Sterling Gold: Stewart, Hayne should head changes
It may be a daunting task for NSW to head to Suncorp Stadium for the Origin decider, but after their outstanding win in game two they will go north of the border with plenty of confidence and self-belief.
Most importantly, they will also go into the game with minimal changes, which makes it easier to build on what they produced at ANZ Stadium.
This team is looking to be the first Blues squad since 1994 to win the final two matches to take a series 2-1. Coincidentally, the decider that year was also played in Brisbane and just happened to feature both Ricky Stuart and Mal Meninga as players.
For the record, the scoreline was 27-12 and the only change coach Phil Gould was forced to make was Ian Roberts into the starting line-up for the injured Glenn Lazarus.
For this next game it seems that Ricky Stuart will need to make maybe one or two more.
After an outstanding debut, Will Hopoate will now have to wait a number of years before snaring a second sky-blue jersey. His hamstring tear opens up a vacancy at left centre and there is plenty of conjecture that Jarryd Hayne is the right man for the job.
I think this is the best option with the Eels star in great touch and certainly possessing the versatility to slot comfortably in.
Stuart has relaxed his opening game policy of selecting 'position specialists' as the series has evolved. However the one thing that he will still demand is for Hayne to stay out of the way in the ball-playing department and leave that to Mitchell Pearce and Jamie Soward.
Playing wide to the left will make that an easy assignment.
On his outside, Brett Morris comes back onto the wing if he gets through his comeback match against Manly on Monday night.
Dragons pair Beau Scott and Ben Creagh are also under fitness clouds despite the latter being surprisingly selected to take on the Sea Eagles.
There may well be a couple of forward vacancies open (who can also push up into the front-row) with some players in form well credentialled to answer the call.
I have no doubt the sheer dynamic nature of the play of Tariq Sims would have seen him very much in mind, especially with a willingness already shown to call upon rookies in the shape of Hopoate and Trent Merrin. Sims' untimely two-match suspension puts an end to that option.
In my opinion at the head of the list is the experienced Glenn Stewart.
Whilst Manly's halves have received plenty of deserved raps and brother Brett's return has been highlighted, the gifted back-rower has had much to do with the Eagle’s move to the top of the table. In fact he and Jamie Lyon have together provided the consistent class and leadership during their current six-match winning run.
Stewart has recaptured the kind of form that saw him play two Origins in 2009 and Test football the year before.
The Knights' Chris Houston may not have represented his state but has previously been on the cusp by being named 18th man for the Blues for game three in 2009.
His much publicised legal battle saw him miss all of last season and there was a belief that its mental and physical toll would see him struggle to make a mark back in the NRL short-term.
Not so. The rangy and athletic second-rower has not missed a game this year and has played every minute of Newcastle's last six matches, including golden point against the Tigers.
Along with Stewart he is the type of player that can be called upon to play big minutes even when moved to prop.
Capable of less game-time but full of impact is Tom Learoyd-Lahrs, who pushed his claims with a typically robust effort in Canberra's win over Parramatta.
This was just the big fella's third game back from injury and he will again be much better for that run.
Despite the heroics of new front-rower Paul Gallen in his 80-minute man-of-the-match performance in Sydney I do think that Ricky Stuart will deeply consider the expectations he has of his skipper for the next encounter.
I imagine he will again plan to give Gallen some sort of break, and with that being the case he will question his second specialist prop position, with Trent Merrin having played just 37 of a possible 160 minutes.
Kade Snowden may have been in line to be re-introduced, but missing football this weekend with an ongoing neck problem could count heavily against him.
That and the fact that Merrin has been part of the campaign since day one might be enough to see the young Dragon retain his bench spot.
Peter Sterling's NSW line-up for State of Origin III
1. Anthony Minichiello
2. Brett Morris
3. Mark Gasnier
4. Jarryd Hayne
5. Akuila Uate
6. Jamie Soward
7. Mitchell Pearce
8. Tim Mannah
9. Michael Ennis
10. Paul Gallen (C)
11. Beau Scott (Luke Lewis)
12. Ben Creagh (Anthony Watmough)
13. Greg Bird
14. Trent Merrin
15. Kurt Gidley
16. Glenn Stewart
17. Chris Houston