Slater: Beware new-look Blues
QUEENSLAND legend Billy Slater says the Maroons won't be lulled into a false sense of security.
The mass changes New South Wales selectors have subjected their team to may have appeared a knee-jerk reaction to the game one loss in Brisbane.
A sign of desperation as they look to keep the series alive in Perth and take it to a decider in Sydney.
But the champion fullback is wary of a Blues 17 arguably stronger than the one picked for the series opener.
Slater is in Perth for game two as part of Queensland coach Kevin Walters' support crew in the lead up and then as an analyst for broadcaster Channel 9 during Sunday night's coverage.
"I think it's a really strong team," the 31-game Origin great told News Regional.
"New South Wales have always had the luxury of quality players missing out.
"You can just see by the inclusions they've got for game two."
Latrell Mitchell was the big casualty from the 18-14 game one defeat at Suncorp Stadium.
But in comes a fit and in-form Tom Trbojevic, as well as fellow past Origin stars Blake Ferguson, Tariq Sims and Wade Graham.
"These are top-class players," Slater said.
"They are in a really good position that they can tinker with their side.
"I don't know what their selection policy is.
"All I know is that this is a really strong NSW team.
"Queensland, we need to focus on improvement ... that's our No.1 priority.
"We know that we're going to be playing a good team no matter what players are put on the field.
"It's really important we focus on improvement from game one."
While Slater names the current Kangaroos pairing of hooker Damien Cook and fullback James Tedesco as the potential gamebreakers for the Blues, Trbojevic and Ferguson, at 194cm and 192cm respectively, and both over 100kg, loom large on the left edge.
Ferguson's battle on the wing with Broncos star Corey Oates shapes as being epic.
"Their game plan is to create ruck speed and complete their sets, and try and bring Cook and Tedesco's speed in and around the ruck," Slater said.
"To be honest, they created a lot of chances (in game one).
"I don't think they will be going away from that a whole heap.
"Tedesco had 30 carries in the first game (for 256 run metres).
"But they've got big bodies in the outside backs. Big, strong runners who are willing to work hard.
"They are guys who want the ball in their hands and they will want to carry it at the end of the field where a lot of players don't want to carry the football.
"I can see Freddie's (Brad Fittler's) decision to go with these big bodies back there."
Though a Blues debutant, Slater's former Storm teammate Dale Finucane will also add strength.
The powerful lock is on a bench comprising 600-plus games of NRL experience.
Finucane, 27, has played in five grand finals (two with the Bullodgs and three with the Storm).
"To go along with such a quality player, he's a quality guy," said Slater, who still works part-time at the Storm mentoring the players.
"I played a lot of football with him. I'm really pleased for him. Wished him all the best after Saturday's game against the Knights.
"He deserves his opportunity. I know first-hand how much work he does. What he brings to a football team. He's a player that won't let anyone down.
"It makes it that little bit harder having Dale Finucane in the opposition team."
Origin Game 2 is live and free on Channel 9 on Sunday from 7pm.