x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Queensland expect an all-out battle

Coach Mal Meninga has warned his team to expect another all-out assault from New South Wales in the first State of Origin clash this afternoon.

Queensland are prepared for a battle against New South Wales this afternoon.
Queensland are prepared for a battle against New South Wales this afternoon.

Mal Meninga, the Queensland coach, has warned his team to expect another all-out assault from New South Wales in the first State of Origin clash this afternoon. The Maroons won the series last year, 2-1, but were defeated in game three at the Suncorp Stadium in what was one of the most violent games in Australia. NSW were the main aggressors as brawls broke out throughout the match, the threats of retribution continuing after full-time and in the lead up to the 2010 series.

Meninga admitted NSW's in-your-face tactics unsettled his team and caught them off-guard. And with Craig Bellamy's men seemingly finding the blueprint for success after four consecutive series losses, the Queensland boss is preparing his side for a repeat dose in this year's opener at ANZ Stadium. "I can imagine that they grew in confidence after their victory in game three and we've got to combat that," Meninga said after the Queensland team touched down in Sydney.

"They were very aggressive and physical and we didn't handle that very well. They think they found a formula to victory and we just need to focus on what we do best and that's to get out there and play for each other. "I don't think there's going to be a stink but we know it's going to be a tough battle. We know it's going to be physical, we know we have to play out the 80 minutes." With Queensland losing Cameron Smith, their inspirational captain, and a host of other key players NSW are the favourites.

The underdog tag suits the Queenslanders just fine, with Meninga keen to turn the heat on the Blues. "I think they're under a bit of pressure," he said. "It's a challenge for us coming down to Sydney for the first game. There are a lot of things against us and it's a fair challenge. "We've come here to play our game and be confident in everything we do. There's not a struck match between both sides and we know we have to perform well to win."

Bellamy insists his side will not be fooled into thinking they are the better team. "It doesn't matter what happens, they always want to be the underdogs and sometimes they talk themselves into being the underdogs," he said. "At the end of the day they lost Cameron Smith and he seems to be the trigger for [us] to be favourites, but they've won the last four series. So I don't care whether people or whoever make them underdogs or the favourites, that's their opinion and at the end of the day it doesn't really matter anything to us whether we're favourites, underdogs or whatever." Bellamy was coy about another bloody encounter. "We're going out there to play our footy and I can't guarantee what's going to happen in games; every game's a mystery," he said. * PA