Boyd Cordner has been retained as captain in a Kangaroos merit team that features emerging NRL premiership-winning stars Tino Fa’asumaleaui and Ryan Papenhuyzen.
NSW coach Brad Fittler is relying on his staff and players to know how to prepare for a fly-in and fly-out State of Origin match in Brisbane.
The Blues will be forced to travel straight to Suncorp Stadium from the chartered flight after being denied time in a hotel to relax before the match by Queensland government.
They will then fly straight back to Sydney following the game.
It’s added another layer of difficulty to an already tough task of playing a decider in Queensland for Fittler, who is yet to win a game as Blues coach at Suncorp Stadium.
Sydney-based media will also be locked out of the event if they have not quarantined for 14 days.
It comes as the Queensland government is set to lift restrictions on crowds on Tuesday, allowing a full capacity crowd to flood into Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday night.
“It’s fantastic, it’s a shame that we can’t get as many NSW people as we’d have liked, a lot of our families won’t be able to go up but they’ll be watching on TV,” Fittler said.
“What an experience for a lot of these players who haven’t experienced a 50,000 crowd at Suncorp so I envy them running out there.”
But in order to prepare for the decider, Fittler is taking advice from his players and staff who have dealt with odd travel arrangements all season.
The timing of training and rest periods will be most important for the Blues as they chase a third straight series.
After an already gruelling campaign, Fittler said the strain on the players has been tougher than he imagined playing over three consecutive weeks.
“They’re pretty battered,” he said.
“They do a lot of reporting and a lot of self-assessing the players and it’s not just bruises, it’s all sorts of things.
“It’s been gruelling. Watching them come out and work hard is extremely satisfying.
“For them, it’s a workout. Constantly.
“But that’s why you have the best staff around you so you get an idea about how they’re feeling and what they can do.
“The players give feedback too. They’re pretty professional.
“They want to be at their optimum and they know how to get there.”