Although coach Ricky Stuart is yet to reveal the final make-up of the Blues’ 17-man team for the State of Origin decider on Wednesday, hooker Michael Ennis said the 2011 NSW team is the best balanced Blues side in years.
Ennis was responding to a question about whether the team with a huge opportunity to enter NSWRL folklore as the side to end Queensland’s five-year dominance was the best NSW team or the best prepared Blues team in years.
“A lot has been made of the impact of (the past and current coaches) Craig Bellamy and Ricky Stuart on the team,” Ennis said. “I took a lot from Craig when he coached Origin.
“He got me my opportunity for NSW and stuck by me in the team when we lost. With Ricky obviously it has been different, because he has had no club commitments.
“The preparation time he has put into the camp and everything he has organised off-field, and the staff involved has meant we are certainly very well prepared. But it is also the best balanced side we have put together.”
With all six players who were under injury clouds – Michael Jennings (ankle), Beau Scott (knee), Ben Creagh (ankle), Glenn Stewart (back), Jamie Soward (hamstring) and Kurt Gidley (hamstring) – apparently now fit to play, Stuart has the healthy dilemma of having to drop two players for the match at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium.
Ennis said “everyone has pulled up well”, but other than that, he would “not be making any comments about the team (make-up)”.
"If you want to know about the team, talk to Ricky – I am here to play a footy game, not select a footy team, alright," he said.
Ennis, who has played in the last two Origin series that NSW has lost, said it wouldn't be pleasing to go through that again, but “I haven’t thought about it; I have been thinking about the other scenario”.
He said the key would be to match Queensland in the first 20 minutes and go with them.
“They have started well in the previous two games and we have done a good job pulling the Queensland side back when they were in front, but I don’t know if we can be third time lucky,” Ennis said.
He said that despite the great efforts by NSW to level the series, the Blues need to win for the 2011 campaign to be a success.
“Are we happy with where we are at (going into Game III)?” Ennis said. “No, not at all … when you win one game of footy, albeit against a very good Queensland outfit and you are 1-1.
“If we win Wednesday night we will be.”