The Blues put a target on the back of a Maroons rookie, while Queensland skipper Daly Cherry-Evans sent a warning shot to NSW.
The star point guard calls on a veteran enforcer to wreak havoc on Suncorp Stadium.
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SLATER’S BIG REVELATION
Maroons coach Billy Slater has revealed Cowboys point guard Tom Dearden will wear the No. 6 jersey in the crucial Origin match, but has not confirmed he will start.
Following Cameron Munster’s omission from the side due to Covid-19, the 21-year-old has been brought into the starting 17.
While the young gun will wear the five-eighth jersey, it is not yet known whether he will fit into the starting squad.
“Tom Dearden will wear number six, we’ll just figure out if he starts the game or comes off the bench,” Slater revealed.
“We are pretty clear.
“I know my team. I know our team. It’s the Queensland team.
The rookie coach said he has full confidence in Dearden to step up.
“I’ve told Tom many times throughout the series that if he wore a maroon jersey in a State of Origin game, I wouldn’t be worried at all,” Slater said Tuesday.
“Now he will be and I’m not worried at all. I really trust Tom.
“I like the way he plays his football. He’s a real competitor, he’s a tough defender. He organizes his field very well and he brings out the strengths of the people around him.
“I’m happy for Tom that he got the opportunity, he really deserved it.”
Dragons playmaker Ben Hunt is a half-time option, bringing Harry Grant into the starting lineup and Dearden in the utility role.
But, Slater’s decision to play two prostitutes could see the Cowboys five-eighth lined up alongside Daly Cherry-Evans, meaning Grant can come in and attack a tired Blues defensive line while Hunt moves into a traveling lockdown role .
LOCKING BLUES ON TARGET
Brad Fittler’s Blues are set to target debutant Tom Dearden in the crucial Game 3 decider.
The young Cowboys gun was drafted into the starting 17 after Cameron Munster tested positive for Covid.
Billy Slater has yet to reveal whether Ben Hunt will move on at half-time or Dearden will start in the No.6 shirt – but either way Dearden’s former Australian Schoolboys teammate has made no secret of the map of NSW.
“One hundred percent,” Crichton told SMH.
“In the Origin Arena, it’s going to be big shoes for him to fill. I think we play in packs and we’re together, we’ll try to get to him when we can. We’ll just play ourselves what is in front and behind.
Immortal Andrew Johns explained he thought Slater would give Dearden the starting spot in the halves, keeping Hunt in the No.9.
“Personally, I would go with [Ben] Hunt [at five-eighth], but I think they will go with Dearden. There is a lot of pressure on the youngster, playing a decider in the No.6 Queensland shirt,” Johns said.
“But good luck to him. I think he has really improved this year. It’s a byproduct of how well the Cowboys work.
“(But) it’s a big step forward. It goes from a Saturday maiden to Everest. It’s a big, big leap in class. I hope he won’t be too well, but I hope he will be well.
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DCE WARNING BLOW
Maroons captain Daly Cherry-Evans sent a warning shot ahead of Wednesday night’s State of Origin decider in Brisbane.
The star playmaker has thrown his support behind prop Josh Papalii who has had an unusually quiet streak in 2022.
Papalii, a 22-game veteran, ran for just 72 yards and made 28 tackles in 47 minutes of playing time in Games I and II.
Now, Cherry-Evans is awaiting a response from the Raiders and Maroons enforcer on Wednesday night.
“We’re excited to know where the Paps mentality is at this week,” Cherry-Evans said.
“When people start talking about you, the only way you have to react is your football, so I can’t wait to run there with Paps. I know he’s going to be ready for that.
Big name players step up when it counts and that’s exactly what the Maroons skipper expects from the ‘leader of our pack’.
“He doesn’t have to say much, but his actions speak louder than a lot of people I’ve played with,” Cherry-Evans said.
“There’s been some outside noise about where he is and what people think is a good match for Josh Papalii.
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“I think that challenge has been thrown at him and I have no doubt every time that challenge has been thrown at Paps,” he replied.
“That’s why I’m excited about Wednesday night.”
The Maroons’ preparation for the decider was halted by the shocking news that two key players had been left out of the decider after returning positive PCR tests.
Star playmaker Cameron Munster has been ruled out alongside winger Murray Taulagi.
After the hit, Maroons coach Billy Slater said his side would only focus on what they could before the Suncorp stadium decider.
“It’s a football game. Whoever plays the best in 80 minutes on Wednesday night will walk away with a shield,” Slater said.
“This preparation is far from ideal but it is the hand that has been dealt to us and we will play it.”