City content to be enemy of the state
If they needed any more insight into what happens when a state is divided upon itself, City Origin players spent Friday afternoon deep in regional rugby league heartland watching the latest Captain America movie titled 'Civil War'.
Like the men and women of the latest Marvel blockbuster, players who stand together week after week have been split into opposing camps with the ultimate aim of reuniting wearing the colours of their state.
But whether they play for the Wests Tigers, Eels, Rabbitohs or Roosters, every City player in Tamworth for Sunday's AAMI Country-City clash is for 80 minutes an enemy of the state and it may just be the uniting force they need to cause an upset.
Canberra five-eighth Aidan Sezer played his junior football in western Sydney and although all but Nathan Peats is an unfamiliar teammate, says coach Brad Fittler's relaxed build-up has brought them together.
"We're really galvanised this week and get along with each other and we're going to put in a good performance not only for the team but for ourselves as well," Sezer told NRL.com.
"It's a great opportunity for each individual and if we all come together as a collective and perform well it's only going to enhance our game when we go back to club footy.
"Everyone knows their game pretty well at this level and it's about coming together and getting that chemistry and cohesion right from the get-go. Getting to know each other very well off the field, that all helps when we get on the field."
Paul Sironen was a Blues legend in 14 Origin games for New South Wales but even as he mixed with Tamworth locals who recalled his deeds fondly knew very well what his City allegiances amounted to this week.
"It's all about Country. We play it in the country, it's all about Country," Sironen said bluntly.
"The beauty of our side is that they've got nothing to lose. A lot of the clubs obviously pulled players out so it's opened the door for other blokes who may have never got the chance to play rep football.
"We've got nothing to lose and while we're a young side and relatively inexperienced by NRL standards they'll go out there and do their best and do themselves proud and their families."
While their Country counterparts James Maloney and Jack Bird have some kind of understanding from their combinations at Cronulla, Sezer and Sharks half Chad Townsend are starting from scratch with limited time on the training paddock.
Coach Fittler has adopted a relaxed approach to their build-up but Sezer is excited about the style of play the City team will adopt on Sunday.
"He really enjoys playing on the ad line and getting the ball in the halves hands instead of having the forwards dictating play to you," said Sezer ahead of his City Origin debut.
"He's been great, me and Chad have really enjoyed the week under him.
"Just his temperament away from footy too. He likes to have a good time, likes to have a bit of fun and just getting the mental side of things right.
"He's really big on doing all the small things right on a consistent basis and he emphasises the fact that it makes the rest of your life easier if you're doing that on a consistent basis."
Their combinations may be raw but Sironen has seen enough in their training sessions to believe Fittler has given them a framework to be successful.
"Obviously you've got Chad Townsend, Aidan Sezer and 'Peatsy' (Nathan Peats) as well, that combination is very important but they trained on Thursday morning before we travelled and they looked really slick," Sironen said.
"Not a ball hit the ground in a 30-minute ball session."