New South Wales coach Brad Fittler has made a big call when leaving Jack Wighton out of his side for the State of Origin decider, while Billy Slater has made just the one change to his Queensland line-up with Tom Gilbert coming in.
The Blues and Maroons will go head-to-head in game three at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium a week on Wednesday and the series is on a knife edge at 1-1 heading into the decider.
Queensland took game one in Sydney with a narrow 16-10 win, but New South Wales came roaring back in game two in Perth. The Blues romped to a 44-12 win at Optus Stadium and now all eyes turn to Brisbane.
Fittler made big changes after losing game one and they paid off. So it is no surprise that his only change has been enforced as Payne Haas is ruled out.
Slater’s change is also enforced as Felise Kaufusi is currently in the USA with his sick father and will not be available for the game.
There will be plenty of hype and build-up as the game approaches but for now let’s take a look at the two squads that were announced on Monday.
What: Queensland v New South Wales, State of Origin, game three
Where: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
When: 20:10 (AEST) Wednesday 13th July, 2022
How to watch: Channel 9, Fox Sports
Odds: Queensland 5/4, New South Wales 13/20
The Maroons came crashing back down to earth in Perth. They were far the better team in game one and deserved the win. Indeed the scoreline actually flattered the Blues, who could have lost by more.
However the loss of Reuben Cotter was a huge blow ahead of game two. The North Queensland forward was a revelation in the opening game. However a hamstring injury while playing for the Cowboys ruled him out of the series.
It is fair to say that the changes that New South Wales made also had a huge impact.
All eyes have been on Slater since the defeat to see what changes he would make. He declared after the game they would be minimal and he has stayed true to his word.
Kaufusi is the only player to make way and that is because he is unavailable for family reasons. It means Tom Gilbert will come into the 17 and will make his debut from the bench.
Fellow Cowboys star Jeremiah Nanai moves into the starting side to fill the boots of Kaufusi.
Elsewhere Cowboys winger Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow and Sydney Roosters playmaker Sam Walker have been added to the squad.
Walker could be called to step into the side should the worst happen and Cameron Munster be unavailable.
The Maroons superstar picked up a shoulder injury in game one but should have recovered in time. Slater will be praying that is the case as Munster is huge to their chances of winning the game and series.
New South Wales coach Fittler was always going to have a huge selection headache after the way his side performed in Perth.
He made big changes and they paid off after his side levelled the series with a dominant display. However there was still plenty of focus on his selection ahead of game three.
His big dilemma concerned who would play left-centre in the decider after Matt Burton came in and did an outstanding job when filling in for Jack Wighton.
Wighton was arguably NSW’s best player in game one before sickness ruled him out in Perth, thus opening the door for Burton.
Fittler has now confirmed that Burton will retain his place. Wighton does return to the squad but has been named as 18th man, meaning Siosifa Talakai keeps his place on the bench.
The Blues coach admits it was a really tough call to make. However he explained the versatility of Talakai is the reason he got the nod for the bench role ahead of Wighton.
Meanwhile Fittler will have to do without the services of Broncos prop Haas who misses out with a shoulder injury.
Fittler admits it is a huge loss, but Haas has also been struggling with an ankle niggle so there was no chance of him making it.
The injury allows another Cowboys star, Jordan McLean, to come straight into the side to replace Haas in the forwards.
Eels skipper Clint Gutherson, Sharks playmaker Nicho Hynes, Knights prop Jacob Saifiti and Cowboys hooker Reece Robson make up the extended bench.