Greg Alexander, NRL.com
After nine months of preparation and anticipation, just 80 minutes of intense football separates NSW from absolute glory - or State of Origin failure.
There are five key reasons though why I think NSW can snap this horrible six-year reign by Queensland and create their own history.
1) Ricky Stuart
His role in building-up to this match and getting the team ready cannot be underestimated. Ricky Stuart has created the atmosphere and culture needed, something that’s been missing for a long time. There has certainly been State of Origin passion - but it has been unfocused and individual passion.
I just don't think there was the brotherhood there in previous NSW sides. That has all changed. This side would bleed for one another and Ricky is the person who has instilled that. The importance of this mind set can’t be overlooked, let’s not forget what we’re up against. This Queensland side filled 12 of the 17 spots in this year’s Test match. Game three will be the ultimate test and without the feeling of belief in each other, it’s a loss before we even kick-off. This group are ready to win for themselves, their coach, their state and their fans.
I'm not sure what Ricky will do next year but Origin will be poorer if he walks away.
2) Robbie Farah & Mitchell Pearce
Farah has shown in both games that he is in fact an Origin player. There was a theory he wasn't tough enough to play at this level - surely that speculation has now been killed off permanently. Robbie is going through a very difficult time in his life and this match will be special to him for a number of reasons.
I thought his first 20 minutes in Wests Tigers' Monday night match against Newcastle was stunning. His kicking and running game was second to none.
He made 63 tackles in Origin II - a record. I think Robbie is set for the game of his life.
His combination with Pearce is evolving with every game. These two are critical to NSW's chances of victory. Pearce has shown glimpses of what he can do in the opening two games. His kicking game in Origin II though was modest at best - he couldn't find the ground.
But if he can take the best parts from both games and throw them into the final match then NSW will be feeling comfortable and confident.
3) Our bench
The make-up of our bench will be determined by Glenn Stewart's injury but we know that three players will certainly be there - Luke Lewis, Anthony Watmough and Tony Williams. It is strong, powerful with plenty of agility.
Lewis played 60 minutes of Origin II and was fantastic and, for that reason, I don't think Stuart will tinker with his bench too much. These three will make an enormous impact on the game. Tony Williams played 80 minutes for Manly against the Roosters last weekend - that will give him enormous confidence and the team. I know it makes me feel pretty good having him there.
There is no other player in the game like 'T-Rex'. He is a juggernaut and he's also ready and pumped for Wednesday night. Watmough - as has been said and written many times before - is an Origin player. Uncompromising and effective, Watmough has great footwork and was very good for Manly last Sunday. It really is a great strength and an area where we have a definite edge.
4) Loyalty card
Ricky has made a couple of tough calls but they needed to be made. Overall though, he has stuck solid - and NSW needed that. For too long, the Blues have chopped and changed after each loss. We were never allowed to grow as a team or gather any momentum. The Blues now know what to expect at Suncorp Stadium for a decider. Last year, Queensland stung us early and it was suddenly 24-0.
That won't happen again. This side has a real steely resolve - that was demonstrated in Origin II when Queensland stormed home but NSW held tight to win.
Retaining the same side will pay dividends.
5) It's time
It certainly is. It has been a long, hard and painful wait between series wins. For too many years NSW has just been along for the ride. We have been passengers as Queensland celebrated wins and farewells. It has all been about Queensland and their glory. NSW is certainly sick of it. We are all fed up.
Every year we see photos of Queensland holding the shield. Personally I am over it - and I know the current batch of players are too. As good as Origin II was, it will mean nothing if NSW lose the decider. This has got to come to an end. Enough is enough.
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