Maroons ready to bounce back, says Cameron Smith
QUEENSLAND captain Cameron Smith has denied the Maroons' confidence has taken a beating despite their game-one shellacking by the Blues.
Queensland heads into tonight's game needing to win in Sydney to keep the series alive.
It's a relatively unfamiliar feeling for a team that's won 10 of the past 11 Origin series.
But given the dominance of NSW in the opening match, it's something Queensland is likely to have to get used to.
Smith said last month's game was a "wake-up call" for Queensland about what's required at Origin level.
It's clear the Maroons didn't meet those standards in game one and their response has been the biggest clean-out since their decade of dominance started in 2006.
For Queensland, tonight's game is all about new beginnings - not just with the fresh faces that will take the field, but in the realisation that the Blues' game-one performance set the bar for a new standard for NSW in Origin footy.
"I think Laurie (NSW coach Laurie Daley) will speak to them and say: 'Listen, that was possibly the best game we've played for quite a few years, but that's our standard now, you can't drop under that,'" Smith said.
"A lot of their players probably played the best game of their career - (Andrew) Fifita, (David) Klemmer, (James) Tedesco, they were all very good that night - but every other player did their job very well also and, unfortunately, that wasn't the case for us."
It's no secret Queensland was beaten through the middle in game one.
And while Johnathan Thurston and Billy Slater - two of the greatest Origin players of all time - return for the Maroons tonight, their presence will do little if the NSW pack dominates like it did in game one.
"We were outplayed in the middle in game one and that's where they gained a lot of momentum and ultimately they scored their points from there - or most of them," Smith said.
"It's a huge challenge for our guys, there's no doubt about that, and there's a couple of new faces in the forward pack.
"In the big games it's always a battle in the middle to give opportunities to our outside men and that just didn't happen in game one.
"It's something that we've looked at already. We addressed it early in the camp where we didn't play so well in game one and the boys are fully aware of what needs to be done in game two.
"If that doesn't happen, then more than likely we'll end up with the same result."
Queensland knows the firepower the Blues bring from what Smith calls a "very, very good" pack extends to the bench and is about more than one man.
But the Maroons have also run drills all week focussing on front-row wrecking ball Andrew Fifita.
It's a tactic Blues captain Boyd Cordner has welcomed.
"If they want to just focus in on one player then we've got a lot of strike power across the field where we can hurt them," Cordner said.
"I've got no doubt that they will try and limit Fifita's night but in saying that, we've got a lot of other players that can hurt them.
"I would say (they will target our forwards), it'd be silly for them not to given the way they played, but if they want to just go and focus on those guys, we've got a lot of other guys in our team that can do damage as well.
"We're not really worried what they're going to come with.
"There's been a lot of talk about Thurston coming back and Slater back in, but we're more focused on getting ourselves right and we know if we can do that we'll go a long way to winning."
Queensland knows it fell away in the second half in game one, unable to get enough possession to put serious pressure on the Blues to see how they would react.
Unlike any team in the past decade, the game-one Maroons failed to carry out their individual assignments.
For all their individual brilliance, the team is still the sum of its parts and the Blues were a much better unit in Brisbane.
But Smith has still not lost hope.
"As far as confidence goes, I haven't lost any confidence in our footy side to be able to go down to Sydney and play well," he said.
"I think we've got every chance of going down and playing well and winning, to be honest.
"But we're certainly not getting ahead of ourselves.
"We know it's a very difficult thing to go down to Sydney and win but we've done it in the past and this is a pretty good side that's been put together, so if we go down and play well, we're a pretty good chance of doing it."