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The Maroons have painted themselves as underdogs and former State of Origin greats believe that may just be the case for tonight’s series opener as driving rain lashes Sydney’s ANZ Stadium.<br><br>With New South Wales having already promised to rock their opponents into submission, the miserable weather looks set to play right into their hands, with South Sydney coach and former Queensland hooker John Lang worried it will nullify the Maroons’ brilliant backline.<br><br>“It will be marginally better for NSW,” Lang said. “NSW have plenty of good attacking backs too but Queensland probably has a bit more brilliance.<br><br>“Across the backline they’ve got a bit more to offer and like to use the ball a bit more too.<br><br>“That’s why I say it will marginally suit NSW.”<br><br>Gold Coast coach and former Blues back-rower John Cartwright, who played eight games for NSW between 1989 and 1992, agreed that it could be a quiet night for Maroons stars Greg Inglis, Billy Slater and Israel Folau.<br><br>“The try-scorers aren’t going to get many opportunities to show their wares,” he said. “It’s a lot harder to get quality ball to your outside men when conditions are going to be what they are.<br><br>“Kicking games, tries off kicks, scrambling defence – they’re the qualities that are going to count tonight.”<br><br>However, while Queensland would otherwise have been most people’s realistic favourites after four consecutive series wins, Cartwright said it was almost impossible to pick a clear favourite in the wet conditions.<br><br>“There are definitely no favourites now – it’s split right down the middle,” he said. “It will be the side that adapts better to the conditions, and it’s hard to say who that is going to be.<br><br>“Errors are going to happen and it’s important that both sides accept that. Although you don’t want to be constantly turning the ball over, it’s not as crucial.<br><br>“If you’re turning the ball over in dry weather you’re asking for trouble. But in wet weather you have to accept that it’s going to happen and you need to be prepared to defend – it’s just not as hard to defend in the wet as it is in the dry.”<br><br>Of course, there won’t be any repeat of Greg Dowling’s famous 1984 try in the SCG mud.<br><br>Despite the rain and an ANZ Stadium surface that hasn’t always received favourable reviews, Lang said he still expected to see plenty of skill on display.<br><br>“It doesn’t make as big a difference today as it used to,” he said. “The water soaks through [the surface] these days and it doesn’t affect the game greatly with the balls they use now.<br><br>“Brett Kimmorley certainly would have been the master of wet weather football in the old days.<br><br>“I still think it favours NSW a little bit but not to any great extent.”<br><br>Former Maroons five-eighth Ben Ikin, who made his debut as a virtual unknown in 1995 and promptly helped Queensland to an upset 3-0 series win, said it was impossible to pick a winner in the wet.<br><br>“I’ve gone through all of the positions, and who can do what in which situation, and I just don’t see any clear favourite,” he said.<br><br>“Both sides would have had their plans for dry weather and wet weather and they’ll just slip into what’s required.<br><br>“I don’t think it will matter at all to a Darren Lockyer or Petero Civoniceva.”<br><br>It’s been a long time between drinks, so to speak, with the last seriously rain-affected Origin clash way back in Game Two of the 2003 series, when Andrew Johns led NSW to a 27-4 win.<br><br>However, there have been some classic encounters in the wet over the years.<br><br>Ironically, Origin’s fastest ever try was scored in atrocious conditions at ANZ Stadium (then known as Telstra Stadium) in 1999 when NSW fullback Robbie Ross crossed after just 42 seconds.<br><br>The Blues won 12-8 after a scoreless second half.<br><br>And who could ever forget Michael O’Conner’s sideline conversion with only minutes remaining to give NSW a 14-12 win in Game Two of the 1991 series?<br><br>Tonight’s clash could well produce another memorable Origin moment, but Queensland assistant coach Michael Hagan said his side was well prepared for what lay ahead. <br><br>“The important thing is that we’re patient in completing our sets,” he said.<br><br>“We didn’t do that well in Game Three last year but we’re aware of that and it’s something we’ve worked hard on.<br><br>“But the fact is that there are going to be some errors in the game so it comes down to how you defend your errors.<br><br>“That’s Origin all the time. It’s how you react to things and with conditions as they are tonight it’s probably a little bit exaggerated.”
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