What coach Kevin Walters has demanded from Queensland in Sunday’s must-win State of Origin game two in Sydney is simple – greatness.
That may be easier said than done by a team with a distinct lack of it, as it begins life without their big three – retired legends Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston.
But Walters is confident the new look Maroons can reach another level and provide a fitting salute to yet another great – Billy Slater – in his 30th Origin.
After so far cutting a cranky figure at their Gold Coast camp, Walters appeared to be breathing easier on Saturday after Sydney Roosters prop Dylan Napa emerged unscathed from the captain’s run at ANZ Stadium.
He is yet to receive the official nod but is all but confirmed to start in Queensland’s front row, despite an ankle concern.
Walters believes Queensland are primed to test NSW in a game they must win to keep the series alive.
But to be any chance of extending Queensland’s stunning run of 11 series wins in 12 years, Walters said his new-look team must emulate their greats.
“Our performance in game one was good but it wasn’t great. To win a game in Origin you’ve got to be great,” Walters said.
“NSW were that in game one. That’s what we are trying to achieve in game two, to be great.”
Walters hinted fiery redhead Napa’s aggression would help them reach their lofty goal.
“He brings first and foremost aggression. Dylan would be the first to admit that he didn’t quite get that right with his aggression in game one,” Walters said.
“If we can get that right he will be a huge asset for the Maroons.
“That’s why we are giving him every opportunity to play.”
Walters was keen to avoid any more distractions after a horror build-up to the series opener in Melbourne, where three players were nursed through training and Billy Slater (hamstring) pulled out days before the game.
But Walters said he retained Napa for their game two buildup after the forward surprised him by completing both their full training sessions.
“I didn’t expect him to be running too much on Wednesday but he trained fully with the team, did exactly what was required,” Walters said.
Slater, 35, also began their game two preparation on the Maroons injury list but has been cleared to play, finally kick-starting his swansong Origin series after missing game one.
Walters claimed Queensland were desperate to toast Slater in his 30th Origin, making him the 11th player and 10th Queenslander to reach the milestone.
“We want to get the result, not that he deserves, but what Billy wants, and we want the same result,” Walters said.
Australian Associated Press