NSW coach Laurie Daley has flatly rejected criticism of his Blues leadership as 'selfish' but admits at times, the revolving door of halves have struggled to assert themselves over the team's dominant and senior forward leaders.
Announcing a team featuring three changes from the one that lost Game Two – and with it this year's series – at Suncorp two weeks ago, Daley rejected comments from close mate Phil 'Gus' Gould that senior Blues play selfishly.
Though Gould – NSW's most successful ever coach – didn't name names, the interpretation is that skipper Paul Gallen and vice captain Robbie Farah are two of the players he had in mind.
"'Gus' is a mate of mine and I always respect everything he says. I don't always agree with everything he says but I've been able to sit down with the guys and I'll catch up with Gus sooner rather than later, but I've spoken to Robbie and Gal just to see how they're going," Daley said.
"You can never be dismissive of what people say, you always have to be mindful in particular of a guy that is very knowledgeable. There's things there we need to acknowledge and address but in terms of this game Gal will lead us and I'm really excited about that."
Of suggestions Gallen may overplay his hand at times and end up with the ball when it may be better suited in the hands of one of the playmakers, Daley said it can be hard for young halves finding their feet at rep level to overcall such dominant and senior players.
"For me that's not selfishness, that's his desire and will to win and sometimes it can look a little bit like that but again we need players that are in the key positions to be the dominant players," Daley said.
"You only get dominant players in those key positions if you have the confidence to be able to tell people what to do.
"Unfortunately for us over the last couple of years we haven't been able to have the same seven and six and one on the field for a long period and sometimes, as I keep saying, it takes a while to find your feet at this level and that's what at times it's hard for those young blokes to come in and tell senior players what to do.
"They should be able to do it but that's just the way it works sometimes. Sometimes you just don’t feel comfortable enough to do it. They certainly allow them to do it but we need players to be able to tell them no no, you need to stay out of it."
While Daley again has a new name in a key playmaking role with Wests Tigers custodian James Tedesco being brought in for Matt Moylan, five-eighth James Maloney is heading into his sixth Origin, is 30 years of age and a premiership-winner. His partner Adam Reynolds is also a premiership-winner and has no trouble calling the shots at Souths despite the presence of some big-name forwards like Sam Burgess, John Sutton, Issac Luke and Ben Te'o during their 2014 premiership season.
Asked about the changing of the guard in the Blues side – Daley has moved on a number of senior forwards such as Anthony Watmough, Luke Lewis, Ryan Hoffman, Beau Scott over the past two years and now Greg Bird for this game – Daley said those conversations are always hard but new boys Tyson Frizell and Wade Graham and utility Jack Bird had earned their spots.
"Birdy's been a real mainstay of our team over the last couple of years so it's always hard to deliver that news to those guys," he said.
"When we looked at it, we wanted to bring Wade in and we also had to reward Tyson [for an outstanding debut in Origin II]. When you make those decisions, those two guys need to get a run and you have to work out who the unlucky ones are to miss out.
"If we won Game Two and everyone played really well, we probably still would not see Wade play for NSW. The fact was he was selected and we thought the right thing now would be to give him that opportunity. Unfortunately other guys have missed out but that's what we think the best thing for this team is at the moment and that's why we made this decision.
"With Tyson, he just played really well and showed the passion and commitment we're after and Birdy [Jack Bird] did the same so when they get their opportunity and they play well you have to reward them for that and they weren't overawed. These guys, I want to put them in when I think they can handle it and they certainly showed me that."
While this year's series is yet another in a long list where NSW was competitive throughout but couldn't nail the big moments, Daley noted there wasn't much the side needed to do better other than to take those opportunities when they present themselves.
"Our effort's been first class. We just need to be able to nail the moments. When the moments roll around we need to be able to take advantage of it because Queensland hand you nothing," he said.
"We're creating some chances but we're just not finishing. If we get that right we'll be a very good footy team. I said at the start of the series I expect us to be a better team at the end of it and I'm expecting us to be better."
Daley also confirmed long time selection adviser Bob Fulton had stood down from his role to focus on his increased commitments at Manly.
"I had a yarn to 'Bozo' on Saturday and he's got a big role at Manly, he's going to do a lot more hands-on work there and needs all his time so he informed me he's stepping aside," Daley said.
"He's been a massive influence on me and been a great help and we'll certainly miss him but we've got one game to go but hopefully we can win for not only the team and the people of NSW but give Bozo a farewell as well."