Queensland don’t have to look far for examples of how to bounce back from a heavy Game 2 loss after making 13 changes in the last two Origin deciders.
In 2019, having won the first game, Queensland were beaten 38-6 in Perth in the second game, before going on to a last-minute try from James Tedesco in a 26-20 thriller in the Sydney decider.
In 2020, the Maroons also won the opener before being crushed 34-10 two weeks later. Head coach Wayne Bennett then inspired his team to a 20-14 rebound victory in the decider at Suncorp Stadium.
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In 2019, Queensland made five changes with Cameron Munster moved to full-back for the injured Kalyn Ponga and Corey Norman coming in at five-eights. Moses Mbye started in the centre, with Michael Morgan moving to the bench. Joe Ofahengaue entered in place of Dylan Napa. Ethan Lowe replaced Matt Gillett at No. 2 and Christian Welch replaced Jarrod Wallace on the bench.
In 2020, the Maroons have made eight changes with Corey Allan at full-back, Valentine Holmes moving to the wing and Edrick Lee replacing Phillip Sami on the other flank. Brenko Lee entered the crosses with Kurt Capwell on the second line and Jaydn Su’A on the bench. Christian Welch replaced Dunamis Lui at the accessory, while Lindsay Collins replaced Moeaki Fotuaika on the bench and Harry Grant also replaced Ben Hunt on the pin.
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Despite recent history and after a disastrous 44-12 thrashing at the hands of NSW, Andrew Voss urged Queensland to keep the same 22.
The reason? A lack of better options waiting in the wings.
“To make changes you want to be pretty confident that you’ll get a lot better instead of just getting a reaction,” Voss said on SEN 1170 Breakfast.
“If it was the players who did the job in the first game, I think he has to stick with it.
“Certainly in key positions he has the two best hookers he could have in Hunt and Grant.
“You’re scratching your head to see if any forwards could do better, but I think he’ll work into the 22 he had last night and go no further than that.
“I don’t think now is the time for seven changes to come into a decider with one last side.”
Voss believes the Blues, on the other hand, are spoiled for wealth and could even make changes to a winning team.
“I’ll add another name and he’s never played Origin before Ryan Papenhuyzen,” Voss said.
“He would have killed him last night, can you imagine, once New South Wales came forward if he had been thrown into a role around the middle last night? He would have also killed.
“It’s a big contrast, they’re not light on the players, are they? Dally M medalist Jack Wighton and Clive Churchill medalist, Latrell Mitchell (is a star) and Papenhuyzen were also man of the match in a grand final. It’s a wealth of wealth for New South Wales.
Maroons great Wendell Sailor was also pleading for loyalty following the Maroons’ second defeat at Perth, but also admitted Billy Slater’s side didn’t have many better options waiting to come in.
“I don’t think Cotter has a chance to come back,” Sailor said of Triple M.
“One thing about Queenslanders, we stay loyal and we don’t panic.
“Tonight we just got absolutely dominated all over the park.
“I don’t think we need too many changes. We just need to reset.
Queensland legend Wally Lewis admitted Cotter was a massive loss from game one but doesn’t think the Maroons have enough depth to make massive changes.
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“Cotter did a lot of cleanup work in Game 1 as well,” Lewis said.
“When they needed someone to carry the ball in tough situations, Reuben Cotter was the man that night.
“I think the selectors are going to sit down and watch who’s available, but damn it, the ranks are a little thin.
“They probably realize that they’re going to have to find a team that’s probably not that different from the one that took the field tonight and certainly won’t create any fear for NSW.”
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Sailor believes Slater will focus on correcting the mistakes the Maroons made in Game 2 rather than making massive changes to his personnel.
“We’re thinking about Billy, I don’t think he’s going to panic too much,” Sailor said when asked if Jeremiah Nanai was under pressure after some defensive lapses in the opener.
“You have to have someone better to bring in. Obviously there are options there, but I would stick with Nanai.
“Queensland just didn’t play well in the middle third. We didn’t start well and just our execution.
“I think we missed 56 tackles. You cannot win Origin by missing 56 tackles. NSW only missed 14.
However, former NSW player Ryan Girdler may see the Maroons alter their prop rotation to shore up their midfield amid a worrying lack of contribution from Josh Papalii in the opening two games.
“They don’t get much out of Papalii,” Girdler said.
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“It was interesting in the first game, they had Lindsay Collins and he and Patrick Carrigan are middle players and they came in with Harry Grant and made a real difference.
“They only went with one real central striker. I know Jai Arrow plays a bit in the middle, but Carrigan was really their only striker in the middle they wore on the bench.
“So maybe they are looking at putting in like Thomas Flegler and having Carrigan and trying to have more impact in midfield.
“That’s where they got tired and it was obviously because of sin and all the possession of NSW.
“They were just outplayed tonight and NSW was good enough and patient enough to keep the job going, but the big equalizer is Suncorp Stadium.”
However, the fact is that the Maroons have been thoroughly beaten by an NSW side who will be very confident going into Game 3, even if it is at Suncorp Stadium.
Cameron Munster’s injury could also cause a major spinal upheaval for Game 3 if he is ruled out.
Munster are the focal point of their attack and his potential unavailability due to a shoulder injury suffered in Game 2 could lead to forced changes en masse.
Ben Hunt would be in line to enter the halves if Munster are ruled out with Harry Grant entering at starting hooker and Tom Dearden or even Reece Walsh possibly joining the bench as an X-factor type utility.
Another option could be to bring Kalyn Ponga in the No. 6 jersey and put Walsh in the back, but it would be a big risk to go with a rookie in the No. 1 jersey in a decider.
Another option as a utility could be veteran Moses Mbye, who has never let the Maroons down in three origins to date.
Another veteran, Corey Oates, could be brought in to bolster the wing position after Murray Taulagi struggled at times on his Game 2 debut.
David Fifita is emerging as another option to bring a spark and impact to the bench.
No matter how many changes Queensland make, Lewis admitted they will have to be much better than in Game 2.
“No apologies will be offered or accepted,” Lewis said.
“They were just severely overpowered, muscular and overwhelmed.”
After Fittler made seven changes to bounce back in Game 2, it’s now up to Slater to make his decider selections or the Blues will win a fourth Origin Shield in five years.