queensland look less likely in the final game than at any time in the series.
And they have never been more dangerous.
The last time the Blues led a series 2-0 (2014), Queensland won the third game 32-8 and bankrolled that into a record win the following season, 52-6.
And the beginning of three more series wins.
The time before when NSW led the series 2-0 (2003), Queensland came out in Game III and scored what was then a record equalling 36-6 victory.
Ben Ikin remembers being in camp in the lead up to the 2003 dead rubber.
"Losing an Origin series three-zip when you come from Queensland," Ikin said, "can cause major reputational harm. And protecting one's reputation can be a great motivator."
Wayne Bennett knew that and coached accordingly.
You have to go back to 2000, 18 long years ago, before you can find a season where the Blues led the series 2-0 and then came out and won game three to sweep the series.
They did it in fine style.
Queensland was crushed spiritually and the Blues bombed them 56-16. The record win included the now infamous hand grenade try celebration that so irked the Maroons.
But Queensland came out the following season, in the very next series following that 56-16 thrashing, and won the series 2-1.
It is a disturbing history.
The Maroons are unfillable.
Indeed, they credit NSW's finest hour - that 56-16 thrashing to sweep the series - as the motivation for the 11 series wins in 12 years that soon followed.
It would be nice to believe that era is now dead but Queensland is already at work on the next series win.
Queensland prides itself themselves on using the last game of a lost series as the springboard for the following season.
Three times, from six 2-0 deficits, Queensland has won the last game of a lost series and catapulted it into a series win the following year. NSW has done it just once, in 1984, from four 2-0 deficits.
As they always do, Queensland coach Kevin Walters has gone back to the Queensland staple for this team. It is built around toughness.
Tim Glasby, the glue in the Maroon defence last year, shows it might have been an oversight so overlook him from the first two games and comes back into the squad for this game.
And then there is Daly Cherry-Evans.
Ostracised from the team some years back the Maroons have seemingly forgiven all in the quest to avoid a whitewash.
While loyalty is a line often trotted out north of the border, you have to remember why the Queensland spirit was born, losing had become the norm.
You have to go all the way back to 1959 to find the last interstate series won by a Queensland side prior to State of Origin commencing in 1980.
Now that's a whitewash.
The Queenslanders still carry that pre-Origin pain. It's in their bones.
The question now, then, is what NSW has in them.
The Blues have won this series but lost 11 of the previous 12.
Will they carry the pain in the bones like the Maroons?
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