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'Up for the challenge': Aiken thriving in do-or-die mentality

Tarryn Aiken is not one to shy away from a challenge.

Do-or-die? Those words don’t scare her. They excite her.

The Harvey Norman Queensland Maroons playmaker is ready for Thursday’s State of Origin Game II showdown with New South Wales, as Queensland head into enemy territory to try to save this year’s series after the Sky Blues claimed Game I.

In front of a sold-out crowd in Newcastle, it’s a big task and one that would be daunting for some.

But Aiken thrives on moments like these.

“It’s so crazy, just to be in this position,” Aiken said of the must-win circumstances ahead.

“Over the previous years, we’ve never been in a full series. In a weird way, it’s actually really exciting to be in a do-or-die match. I think we’ll thrive in that and I’m up for the challenge.

“It really pumps me up just thinking about it. It’s do-or-die.”

In the first time the women have played a three-game series, Maroons lost Game I on home turf at Suncorp Stadium 22-12, with the Sky Blues playing a dominant opening 10 minutes to put Queensland on the back foot.

While Queensland showed great resilience to comeback, Aiken said there was a lot of reflection after that series opener.

“It was obviously a really disappointing result, to perform the way we did in front of a home crowd,” she said.

“But the way we played in the second half, we were pretty resilient to stay in the fight and get back into the grind so there’s still a lot of confidence taken out of it, especially the second half.

“After game one, I reflected a lot on my personal performance… I want to get back to playing my football and doing what I’m good at, which I didn’t really do in game one. It was just me.

“It was how the game went. I was pretty slow to get into the game and I feel like we were all just chasing our tails after that.”

Aiken said she turned to a number of trusted people in her life to get feedback on her Game I performance, including Harvey Norman Queensland Maroons assistant coach, Nathan Cross.

She said her confidence took a hit but people around her have helped her get back on track for Thursday.

“I spoke to some people who really understand my game and my strengths,” she said.

“The best piece of advice I got was to go back to what I’m good at and playing to my strengths.

“It gives you so much confidence.

“After game one, I was pretty down on confidence in my own performance but going away and speaking to a couple of people, that really helped me get back to my mindset with how I want to play game two.

“It gives you so much confidence when you have those people in your corner and they understand your game and your strengths really well.”

Tarryn Aiken. Photo: Zain Mohammed/QRL
Tarryn Aiken. Photo: Zain Mohammed/QRL

Aiken is also hoping to strengthen her combination with backrower Tazmin Gray, while she will play in a new halves combination for Game II - but it is one that is familiar to her, with Ali Brigginshaw donning the No.7 jersey.

For the 24-year-old, it will be crucial to build those connections as strong as ever as they prepare to save the series.

“I’m ready to rip into training,” Aiken said.

“We’ve obviously played a lot of footy together over the years so it will be a really good combination having Ali back there.

“She brings a lot of leadership on and off the field. Having her in that seven role will be really beneficial for us.

“It’s the most exciting time of the year. This squad has been together for a few years now and it’s really exciting to play for Queensland and play with this group of girls.”

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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