New faces meld well, says skipper
A changing of the guard is occurring all around him but Queensland captain Cameron Smith insists the Maroons' preparation for Game I on Wednesday night has been just like any other, instilling full faith in the new faces set to debut.
Anthony Milford and Dylan Napa will make their maiden Origin appearances in critical starting positions and taking the places of two of Queensland's greatest servants in Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott.
Their absence, along with that of Greg Inglis, leaves the team that has dominated the past decade of interstate football minus 88 games of Origin experience, a factor that has been critical to the Maroons' success in recent years.
With a raft of senior players missing, Smith has been forced to lean more heavily on the likes of Cooper Cronk, Sam Thaiday and Nate Myles and believes the newcomers have immediately bought into the Queensland ethos.
"Given the personnel we have lost, that throws up a few question marks about our side, but we're extremely confident with the team we've got," Smith said.
"I'm not feeling as much pressure as I did in 2008, when I first captained the side. That was when I felt very nervous about that.
"I'm very confident in the two new guys who have come into our side. Napa has been ready for 12 months – he would have played last year but he didn't get that opportunity. And Anthony is one of the best halves running around in the competition.
"If they play well, it will go a long way to us performing well and getting a good result for the state."
Despite being ruled out last Thursday, Thurston has remained in camp to mentor Milford in his first Origin camp while Napa has been paired with front-row partner Nate Myles when the team has been based in Brisbane.
It's a way of transitioning new players into the squad with minimal disruption and Smith is confident that it has worked.
"We have a few new guys involved but guys like Dylan and Anthony have been in our camp a couple of times before," said Smith, who will become the first player to appear in 40 State of Origin matches on Wednesday.
"They know how we prepare, they know what we do throughout our camps, it's been an easy transition for those guys to fit in.
"The first couple of days we've had to go over a few things with our game plan and what we need those guys to do to play their role. Apart from that it has been business as usual.
"They will be nervous for sure, everyone is nervous before their first Origin, there are guys who play 10 Origins who still get bloody nervous before a game.
"Once they get out there and make their first tackle and have their first run, it will be business as usual.
"A guy like Napa is looking forward to playing Origin. He is the type of guy who thrives on these situations and Game I is usually fairly physically, played up the middle and not a whole lot of football is played out wide. It really suits his game."