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Maroons coach Wayne Bennett.

It's easier said than done, but Wayne Bennett is "just trying to find another Alf" after putting faith in eight debutants in the State of Origin opener.

The veteran of 22 Origins as Maroons coach has an enthusiastic young squad who will give their all but if one can provide the magic Langer did in his 34 Origin games Bennett's men could pulling off a stunning upset in Adelaide on Wednesday night.

In 1987, Langer, in his debut Origin series, shone in the decider to be man of the match in a 10-8 win at Lang Park in Bennett's first series triumph.

Fourteen years later he returned from England to inspire the Maroons to a 40-14 series-clinching win at Brisbane's ANZ Stadium under Bennett.

Langer was Bennett's "money man" and while no longer on the field to weave his magic he remains on the support staff.

"What excites me is being able to work with these young players," Bennett told

"There will be a lot of first-timers but I know what I am up for and I am ready for it. I’m just trying to find another Alf. I don’t know where I am going to find him but we’ll see what we can do.

"Alfie has got a bit overweight and is not ready for this one," Bennett chuckled.

"He can't do it anymore but it is just great to have him around."

Wayne Bennett and Allan Langer are no strangers to Origin success.
Wayne Bennett and Allan Langer are no strangers to Origin success. ©NRL Photos

Queensland's fortunes will be dictated to a large extent by star five-eighth Cameron Munster. Whether he can be as influential as Langer remains to be seen.

"Munster is a wonderful player and I love what he brings. He means a lot to Queensland," Bennett said.

"I don’t want to give them any more wraps. Let them do something first and then we can talk about them but they are young, they want to learn and they want to play good football.

"They want to represent their state with pride and that is what I like about them. They are excited about what is in front of them.

"The 2001 series was a bit of a different scenario to this one but not that much different, I suppose.

"The bottom line was that we came together as a group then and we have come together as a group here. We will see what we can do."

Blues v Maroons - Origin I

Maroons great Petero Civoniceva, who debuted in 2001, likes the similarities he sees with the young pack in this squad.

"Wayne does a lot of work with the forwards and it has always been a big focus of his," Civoniceva told

"It is a huge task at hand for our forward pack but also an exciting one with young guys like Tino Fa'asuamaleaui, Lindsay Collins and Moe Fotuaika to add to the experienced guys like Jai Arrow and Josh Papalii. 

“We are going to need that energy, youth and hunger to drive the seniors and vice versa, you need the senior players to lead the young guys.

"In 2001 it was an amazing feeling to have so many debutants in that first game and I imagine it will be the same for the young group we have now.

"With that excitement comes no fear. They will just want to rip in for Wayne."

Civoniceva said he was privileged to debut under Bennett at a turning point in Maroons history. The emerging Origin camps that were put in place in 2001 have been the conduit for most of the Queenslanders in the 27-man squad.

Bennett calms young Maroons side

"The Broncos players had come to me at the end of the 2000 series and said 'coach, you’ve got to come back'. I didn’t want to because I knew what it took out of me," Bennett recalled.

"Then Ross Livermore came to see me and said they needed me to get things back on track after the 3-0 loss in 2000. Choppy Close, Gene Miles and Tosser Turner were a big part of that happening.

"That is when the four of us made some huge decisions that changed the course of Origin and when we came up with the pathways system and the emerging camps."

Like today, Bennett gave a squad of unknowns their debuts and they included players who were to be a part of Queensland's future success. Some just shone in a series that remains one of the Maroons most highly regarded series wins against the odds.

"I left 10 players out for Queensland that I thought had run their race. I thought playing for Queensland didn’t mean as much to them as it should have," Bennett recalled.

"I brought 10 new players into the team, and guys like Petero who were to be there for the next decade and more.

"Lote Tuqiri, Chris Walker, Carl Webb and Dane Carlaw debuted in that series and guys like John Buttigieg and John Doyle from the Cowboys.

"Some of them didn’t play another series after 2001 but they were wonderful in that series, let me tell you."

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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