Queensland legend Corey Parker has hit back at one-sided media coverage in the build-up to Wednesday’s State of Origin opener, saying experts write off the Maroons at their peril.
All the pre-series talk has been about the threat of New South Wales, the exciting squad Brad Fittler has named and the retirements of Queensland trio Johnathan Thurston, Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk.
The Maroons have won 11 of the past 12 series, though, and Parker said experts tipping the Blues were overlooking the team’s lack of experience.
NSW will field 11 Origin debutants at the MCG on Wednesday evening.
“According to everyone else, NSW have won the game already,” Parker told The New Daily.
“NSW have 11 players in the team who don’t know what the Origin arena looks like.
“To those who think NSW are favourites, it’s a bold move. The reality is that some NSW players will fail.
“Eleven guys will not turn up and shine. It is just not possible.”
Parker expects the pace of the game at Origin level to catch out some of the Blues, particularly given the stop-start nature of many NRL matches in 2018.
“The speed of the game will surprise them,” he said.
“I know there’s been a lot of stoppages with penalties in the NRL this year, but Origin is traditionally refereed very, very differently. It’s a big step up.
“The pace of the game is a massive factor.
“Every Queenslander loves the underdog tag … but I think the only people that look at that are the punters.”
Munster to make the difference
Parker has backed Melbourne Storm’s Cameron Munster to shine in his adopted state.
The 23-year-old made his Origin debut in last year’s deciding match, producing a stunning performance in which he ran for 136 metres and had five tackle-busts and two try assists.
Parker hopes Munster takes the game on again.
“There’s plenty of players with X-factor in that backline,” he said.
“One person I think can change the game is Cameron Munster.
“He has a real knack of knowing when to strike and pops up in the big moments. He’ll run the ball and he is strong.”
Parker also weighed in on the refereeing of the match, adding his voice to the chorus of those who are hopeful officials adopt a ‘hands-off’ approach.
“I am a little bit [concerned],” he said.
“Origin is often refereed completely different [to NRL]. NSW will want a free-flowing quick game and, to be honest, the fans will want that too.
“If it is a stop-start game, it would be really disappointing.”
Cleary can be our Cronk: Cordner
NSW skipper Boyd Cordner heaped praise on 20-year-old Nathan Cleary before the match.
Cleary will partner Penrith teammate James Maloney in the halves and has earned rave reviews for his NRL performances in an eye-catching if injury-interrupted campaign.
Cordner, a teammate of retired Queensland great Cronk at Sydney Roosters, said he can see similarities in Cleary.
“I haven’t had much to do with Nathan at all and he shocks you straight away how mature he is,” Cordner said on Tuesday.
“He shows all the qualities it takes to be a great Origin player like Cooper … he is tough and a competitor.
“He is willing to learn. He knew the game plan hands down after day one.
“He is excited and ready to go and has prepared really well. I can’t wait to play next to him.”
Catch the most comprehensive Origin review with Queensland coach Kevin Walters and ex-New South Wales captain Danny Buderus on NRL 360 at the special time of 6.30pm Thursday on Fox League.
Wednesday night’s match will be broadcast on the Nine Network from 7pm AEST.