The Queensland Maroons face the ultimate challenge of going to Sydney on July 10 to reclaim the State of Origin shield in a decider, but will draw belief from the fact that they have done it all before.
The last time Queensland won a decider in NSW was in 2013 at ANZ Stadium.
Current squad members Matt Gillett, Josh Papalii and Daly Cherry-Evans were all on the bench when Queensland prevailed 12-10 in a stunning backs-to-the-wall victory.
After the 38-6 loss to the Blues in Perth on Sunday, it was skipper Cherry-Evans who reflected on that July 17 evening when the Maroons repelled wave after wave of NSW surges on their line in the second half.
He said he would be drawing on the way the Maroons went about their work that night and instilling that same belief in his teammates when they gather for their Origin camp next week ahead of Game III.
In the sheds: Daly Cherry-Evans
It is worth going back to the post-match presser back in 2013 when Mal Meninga explained what the win was founded on: “That was true grit. They showed fantastic character and desire to get the result we were after,” Meninga said.
“That is our trait. We have some of the best players to have ever played the game but tonight was about character and effort. The bums were dragging on the ground a lot of times in that game but they kept coming up with the right effort and the right decisions.”
Official man of the match Brent Tate also joined Meninga and captain Cameron Smith to speak to the media after the game as the Maroons celebrated an eighth consecutive series win.
Tate built a reputation for saving his best for series deciders.
In 2006 in Melbourne he was in support of Johnathan Thurston late in the second half to score a crucial try that turned the match. In 2013 he was a rock defensively, incisive with the ball and made several crucial tackles on the tryline to deny NSW.
This is how Tate reflected on the victory: “I mentioned in the dressing sheds that it wasn’t about being the best players out there tonight. It was just about sticking up for each other, the mateship and the camaraderie we have got in this group,” Tate said.
“I know that the Queensland spirit is very much alive within us tonight.”
Those qualities Meninga and Tate spoke of are just what the Maroons will need in Game III in Sydney. They displayed them in the opening match of this year’s State of Origin series at Suncorp Stadium.
Queensland’s greatest wins are based on never giving up and prevailing when all appears lost.
The Blues will be red hot favourites in Sydney and the Maroons will revert to being underdogs, a tag they have embraced in the past.
The concern in Perth was that the Blues overpowered the Maroons up front, played with more flair and wanted the win more than Queensland.
Queensland five-eighth Cameron Munster conceded as much in the Maroons' dressing sheds on Sunday night in Perth. After admitting to playing a terrible game on an individual level, he pinpointed the crucial ingredients that would be needed in Sydney.
“The plan was to win [the series] tonight but we showed we just didn’t have that hunger and desire. We need that in Game III,” Munster said.
Maroons selectors will later this week decide whether finding that “hunger and desire” means also finding new players for the decider.
Cherry-Evans has implored Queensland to stick with a squad he believes can do the business in Sydney.
Maroons power brokers will endeavour to do so and stay loyal, but their main aim will be to pick the best side that can win the match.
Match: Blues v Maroons
Game 3 -
Venue: ANZ Stadium, Sydney