Ron Coote says fresh legs may give Blues edge in Origin
CAMERON Smith, Johnathan Thurston, Billy Slater and Greg Inglis will edge closer to cementing their places alongside Queensland's all-time Origin greats if they complete a ninth series win in the past 10 years at the MCG tonight.
Given their advancing years, this could be the last series the four superstars share.
Smith, 31, closes to within two games of Darren Lockyer's Origin record which stands at 36 appearances. Barring injury, he should break the milestone in 2016.
Lockyer played until he was 35, so theoretically Smith could chalk up an amazing 40 Origins by the time he calls it quits.
Queensland will tonight again look to its Fab Four, who have accumulated an incredible 116 Origin games between them since coming together in 2006. Smith leads the way with 34, followed by Thurston (31), Slater (26) and Inglis (25).
However, it's their aging years that former NSW and Australian lock Ron Coote believes could play into the Blues' hands if they can manage to square the series tonight.
"They (Queensland) are a wonderful football side, but you would have to think they're starting to slow up a little," said Coote, who played 13 games for NSW before the Origin concept was born.
"They don't have that great kicking game of Darren Lockyer any more, and they're a few years older in the legs."
Coote, a magnificent lock forward who could score a long-range try or pull off a spectacular cover tackle, said he liked the look of the youthful Blues under coach Laurie Daley.
"It's a much better side than the one that won the series last year," he said.
"The players are a little more mature and Daley knows them just that little bit better."
The lead-up to the game has been dominated by allegations from the Blues camp of "grubby" and "disrespectful" tactics used by the Queenslanders in game one, but the Maroons have largely kept their silence on the complaints.
There is no doubt provocative comments by NSW captain Paul Gallen will have hit a nerve in the Maroons camp, which has its own dossier of illegal plays by their opponents, including an incident in game one where Sam Thaiday had his hair pulled.
The game is likely to come down to which big men can give their halves a slight edge, in turn providing opportunities to the speed men out wide.
If props Matt Scott and Nate Myles can get on top, Queensland believes it holds a winning edge in the halves with Thurston and Daly Cherry-Evans, who replaces Cooper Cronk in the No.7, against Trent Hodkinson and Mitchell Pearce.
"If we get the opportunity we're going to be giving some early ball to guys out wide like GI (Inglis) and Justin Hodges," Smith said.