New South Wales take on Queensland in game two of State of Origin on Sunday and it is a game the Blues simply have to win to keep alive their hopes of claiming the series.
Game one in Sydney was a cracker and there are high hopes this weekend’s clash in Perth could even surpass it.
The series is on the line. The Blues are desperate to level it to set up a decider in Brisbane while the Maroons will want to wrap it up before targeting the clean sweep in front of their own fans in a packed Suncorp Stadium.
NSW coach Brad Fittler has made a number of changes to his squad after losing game one 16-10, while Maroons coach Billy Slater has lost a couple of players due to injury but has kept faith with the side that did so well at Accor Stadium.
The count down to game day is on, so lets take a look at both camps.
What: New South Wales v Queensland
Where: Optus Stadium, Perth
When: 19:50 (AEST), Sunday 26th June, 2022
Odds: New South Wales 18/25, Queensland 23/20
Fittler cops some criticism
Fittler has come in for some heavy criticism in the lead up to the game after making seven changes to the squad that he picked for game one.
Jack Wighton, Jacob Saifiti and Tyson Frizzel all miss out through injury and illness. Brisbane’s Kotoni Staggs, Parramatta duo Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Ryan Matterson and Dragons star Tariq Sims have been dropped.
Despite receiving some criticism for ‘taking a machine gun’ to the squad, some have praised Fittler for making the changes and believe New South Wales now have a stronger side that is capable of winning in Perth.
Matt Burton will make his Origin debut and comes into the side to replace Jack Wighton at left centre, while Stephen Crichton will step up from the interchange to replace Staggs at right centre.
In other changes from the side that started in game one, Jake Trbojevic returns to the forwards. That is a move that nobody disagrees with. It was a huge surprise that he was overlooked in the first place.
Queensland were dominant through the middle in game one and it proved to be the difference between the two sides. Fittler has taken measures to combat it in game two and the return of Trbojevic could be a masterstroke.
So could the decision to recall Api Koroisau to the side. It means Damien Cook will drop to the interchange in a surprise move, with Koroisau taking the No.9 jersey.
But again it is a decision that Fittler believes will pay off after admitting lessons were learnt from the way they lost the opening game.
"Maybe they've taught us a lesson and we're going to combat that," Fittler said of the changes he has made. "We'll have some smaller men around there and see if we can generate some speed."
Elsewhere Angus Crichton and Siosifa Talakai will take their place on the interchange after being overlooked in game one.
Queensland could throw up late surprises
Queensland have been hit by the loss of lock Reuben Cotter who was outstanding in game one and played a huge role in the win.
The North Queensland Cowboys star snuffed out the threat of opposite number Isaah Yeo and prevented him from freely distributing the ball to his halves Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai, a combination that works so well in the NRL for the Panthers.
Cotter is out with a hamstring injury so Tino Fa'asuamaleaui is set to move from prop to lock to fill the void. Lindsay Collins will step up into the starting side, with the recalled Jai Arrow taking his place on the interchange.
Elswhere North Queensland winger Murray Taulagi will step into the side to replace the injured Xavier Coates in a like-for-like swap. Coates picked up an ankle injury in game one and is facing a lengthy spell on the sides after undergoing surgery.
Ben Hunt was a surprise starter in the opening clash with Melbourne star Harry Grant starting on the bench. That looks to be the case once again in Perth but there have been suggestions that Slater could throw in a couple of late curve balls.
There is no doubt that Queensland sprung a surprise in the opening game, but the Blues will have more of an idea of what is coming their way in Perth.
With that in mind, Slater may be plotting something. The option of starting Grant and Pat Carrigan in favour of Hunt and Collins has been mooted by Maroons legend Darren Lockyer.