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NSW are set to bounce back strongly at home in Origin II with Queensland's rookies facing a big challenge to back up after their surprise win in Adelaide.

The Maroons' eight debutants hadn't played during the finals and were excited and well prepared for Origin I. Can they maintain the same intensity and emotion seven days later at ANZ Stadium?

I've worked with some of the greatest footballing brains in our game's history and I'll never forget something Phil Gould said: you prepare your whole life for your first NRL game, but the hardest part is performing a week later and then again and again.

The same can apply to Origin.

There has been some disruption for Queensland with fullback AJ Brimson, who was fantastic in his first game, out due to a foot injury. Centre Kurt Capewell (groin) is also under an injury cloud.

The Maroons will be motivated to wrap up the series on Wednesday night, but the Blues will be a lot more desperate than in game one.

It's very similar to last year's series so far - NSW went in confidently, Queensland surprised them and probably lit a fire in their belly for game two, and the Blues kicked on to win it all.

The decision to drop Luke Keary and promote Cody Walker to starting five-eighth has put a lot of pressure on NSW halfback Nathan Cleary.

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I liked the way Cody played off the bench last week and I just hope he takes the game by the scruff of the neck.

He needs to be the player who starred for South Sydney in the last eight weeks of the competition: supporting the ball, not being pegged on one side of the field and playing what's in front of him without solely sticking to the game-plan.

Nathan's got a huge responsibility to bring Cody into the game by providing early ball.

And they need to pair up with Nathan running the footy and Cody supporting. It doesn't always have to be Nathan putting the team in position - if they wait for that the game may be gone.

Another man under scrutiny is centre Clint Gutherson. He would be the first to tell you that he didn't have his best defensive game on debut.

But one thing about Clint - who I've analysed week after week, year after year - is he's a genuine footballer and he wants to win. He will be desperate to not only repay the faith to coach Brad Fittler, but to his teammates.

He knows he's a better player than what he showed. I expect Clint - and Jack Wighton, who was also below his best - to be very strong defensively.

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Valentine Holmes will return to Queensland's line-up at fullback for his first Origin since 2018.

Val is classy but hasn't played a lot this year. He came back from the NFL and we expected him to be rusty for three or four weeks, but injuries kept him from finding his groove. He didn't have a great stint in the No.1 jersey for the Cowboys and spent time on the wing.

I hope the NSW halves and brains trust work out ways to be physical with Val as well as finding different areas to give him the ball.

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If you just kick down his throat he won't be fussed, but they can neutralise him by having chasers land on the ball as their kicks comes down.

The Blues set the tone with their defence at the start of game one but lacked attention to detail in the second half.

I'm predicting they'll roll through to a big win this time before taking game three.


The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.

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