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The stage is set for the Under 16 Queensland side to reclaim the interstate shield in the State of Origin opener tomorrow night (Wednesday, July 12).

The past three encounters have been close, with the Blues claiming a 12-10 win last year.

Although Queensland could have considered themselves unlucky to have gone down by that slim margin, Queensland Under 16 coach Kurt Richards said the history of that game hadn’t factored into the current squad’s preparations.

“We’re not necessarily looking for redemption. It’s always a tight game whenever we play them,” Richards said.

“I’m expecting it to be relatively close, these sorts of games always are.

“The first two years we won, last year we went down by two points. It just shows you how important the goal kicks are during these sorts of games; it is ultimately what cost us in the end.”

Coulston to kick

This year, the kicking responsibilities will fall to Carina junior Ezraa Coulston who was impressive during the QRL Junior State Carnival this month.

He converted seven of his eight attempts during the final for SEQ White and also crossed the line for a four pointer.

SEQ Green five-eighth Joshua James was also exciting throughout the tournament, converting two of five tries during the final.

Training well

Richards has been impressed by the efforts of many of the players during the lead up to the game as all players put in a strong effort on the training paddock.

“So far throughout preparation, there hasn’t been any one particular player who has stood out to me. They’ve all played in the system a long time and I know what they are all capable of.”

The team’s preparation has involved several different activities, including an opposed training session with noted rugby league high school, Palm Beach Currumbin.

“During the session, the boys did some really good things as a team, and it also showed us the areas that we need to work on,” Richards said.

“It’s the kind of game where you only get one shot, so you have to make sure everything is perfect.”

Learning our way

The team have been in camp since last Friday and on Sunday were able to watch as the Queensland Maroons fine-tuned their preparations for the decider in their training session.

They also sat down for lunch with the senior players to learn with it means to be a Queenslander and play for the Maroons.

“After the team lunch with some of the senior players, Justin Hodges pulled the boys aside and spoke to them about the ‘Queensland Way’, and what it meant to play for the Maroons,” Richards said.

“He just spoke about the Queensland values and what the ‘Queensland Way’ is – it was a bit of a glimpse about what is expected of you when you wear the jersey and playing for your state.”

Manage emotions

Richards believes the talk was useful for the young players to help them remain calm and in the moment of the game, especially in an environment such as Suncorp Stadium, with some of the players getting their first taste of a stadium venue.

“The emotions are definitely there, we’ve just got to manage the team well and make sure there are no changes in the way that they play,” Richards said.

“We have to make sure that the boys don’t try and rise to the occasion, but that they let the occasion rise to them.”

Acknowledgement of Country

Queensland Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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