Anasta: Blues rookies in for rough night
KEVIN Walters declared it "war" when announcing the Queensland team for tonight's State of Origin opener - and that's exactly what it is.
There is nothing that compares to State of Origin in Queensland.
You feel the passion and the hate as soon as you step off the plane and it only intensifies in the lead-up to kick-off.
State of Origin is more than a game for Queenslanders - it's a matter of life and death.
That intensity is something I experienced firsthand when I lined up for my NSW Origin debut in 2002.
To say I was nervous would be an understatement.
From the moment you make your first-grade debut, you dream about playing State of Origin football, and once you get there you don't want to let anyone down.
I was 20 years of age and in my third year of first grade when selected to play the first game of the series in Brisbane.
I remember walking into camp and being in absolute awe of the players around me.
There was Andrew Johns, Trent Barrett, Danny Buderus and Ben Kennedy, seasoned NRL and State of Origin stars.
And then the coach walked in the room - Phil "Gus" Gould.
Few people in the game have an aura like Gus.
I remember him walking over to me, taking me under his wing and giving me the best piece of advice possible.
"Keep it simple" were the first words that left his lips. They were quickly followed by "run hard, make your tackles and you'll be right".
I'd love to say those words were ringing in my ears when Iran out for my debut but, tobe honest, I was too exhausted to think of anything.
Words can't describe how fast and intense a State of Origin match is.
The stakes are higher and every play counts.
There's a reason they call Suncorp Stadium "The Cauldron" - and the five players making their debuts for the Blues in tonight's series opener will understand that when they run out at the historic ground.
Nick Cotric, Cody Walker, Jack Wighton, Payne Haas and Cameron Murray have all played at the ground, but tonight it will feel like foreign territory.
The noise generated by the Queensland fans is not only deafening, it can be intimidating - and if you're not careful it can distract you from the job at hand.
My advice to the Blues' debutants is the same as Gus's to me in 2002. Keep it simple. Get in and get an early touch of the ball to get yourself into the game, run hard and make your tackles, and the rest will look after itself.
You can't stand around and wait for something to happen in Origin. If you do, the game will be over before you've had the chance to fire a shot.
Tonight's State of Origin opener has all the makings of being an absolute classic.
The Queensland side will have their 18th man - the Suncorp Stadium crowd - in full voice, but in James Tedesco, Cody Walker and Damien Cook the Blues have the strike power to take the crowd out of the game.
The Blues by two.
Don't miss a special NRL 360 State of Origin review with Kevin Walters and Greg Alexander, Thursday night at 7.30pm on FOX LEAGUE and streamed on Foxtel Now.