To many this is the most exciting time of the year: State of Origin time! To the players involved, the coaching staff and our Blues supporters, the next six weeks is the highlight of the year. After a lot of speculation our team has been picked, opinions are varied and it has created even more interest in this year's series.
NSW is attempting to end the five-year reign of Queensland and begin a new era that will bring Blues supporters a lot of joy. No Jarryd Hayne and no Jamal Idris were the focal points in the media. This was a surprise to some but the team Ricky Stuart has picked is a very strong one.
After our first training session we all boarded the bus with a real sense of optimism and excitement about the quality of the session and the fluency at which the ballwork was done. The players walked away with a spring in their step and we have real belief that we can win this first game.
Ricky Stuart is the perfect man for this job. His strength, apart from his great footy brain, is his ability to bring a group of men together and create a bond in a very short time. These players are the players that he has hand-picked and they all know why he has them in the squad. He will get every inch of fight out of these guys and they will not want to let him down.
"Sticky" is his own man and has done and will do it his way. By leaving out Hayne and Idris it shows us that he is a leader who will make the tough calls that he thinks will benefit the team regardless of anyone else's opinion. To know you have a coach like that in your corner is a huge asset.
The camp has been terrific; the boys were spot on at training and relaxed and enjoyable in the downtime. To see our debutants in camp and how excited they are is great. The new guys carry no baggage from the past five years and we are banking on them leading us into a new era. Having seven Dragons players in the squad is also a bonus. They know each other's games inside out and it just makes things so much easier in your prep.
To beat Queensland we will need to be at our very best. Every play, every metre, every tackle is crucial ... all the small efforts that often go unnoticed will add up to a big result.
I know that our players will be ready. It's time to turn this around!