Life after Queensland’s decade of dominance is on track according to coach Kevin Walters despite the Maroons being under the most pressure in 14 years ahead of Wednesday’s State of Origin decider.
The Maroons face the prospect of losing back-to-back series for the first time since 2005 when the Blues sealed their third straight.
Still smarting from a 38-6 game two rout, Queensland’s chances of winning a 12th series in 14 seasons took another hit when they lost their most experienced forward – 20-game Origin veteran Matt Gillett – with a groin strain on Tuesday.
Yet Walters reckoned everything was going to plan for a Maroons team rebuilding after the representative retirement of future Immortals Cameron Smith, Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk, Greg Inglis and Billy Slater who sparked their unprecedented Origin run.
“It’s going excellent,” Walters said.
“It is one-all in the decider, last year we were 2-0 down.
“We managed to win game three (in 2018) then managed to win game one this year.
“That gives the side a lot of belief in what this team is capable of at Origin level and we will see that tomorrow night.”
Walters is aiming to win his third Origin series after triumphing in 2016 and 2017.
But he is under pressure ahead of the decider with speculation the Maroons coach may not see out his contract until the end of 2020 if Queensland suffers another loss.
Walters would become only the fourth Queensland coach to lose back-to-back series after Wally Lewis (1993-94), Paul Vautin (1996-97) and Michael Hagan (2004-05).
If Walters was sweating ahead of game three, he put on a brave front on Tuesday.
“There’s always pressure on players and coaches, that’s what we are here for,” he said.
“I can’t wait for tomorrow night for the pressure and the challenge that it provides.
“We expect our guys to go out there and make Queenslanders proud.”
While Walters admitted Queensland were “hurting” after their shocker in Perth, the Maroons mentor had no fears about deciding the series on enemy territory.
No wonder – Queensland have dominated Origin deciders, winning 13 compared to NSW’s four including the last seven.
And they have won the last two game three deciders in Sydney – in 2008 and 2013.
“We don’t have any demons (about playing in Sydney). I have been here and won premierships and I have been here and won Origins,” said former Brisbane and Maroons playmaker Walters.
“A lot of the players have as well. We will play Origin in the desert – this is a wonderful opportunity.”
With Gillett succumbing to injury, Walters late on Tuesday confirmed that Ethan Lowe would make his Origin debut.
South Sydney’s Lowe is expected to start on the bench with David Fifita in turn going into the run-on 13.
Walters also did not rule out a swap between bench utility Moses Mbye and left centre Michael Morgan.
“We will make those decisions, that’s for us to know,” he said.