NSW have declared they are ready to do away with attacking theatrics and instead grind their way to victory over Queensland if needed in Wednesday night’s State of Origin opener.
One year after blowing Queensland off the park in Townsville, NSW are preparing for a significantly different showing in Game I this season at Accor Stadium.
NSW wrapped up their preparations on Tuesday for the series-opener with a light captain’s run at Sydney Olympic Park to be followed by a mid-morning walk on Wednesday.
Coach Brad Fittler also left the door open for a late change, stating he would “not confirm nor deny” if Stephen Crichton could start at left centre with Jack Wighton back on the bench.
Whatever the line up, NSW are well aware this year will be very different to 2021 when they thumped Queensland 50-6 in Townsville ahead of the most lopsided series in history with all games played up north.
“We train to play like (it will be tight),” Fittler said.
“We make sure every time we run out we understand that if it is a tight game it’s all about pressure and doing those little things right.
“There’s a good chance that will be happening tomorrow night.
“I can’t imagine the scoreline getting away from anyone. But we are prepared for it to go either way.”
NSW have also lost their major attacking weapons from last year in Tom Trbojevic and Latrell Mitchell, but insist their structure does not need to significantly change.
Regardless though, all signs point to a tighter clash in Sydney.
All bar one of the last 19 Origins at Accor Stadium has been decided by 10 points or less, with the only exception being the post-season match in 2020 where there was no dew.
Series-openers are also traditionally lower scoring, with last year’s Game I the first in more than a decade to have more than 40 points scored.
“It’s hard to say (exactly how Game I will be),” Fittler said on Tuesday.
“Tomorrow will be a lot like it is today, there is a fair bit of wind around.
“So I am assuming the field might be a lot dryer than it normally is. Which allows you to throw the ball around.”
NSW’s Penrith core also believe they are well adept for the long grind if required.
Led by their six Blues players, Penrith averaged just 10.5 points a game in last year’s final before lifting the trophy.
“That’s what we are looking forward to the most, the tough stuff,” five-eighth Jarome Luai said.
“We expect that tough grind and you’ve got the earn the right to play expansively later in the game when it opens up.”
Second-rower Liam Martin added: “We got comfortable in that regard.
“Being able to play those long grinding matches suited us. I will feel comfortable in that position.
“We are happy to take them there. We have also trained in case there is that higher point-scoring intensity.”