With Cameron Munster out, Billy Slater has called on Daly Cherry-Evans to engineer another epic NSW boilover at Suncorp Stadium. Follow our rolling State of Origin Game III coverage.
Hello and welcome to our rolling coverage for State of Origin Game III, the series decider at Suncorp Stadium. The Blues proved far too strong for Queensland in Perth with a 44-12 win, but their record of winning series deciders as Suncorp is hardly something to boast about, with just two decider victories in Queensland since the first Origin series 40 years ago.
Both sides have been forced into team changes through injury and the Maroons have even had two players ruled out through Covid … but who will come out on top in Game III?
Follow our rolling State of Origin Game III news below.
STATE OF ORIGIN GAME III GUIDE
TAB Odds: NSW $1.32, QLD $3.40
Kick-off time: 8.10pm AEDT.
When: Wednesday, July 13
Where: at Suncorp Stadium
How to watch on TV & live stream: Channel 9, 9now, replay on Kayo Sports and Fox League
Stream the FOX LEAGUE State of Origin Game 3 REPLAY on Kayo with no ads during-play. Both full and condensed replays available to stream from 11PM AEST. New to Kayo? Start your free trial now >
10:45 — SLATER: ‘IT’S TIME’ FOR DCE TO DELIVER
Daly Cherry-Evans says he is ready to deliver a captain’s knock for Queensland as coach Billy Slater declared “it’s time” for the Maroons skipper to engineer another epic NSW boilover at Suncorp Stadium.
Cherry-Evans famously steered the Maroons to their magical series win at Suncorp two years ago and the memory of hoisting the interstate shield is driving Queensland’s main man to reprise his Origin heroics.
The 33-year-old enters Wednesday night’s Suncorp decider under enormous pressure.
Cherry-Evans was torched by rival Nathan Cleary in Origin II, is in danger of losing his No.7 Australian jumper to the NSW halfback for the World Cup and leads Queensland onto Suncorp without his Covid-stricken playmaking cohort Cameron Munster.
Once sensationally booed by Queensland fans following his infamous Titans contract backflip, Cherry-Evans turned the tide of public opinion when he orchestrated the Maroons’ stunning 20-14 upset of the Blues in the Suncorp decider of 2020.
Now, with the Maroons rocked by a Covid crisis and reeling from a 44-12 hiding in Game Two, Cherry-Evans is primed to fight fire with fire with Cleary in a Suncorp decider that could define his Origin legacy.
“I remember the spirit we showed in the 2020 decider and I believe we can do it again,” said Cherry-Evans, who plays his 19th game for Queensland in the 2022 series decider.
“My message to the guys is we cannot stop believing for one second _ we cannot give NSW a sniff of victory.
“We will know exactly what our game plan will be come Wednesday night and as halfback, if I do my job that will allow other people in our team to perform to their strengths.
“Whether Nathan Cleary is or isn’t the front runner for the World Cup, I can’t control what he is doing. The only thing I can control is my footy and I am proud of the footy that I am playing and have played in this series.
“If I can keep improving and playing well, then I will back myself to be there at the end of the year for Australia.”
Cherry-Evans has been Queensland’s halfback mainstay since Ben Hunt was dropped for the Game Three dead rubber of 2018.
The 2022 Suncorp decider will represent his 13th consecutive game in the No.7 jumper and without the instinctive magic of Munster, the Maroons are banking on Cherry-Evans’ experience in the nerve centre to deliver a victory for the ages.
With Munster’s rookie replacement Tom Dearden facing a daunting Origin baptism, Maroons coach Slater backed Cherry-Evans to step up and rubberstamp his greatness in the Origin arena.
“I have been really impressed with Daly’s preparation for this Game Three,” Slater said.
“With his original halves partner (out), and we bring in a younger guy (Dearden) and we have Benny Hunt there (as a halves option) … it’s his time.”
Cherry-Evans says he will be driven by the euphoria of 2020, when he skippered Wayne Bennett’s ‘Baby’ Maroons to arguably the greatest series boilover in Origin’s 42-year history.
“That was really special,” he said.
“It was made a lot more special with the journey I had taken falling out of the Queensland side and I fell out of favour with the fans and the people of Queensland, so to be able to feel that I won back some support, I felt like I did it at that moment when I held the shield up.
“It was a proud moment, not just for me but the whole Queensland team.”
There are fears Father Time is stalking Cherry-Evans, but the Manly maestro insists he is not a spent force in Maroon.
“I don’t want to stay a year too long, equally I believe I have more to offer this Queensland team,” he said.
“It’s been great having Tommy Dearden and Sam Walker in this camp and I hope I can teach them something before my time is up.
“I know age will slow me down at some point, but it’s definitely not now … I want to be part of this Queensland team for as long as possible.”
10:00AM — OFFICIAL START TIME
9.45AM — REVEALED: WHY FITTLER CHOSE SAIFITI OVER RCG, KLEMMER
If you want to know why Jacob Saifiti is now – and forever – a NSW Origin player, have a read of the text message which confirmed it all last Thursday.
Back when this 26-year-old prop, having departed Origin camp to rejoin Newcastle, and seemingly no hope for the series decider, was messaged by a Blues staffer and told how, only minutes earlier, Jordan McLean had injured his hamstring in training.
So McLean is out, the text read, and you’re in.
Which for a kid who had dreamt, sweated and sacrificed his whole life to receive that very message, must have been some moment.
But the J-Saf reply?
“How bad is it?” the Knights prop asked of McLean’s bung hammy, concerned more for his mate than himself.
Bad, he was told.
“OK. I’m ready, brutha”.
All of which says plenty about why NSW Origin coach Brad Fittler has, not for the first time, gone against what you, Twitter and so much of League Land expected and picked this uncompromising Knights prop for a Blues debut.
Just like in 2018, he made an Origin player of Matt Prior.
Then a winter later, recalled the ageing Josh Morris.
Last year, it was Tariq Sims’ selection that everyone questioned.
While as recently as Origin II, Angus Crichton was the target.
And now, J-Saf.
A fella who, some have suggested, isn’t even among the top two props at Newcastle given the form of both Dave Klemmer and brother Daniel — both of whom were discussed for a recall.
Same as countless questions are being asked about why Parramatta’s Reagan Campbell-Gillard isn’t being brought back for the Origin decider against Queensland, especially given his superior statistics when compared to Saifiti.
In fact, given all the focus surrounding the storylines above, J-Saf is right now readying for an Origin debut without anyone discussing exactly what it is that has him here.
Which is somewhat typical of his game, right?
Sure, his numbers aren’t the equal of other Origin candidates.
But Freddy has never picked on digits and decimal points — or not on them alone.
Especially given that when appointed head coach himself four years ago, his task was to resurrect a NSW side whose greatest knock, apart from being unable to beat Queensland, was having certain players too concerned about those same individual stats and records than that of the team.
Yet Fittler? He has always been far more focused on effort stuff.
Stuff that can be missed when you aren’t, say, the most capped NSW player ever.
This is why he wants Saifiti.
Even if like, say, with Prior, it turns out to only be for this one Wednesday night in July.
With Fittler aware that, yes, the Newcastle bookend runs hard and, importantly, boasts a quick play-the-ball.
But that alone isn’t what makes him the Knight’s reigning Best and Fairest.
Instead, it has as much again to do with how rather than simply waiting for his own turn to carry, J-Saf is always there supporting others, if only to keep one defender out.
Just as elsewhere he continually pressures kickers and, defensively, works overtime for the guy alongside him. Then over and over, gets back quicker than most for the toughest carries.
None of which improves a fella’s own statistics, but instead those around him.
Same as Blues players will tell you Saifiti carries with him a positivity, a willingness to make others better, that is impossible not to be swept up in.
It is an attitude he has displayed since first being called into Origin camp.
When despite being long odds to do anything but receive a tracksuit and run opposed, he has used every session to do all he could to make the players picked ahead of him better.
Which is why when that message finally arrived to say — gasp — he was in, that his childhood dream of playing Origin footy was here, Saifiti’s first thought was not for himself, but McLean.
Originally published as State of Origin Game 3 2022: NSW Blues vs Queensland Maroons, start time, how to watch, live stream, teams news