It’s the dead rubber memory that can’t be erased from Queenslanders’ minds.
The last time NSW dusted off the broom for a clean sweep in 2000, the Maroons were blown away by Bryan Fletcher’s hand grenade in a 56-16 game three humiliation.
Not only did the insult spur the Maroons’ revenge the following year, but it has provided wall-poster motivation every year since.
“I remember that year,” Blues coach Brad Fittler said.
“It was part of rugby league at the time, try celebrations. Once again I’m blaming Fletch. How do you control him? We’ve worked that out. We’ve seen his behaviour can be erratic.”
While declining ticket sales and television ratings suggest otherwise, Maroons coach Kevin Walters insists there is plenty at stake for his men on Wednesday night.
Not only does the night mark Billy Slater’s final appearance in Queensland colours, but selector Darren Lockyer insists other Origin careers could be on the line as well.
Ending a three-year exile from Maroons camp, new halfback Daly Cherry-Evans is playing in front of the backdrop of the stunning axing of Ben Hunt to utility.
Jarrod Wallace has also been demoted from starter to bench prop.
And then there’s the momentum a state can build towards the next series, as Walters alluded to the last time the Maroons stared in the face of a whitewash.
“The team showed in 2014, we won game three and went on to win three more series. So it can be done,” Walters said.
“It’s about building for next year, the only way to build for next year is for our players to play well and get a win. We need to win tomorrow night more than anything else.”
Fittler also put it on his team – filled with 12 rookies – to achieve greatness by becoming just the eighth team in history to win all three Origin games.
While game three can mark the end of some Maroons, it can be the beginning of some Blues.
“We’d like to put it on our side and create more certainty amongst our players,” Fittler said.
Despite being on the cusp of their biggest scoring series in 13 years, Fittler demanded his team lift their execution in attack.
“They’ve done such a good job, Queensland, of keeping us down on our end and getting off the line. We haven’t really backed ourselves to test that,” he said.
Asked if that included possible try celebrations, Fittler said: “Well, they haven’t been practising.”
STATS THAT MATTER
* If the Blues score more than 20 points on Wednesday, it will be their best-scoring series since 2005. If the Maroons score less than 12 points, it will be their worst-scoring series since 1999.
* Billy Slater will become just the second player to captain an Origin side after his 35th birthday, joining Arthur Beetson.
* Since 2009, the team leading at halftime has won 24 of 29 matches.
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