Josh Papalii will lead the way up front for the Maroons.
Josh Papalii will lead the way up front for the Maroons. Bradley Kanaris

Lockyer warns Maroons must start fast

QUEENSLAND legend Darren Lockyer says the Maroons must hit the ground running at ANZ Stadium to have any chance of pulling off a remarkable game three win and series triumph.

In enemy territory, and facing a home side with all the momentum after their game two win in Perth, the Maroons go into Wednesday night's series decider as rank outsiders.

Their odds have blown out to $3.15, with New South Wales the shortest any side has been in 15 years at $1.38.

Queensland came from behind to pull off a stunning game one victory in Brisbane, but selector Lockyer said the Maroons can't afford to fall behind again.

"We've got to start well," the 36-game Origin great said. "If the Blues get their backs up early, it starts to get really hard.

"If you look at it from their perspective, they got a wake-up call in game one. They know what works and what doesn't work. Playing at home, if they get away to a good start they will grow in confidence.

"For us, it's so critical we get that first 20 minutes right. We haven't done that in either game. Now's the time.

"This is the game that that's got to turn around.

"If you've got a mentality to kick early, have a really good kick and chase, you can get your line speed off the back of that. I always felt that was the best way to get yourself into a big game."

Munster has been shifted to fullback. Picture: Adam Head
Munster has been shifted to fullback. Picture: Adam Head

Regular five-eighth Cameron Munster will be a key for the Maroons at fullback - offensively and defensively - and has Lockyer's backing to shine in the No.1.

"He's a dangerous player wherever he plays," said Lockyer, a one-time fullback turned five-eighth. "It allows him to have freedom to just sort of pop up anywhere.

"We've had a mentality of trying to go through the Blues and not around them.

"Positional play is key ... just being able to position yourself really well for their kicking game. They've got (Mitchell) Pearce and (James) Maloney. He needs to be really watching those guys, anticipating their kicks. And then when you're defending your try line, you've got a big role to play there in making sure you've got your numbers right."

Corey Norman makes his debut taking the place of Munster in the all-important No.6.

"Norman has got a good left-foot boot so we don't lose a lot in that department," Lockyer said. "He's good at organising as well."

Corey Norman gets his chance in the halves. (AAP Image/Darren England)
Corey Norman gets his chance in the halves. (AAP Image/Darren England) DARREN ENGLAND

After losing the past seven deciders - and 13 of 19 in total - the Blues, in particular recalled veterans Pearce and Maloney, are keen to right past wrongs.

"I worry about Maloney. He's a match-winner," said Lockyer, also an analyst for Channel 9. "He knows what to do under pressure.

"Pearce has been brought in to do a job, steer his team around the park.

"Naturally there will be some doubts there in Mitchell's mind because of his history. He's played in seven series and hasn't won one (missing NSW wins in 2013 and 2018).

"He's a different player, playing in a different team, against a different team. But, at the same time, for him thinking about playing in that arena, he's going to have some doubts."

Channel 9's telecast of the match begins at 7pm (AEST).

News Corp Australia


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