The Queensland Under 20 side is looking to draw inspiration from a passionate home crowd in their quest for a maiden title.
For the first time, the underage Origin fixture will act as the State of Origin curtain raiser at Suncorp Stadium tonight, having previously been played as part of the representative weekend.
The Maroons haven’t claimed the trophy since the game’s creation in 2012, but coach Kurt Wrigley said the shift to home turf would be a significant boost to his team.
“A lot of the boys will have family and friends in the stands, so the drive and enthusiasm that provides will hopefully spur them on,” he said.
Wrigley, assistant coach at the South Sydney Rabbitohs, is taking a largely inexperienced side into battle.
Luke Bateman and Jayden Nikorima (18th man in 2014) are the only players backing up from last year’s 30-8 loss.
However, the new group contains a contingent quite familiar with the Suncorp Stadium surface – 10 Brisbane Broncos NYC players are in the side, including the much-vaunted ‘spine’.
Toowoomba Brothers junior Ashley Taylor partners club mate Nikorima in the halves, with the elusive Paul Byrnes at fullback and former Under 16 and 18 Queensland representative Jayden Berrell at hooker.
The quartet has played a leading hand in Brisbane’s rise to third on the NYC ladder.
“They’re quite instinctive players and we haven’t overloaded at training with structures,” Wrigley said.
“It’s more about what they do under pressure, which will come down to club combinations – that is what they’ve done well to get here.”
The team also features a smattering of Intrust Super Cup experience, with Taylor (Souths Logan), Byrnes (Redcliffe), George Fai (Souths Logan), Coen Hess (Mackay) and Karl Lawton (Tweed Heads – featured in the video above) all debuting in the state’s premier competition in the past two seasons.
Hess scored a double on debut for the Cutters in Round 15 and has been a mainstay in the backrow since, while Taylor’s astute kicking game saw him prove a threat in his brief stint for the Magpies.
“This is going to be quicker and more intense than your average NYC match and those boys in particular have been exceptionally helpful in team meetings,” Wrigley said.
“I think everyone is acutely aware of opportunity this game presents from both an individual and team perspective.”
A bevvy of Origin legends has been on hand to pass on words of wisdom during an abridged camp.
“We’ve had Mat Rogers come into camp, Ashley Harrison is our team manager and Gorden Tallis is speaking to the team tonight (Tuesday),” Wrigley said.
“They’ve just talked about making that step up in regards to the Origin arena and pressure.
“As is the case in all these big games, it’s about taking your opportunities and making sure your defence is rock solid.
- story by Ethan James