Teen tasked with getting Maroons Fifita-ready
It shapes as the key to the Maroons winning the 2017 Holden State of Origin Series but no one expected Queensland to turn to a 17-year-old New South Wales junior representative to prepare for the task of stopping Andrew Fifita on Wednesday night.
When the Blues posted a record winning score against the Maroons in Game One it was Fifita who was crowned Man of the Match after a dominant performance that drew comparisons with Queensland's favourite front-rower Arthur Beetson, but the Maroons were much better prepared for Game Two.
In the lead-up to the clash in Sydney the likes of Coen Hess and Dylan Napa took turns emulating the bulk and running style of Fifita during training sessions but for Sunday's final opposed session the role of Fifita was played by 17-year-old Broncos under-20s prop Payne Haas.
Standing 194 centimetres and weighing 117 kilograms Haas has no trouble standing out in open company yet just last month he captained the NSW under-18 team against Queensland and came up with a crucial play late in the Blues' 35-28 victory.
A product of Gold Coast's Keebra Park, Haas was pursued by NRL and NFL clubs before signing with the Broncos and did an admirable job imitating the type of charges Fifita is expected to bring on Wednesday night.
"That front-rower that had the bib on, I tried to go high on him a couple of times and he kept pushing me off," admitted Maroons prop Jarrod Wallace after a run against the Broncos under-20s.
"He was a clone of him. He was a Fifita clone.
"I can't believe that's his name, Payne.
"He's a big boy and he's only 18.
"It's good to get that 13-on-13 opposed.
"It's different when we're just running drills and things like that.
"To actually have bodies in front and make sure you're running the right lines in defence. You can make sure you're getting your body in front.
"They did a good job."
Despite the impact he had in the series opener Queensland's forwards have made the point over and over again that they are not focusing only on Fifita, Wallace extolling the virtues of what Aaron Woods and David Klemmer bring to the Blues.
"They've got a role they play and a really good offload," Wallace said.
"Klemmer comes off the bench and does the same thing. They are aggressive big boys.
"I don't think we're focussing too much on just one player.
"We've got a role to do on their whole middle forward pack.
"They are all big boys.
"For us to get on the front foot and win the game we have to do a job right across the park.
"Everyone's got their own role. If they don't come out with energy, that's on each other.
"We want to a job for Queensland and each other. We don't want to let each other down.
"We've got to make sure everyone's ready to go and brings their own energy and mongrel."