Mal Meninga, the Queensland coach, hopes his side shed their tag as perennial slow starters as the Maroons begin their quest to land a fourth State of Origin crown in a row today. Queensland take on New South Wales in the opening game of the series at the Etihad Stadium in Melbourne conscious of the fact that, despite their recent dominance over their rivals, they have often struggled in game one, losing in 2006 and 2008.
Another loss this time round would give the Blues the chance to claim their first title since 2005 on home turf in Sydney. "We've talked about not really starting the series all that well in all the three years that I've been involved," said Meninga. "There's been a focus on starting well and being successful in the Melbourne game because if we don't it puts a lot of pressure on us going to Sydney in game two.
"I guess for both sides it's an important game. Game one is set up, I think, very well and it should be interesting to see what the result is going to be, but our focus is on starting well." Craig Bellamy, the NSW coach, is hoping the neutrals will back his side in Melbourne. Bellamy wants those coming to the game without any Blues or Maroons allegiances to root for his team rather than the more favoured Queenslanders.
"There will be a lot of them just going to watch the sport as an event, some of them will know a little bit about our game and some of them won't but one thing about the Australian sporting crowds, they like an underdog," Bellamy said. "We'll certainly be the underdog." * With agencies