Blues v Maroons: Best, Keaon to debut; AJ in for Walsh

The Blues are out to save face in front of their home fans and the Maroons are looking for a rare clean sweep as the Ampol State of Origin series reaches its climax in Sydney.

Having lost seven of the past 11 Origin games and three of the past four series, the Blues have pinned their faith in a new-look side that includes two debutants in Bradman Best and Keaon Koloamatangi and four players recalled to the fold in Cody Walker, Clint Gutherson, Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Jacob Saifiti.

The last time the Blues were on the end of a clean sweep was 2010, the fifth year of the Maroons' incredible eight-year dynasty, and it will take a mighty turnaround from a 32-6 loss in Brisbane to deny Queensland the fifth ever sweep.

The Maroons are far more settled and full of confidence as they look to put the finishing touches on Billy Slater's second straight series win as coach.

The man who distinguished himself in 31 Origin games as a player has made a flying start to his coaching career, joining Arthur Beetson (1982-83), Mal Meninga (2006-07) and Kevin Walters (2016-17) as the only Maroons mentors to win their first two series.

Collecting the Origin shield after a loss can be a very hollow feeling and it's one the Maroons will be eager to avoid as they chase back-to-back wins in Sydney after a 16-10 triumph in Game One last year.

Team News 
Blues: Coach Brad Fittler has made seven changes to the side that lost Game Two with Rabbitohs back-rower Keaon Koloamatangi and Knights centre Bradman Best to make their Origin debuts and Cody Walker, Clint Gutherson, Jacob Saifiti and Reagan Campbell-Gillard recalled to the Blues side. Manly star Jake Trbojevic is also back after missing the first two games with a calf injury. 

Payne Haas (ankle) and Tom Trbojevic (pectoral) were unavailable for selection while Jarome Luai, Hudson Young, Stefano Utoikamanu, Junior Paulo and Tyson Frizell have been omitted.

Maroons: Raiders prop Corey Horsburgh has been named make his Origin debut after he was part of the extended squad earlier in the series while AJ Brimson takes over at fullback for Reece Walsh (suspended). Titans flyer Brimson, who was 18th Man for Game Two, returns to the starting line-up at fullback after making his Origin debut in the position in 2020.

Horsburgh's inclusion comes at the expense of Broncos prop Thomas Flegler, who is unavailable for selection with a foot injury. The Maroons are otherwise unchanged from their series-clinching win in Brisbane with Cowboys playmaker Tom Dearden named as 18th Man, while Eels forward J'maine Hopgood joins the squad as 19th Man.

Stat Attack

  • The Maroons have had four clean sweeps in Origin history - in 1988, 1989, 1995 and 2010.
  • Darren Lockyer holds the record for most points in a series by a Queensland player with 34 in 2001. Val Holmes has so far accumulated 22 points in the 2023 series with two tries and seven goals.

Stats supplied by David Middleton, League Information Services, author of the official annual of the NRL.

 

Story first published on NRL.com

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