Good morning and welcome to one of the best days of the sports calendar – the opening match of the State of Origin series.
Tonight’s match at Acre Stadium could be sold to a crowd of 80,000 for the first Origin match in New South Wales after 2020.
It was also Queensland’s first match as coach of Billy Slater. After 31 games in their golden age for the Maroons, the 38-year-old has been charged with restoring the Origin Trophy, which the NSW held after a 2-1 series win in 2021.
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I’m talking TodaySlater says he enjoys switching coaches.
“It’s completely different, as a player you only focus on your performance in those 80 minutes,” he said.
“As a coach you have to look at everything, you are controlling the environment, you are trying to plan the game, you are working with people in their game.
“There’s a lot in it, but a lot has been done for me, depending on the players who performed in those 80 minutes tonight.”
The Maroons will be looking for the 23rd series title this year, while the Blues have lifted the trophy 16 times.
“The competition is real, it’s the 42nd year of the state’s origin, that competition … people grow up with it,” Slater said.
“I don’t think you need to build it, you already have it.
“At the end of the day, the results will be given to the team that plays the best in the game, so it’s important to focus on that.
“That rivalry is always there, it’s breeding within you.”
Queensland will field four debutants, including 19-year-old Jeremiah Nanai, who has just 16 NRL matches to his name, while Selwin Cobo turned 20 just three days ago and has played just 19 NRL matches.
Despite their tender years, Slater is confident that they are ready.
“There’s not much protection here, they’ve got 12 more players on the field but at the end of the day they’re here because of their actions,” he explained.
“Selwyn and Jeremiah are pretty young, their activities tell me they’re ready for it. From what I’ve seen this week, the preparation has been great, the connection between the teams is really good.
Slater noted that the Origin title may be famous for the moment, but that is not where the decision to play is made.
“I think it wins through the small moments. We all get to see the big moments in the State of Origin, Darren Locke’s attempt (in 2006), Mark Quinn’s attempt in 1994, and those are great highlights.”
“But these are the small moments that count in the State of Origin. If we put them together, it will put us in a better position.”
“I’m feeling nervous, but that means it means something to you. I can’t wait for tonight.”