Billy concedes it's not going to be easy
IT'S the fairytale script Billy Slater hopes to follow to a magical representative retirement.
A Queensland win against the odds on Sunday night would take the State of Origin series into a Suncorp Stadium decider - Slater's last game in a Maroon jersey.
But Slater, 35, knows not everyone gets the fairytale.
The champion fullback missed the series-opener in Melbourne with a hamstring injury, which has recovered enough for him to line up in game two, and knows Queensland faces a big ask to keep the series alive.
"It was difficult watching - for all Queenslanders, and I'm no different," he said of NSW's 22-12 win in Origin I.
"We've got a challenge in front of us. We've got to go down to Sydney - it's not going to be easy.
"They're a good team and they're going to be better for the experience of game one. They had a lot of debutants in that game.
"We're certainly up against it but we think that we can improve on our performance and I'm looking forward to the challenge."
Hope is one of the most valuable commodities in life though and the Maroons' effort to claw their way back from a 10-point half-time deficit in game two last year, as a series defeat loomed, is not far from Slater's mind.
"It's been done before, so that's a positive, but we're in a tough position to go down to Sydney," he said.
"They've got a totally different team to last year and we've got a relatively different team as well. It's a different situation.
"But it's State of Origin, it's 1-0. You've got to win two games to win the series and hopefully we can start the game really well and put them under a bit of pressure."
Johnathan Thurston's Origin legacy is much more than the sideline conversion that won game two for the Maroons last year, but it will be the enduring image of his Queensland career.
Slater is not out to create his own "retirement" moment, saying he does not feel under pressure to manufacture a quick fix.
"Not really. I'm confident in what I can bring to a team and I won't be bringing anything that I haven't in the past," he said.
"It's my natural role to communicate and talk and set up plays, but we've got two great young halves that will benefit from playing alongside each other in that first game, along with Andrew McCullough, our No.9.
"I'm sure they're going to get better with that continuity of playing that first game and hopefully I can slot in and help them out where I can."
Slater has not played a game for five weeks due to his hamstring dramas but expects to be full pelt on Sunday.
"It's not ideal. You'd like to be coming in playing really good football and having played for the last few weeks," he said.
"But they're the cards I've been dealt, so I've just got to play them. "I won't be going out there holding back."