They may need to pull a rabbit out of a hat to keep the State of Origin series alive but an injury-hit Queensland have laughed off NSW’s suggestion that they are up to their old tricks ahead of Wednesday night’s must-win game two.
Maroons captain Cameron Smith appeared to be playing the straight shooter on Monday, admitting there was a gamble involved in deciding the fate of halfback Daly Cherry-Evans (knee) and strike centre Greg Inglis (ankle) at the last minute.
Fullback Billy Slater (shoulder) was officially cleared with rookies Ben Hunt and Will Chambers on standby for Cherry-Evans and Inglis respectively.
However, wary NSW skipper Paul Gallen believed Queensland were keeping a card up their sleeve ahead of a match that puts the Maroons’ unprecedented eight-year dynasty on the line.
“This is what Queensland do. They try and back themselves into a corner and somehow convince all the bookies and everyone else that they are underdogs and try and set us up for an ambush,” he said.
“We know we have to play better than game one to get the job done.
“It’s just all this media speculation about these injuries.
“Believe me I don’t think they are too worried about it at all.”
The Maroons may have had NSW under their spell since 2006 but Smith laughed when told the Blues weren’t fooled by their “smoke and mirrors” Origin II approach.
“I don’t think it is smoke and mirrors, it is actually happening – it’s a fact,” he said.
“Smoke and mirrors is when you are trying to bluff your way through it but we are not bluffing – we have got dead set injuries.
“The truth is we have a few guys battling injuries but we are not panicking.
“We said right from the start these are the cards that we have been dealt.
“But it doesn’t bother us what they (NSW) are thinking.”
Which is for the best – a forthright Gallen reckoned injury would be no excuse for Queensland if they lost after NSW’s Josh and Brett Morris succumbed to injury following the Blues’ brutal 12-8 game one win.
“We have two of our best players out from game one. We are going to miss the Morris brothers immensely,” he said.
“Both teams are on more than level pegging as far as injuries are concerned.”
Smith did not try to embrace Queensland’s trusty underdog tag of old despite an injury crisis creating the sobering prospect of handing the Maroons reins to a debutant No.7 or Cherry-Evans, who has never trained as Queensland halfback.
“We haven’t turned up to training thinking ‘gees it is going to hard on Wednesday night’ … or ‘we are going for nine straight’,” Smith said.
“We are confident if Greg and Daly doesn’t play we will still field a strong side.”
But he added: “If there is ever a time for us to stand up and play well it needs to be this game.”