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Renouf: How new additions can turn Origin tide back to Maroons

He's back. At long last, Kalyn Ponga returns for Queensland.
It seems the Maroons need all the help they can get in Origin III if they are to avoid a series whitewash.

The Newcastle fullback provides genuine X-factor at the back - something unfortunately Queensland fans haven't seen enough of in recent years.

Few players announced themselves on the Origin stage quite like Ponga in 2018 in what was one of the great debuts.

Unfortunately he has been rarely sighted since due to injury. Ponga can make a real difference at fullback.

But I think the big inclusion for the Maroons is Ben Hunt in the No.9 jersey. He's played a lot at halfback but I think his best fit is at hooker.

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Back in his Broncos days, Hunt didn't know whether he was Arthur or Martha at one stage. He wanted to play No.7 but finished his time at Red Hill as a hooker before moving on to St George Illawarra. 

Still, I think he played some of his best games in Brisbane's No.9 jersey. I believe he can do the same for Queensland.

He impressed me as a bench utility in Origin II. I expect him to step up again at hooker and provide the spark the Maroons need.

We were slow in game two with Andrew McCullough at hooker. I love Macca but he was just a bit behind speed-wise with what was required at Origin.

We had opportunities in that second match but we just couldn't nail them. We were pedestrian with our passing, NSW were in our face and no one was hitting holes.

No doubt Queensland coach Paul Green has had another look at their attack.

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Sure it comes down to individuals but it is the game plan that you are given at the end of the day.

That's where Hunt will benefit the Maroons. He can make a massive difference to a Queensland side that has struggled to find the try line.

I expect Greeny has also had a quiet word with his playmakers, Daly Cherry-Evans and Cameron Munster.

Losing David Fifita to suspension for game three won't help. When you have a player like him it doesn't matter where he is on the field, NSW are still fearful of what he is going to do. He puts doubt in the opposition's mind.

But I still believe Queensland's biggest challenge before game three is tweaking their attack. 

Fifita was getting a lot of what I call "dead ball" when he was flat footed and told "here, do your best".

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That comes down to our playmakers, how they set up our edge players.

After being switched from the centres to the back row for game three, Kurt Capewell should come in and have a chat with guys like DCE and say "hey, I need some decent ball".

I like the fact that Queensland didn't just cut Capewell loose when exciting debutant Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow replaced him in the centres.

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Capewell's still going to be on that edge but is a much better fit in the back row.
He is a proven performer there in the NRL and I believe he can be potent in that position for Queensland.

He's mobile and can find the try line. Hopefully can cause some headaches for the Blues as opposed to chasing his tail trying to stop Trbojevic.

Like most I am keen to see Tabuai-Fidow get out there. To say he's got a big job ahead of him is an understatement.

No one would envy the kid after being given the task of stopping Tommy Trbojevic, who quite simply has been running riot for NSW. But the young fella has a rare gift in rugby league - tremendous speed.

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You can't coach it. And it sounds like Tabuai-Fidow has plenty of confidence too, which is half the battle at this level. He doesn't have any Origin baggage or scars. He's been picked to go out there, back himself and rip in - and I am confident he will.

Last year we picked a bunch of debutants and it came off for us because they all backed themselves. Hopefully the "Hammer" is no different.

And who knows it may be the making of him. It is a dead rubber but there's still plenty of heat on Queensland. That pressure has unearthed diamonds for the Maroons in the past.

Throwing Tabuai-Fidow in at the deep end against Tommy Turbo has the potential of forging another as long as the Maroons help him by working hard in defence and look at that attack.

Simply avoiding a blowout and getting some points on the board can still be a positive for the Maroons. They have to try and take something out of the game.

NSW have won the series but they would be gutted if the Maroons got up in game three. Queensland could take that into next year and say "we got you in the last game" - that would make a world of difference to their confidence.

It seems they won't get a better chance than game three with injury perhaps creating a slight chink in the Blues' armour.

Has Freddy made the right halves call?

Nathan Cleary has been so dominant for NSW but without him Queensland must target the new halves pairing, especially rookie No.7 Mitch Moses, who can be hot and cold.

He can be on his game but he can also be played out of the game so I am sure the Maroons will be trying to do that.

Either way Queensland will have to get it right on the night to be any chance of getting some respect back in that jersey - I believe they can turn it around.

 

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

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