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'Full confidence', but Slater, Thurston endure nervous Origin eve

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7th June, 2022
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Queensland assistant coach Johnathan Thurston says his side must win the battle of the ruck or face maximum exposure to NSW’s biggest threats.

The Maroons’ all-star coaching cast endured a nervous State of Origin eve knowing it’s their new-look squad, not them, that will control the outcome in Sydney on Wednesday.

But Thurston has backed rookie coach and former teammate Billy Slater to find a way through a Blues side powered by six premiership Penrith teammates seeking a fourth Origin series win in five years.

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“You’re bit more nervous because you can’t control the outcome,” Thurston told Channel Nine of a Maroons support cast that also includes Cameron Smith, Greg Inglis, Nate Myles and Josh Hannay. 

“At least when you’re playing you’re in there amongst it and you have some control.

“But I have full faith, full confidence and they’ve had a good week and have learnt a lot from him (Slater).”

The Blues are warm favourites despite the absence of injured centres Latrell Mitchell and Tom Trbojevic, who tormented Queensland in back-to-back floggings in the first two games last year.

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Kotoni Staggs and Jack Wighton have been named in their place, although coach Brad Fittler could still deliver a late curve ball and promote Stephen Crichton from the bench to replace Wighton.

Thurston said the threats remained many and varied even without Mitchell and Trbojevic in the side, admitting they’d given Penrith’s key trio plenty of attention this week.

“They’re all dangerous but (lock) Isaah Yeo through that middle and his combination with (halfback Nathan) Cleary and (five-eighth) Jarome (Luai is critical to the Blues’ success),” he said.

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“You see what they do at Penrith and the players watch footy; they see the structures, so it’s just about us highlighting their individual strengths.

“That’s what we’ve done and defensively if we’re controlling the ruck that’ll give us every opportunity.”

© AAP

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