Parker: Men in middle take centre stage
IT feels like only yesterday the state of Queensland rose as one when Dane Gagai latched on to a loose pass from Jack Wighton and ran 90 metres to put the Maroons in front in the State of Origin opener.
All the talk leading into game one was about Kevin Walter's decision to employ 'coach whisperer' Bradley Charles Stubbs and the impact that had on Queensland's preparation.
Gone were the days of old when Queensland fought to be declared underdogs.
In their place was a positive and determined Walters who declared before the Suncorp Stadium showdown: "We will win".
Leading into game two all the talk has been about the changes that NSW coach Brad Fittler has made to his side, but it's Walter's words that have interested me most.
Walters used his first press conference to declare his side was a "five out of 10" in game one and will need to be better in game two.
And I agree with him on the latter.
If the Maroons are to wrap up the series in Perth, they'll need to improve their start to the match.
The Maroons forwards allowed the Blues pack to gain the early dominance in game one which allowed Damien Cook to get out of dummy-half to put NSW on the front foot.
Going in at half-time in game one 8-nil down wouldn't have pleased Walters but the way the Maroons took control in the opening 20 minutes of the second half would have.
This Queensland side has plenty of points in it, but for Kalyn Ponga, Cam Munster and Daly Cherry-Evans to shine, they need their middles to fire.
The loss of Jai Arrow is a big one for Queensland.
Arrow has one of the highest work rates in the NRL and gets through plenty of minutes in the middle.
Dylan Napa is the man that Walters has chosen to replace Arrow and although Napa was solid in game one, he needs to show more in Perth if Queensland are to get the win.
Napa has the ability to pull off a big hit, but I'd like to see him play smarter and put the big shot away when it's not needed and save some petrol in the tank for a tough run coming out of danger.
I feel for Joe Ofahengaue who'll also miss the game due to injury.
He was really good for the Maroons off the bench at Suncorp Stadium and I expect him to find his way back into the side once fit.
Tim Glasby is, however, a more-than-capable replacement.
Glasby (left) is one of the most consistent players in the NRL and won't let anyone down when he gets on to the paddock.
There may be plenty of questions around the new faces in the Blues side, but you can guarantee how they'll play - fast.
The Blues have named some big bodies in their backline and will rely on the likes of Blake Ferguson and Tom Trbojevic to eat up the metres through the middle early in the sets and the likes of Paul Vaughan and Tyson Frizell to bend the Maroons' defensive line back so Cook can weave his magic.
While the Maroons pack was solid in game one, they'll need to be better in game two because if Queensland don't win the battle in the middle, they won't win the battle on the scoreboard.
Maroons by 2.
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