Maroon's pick-and-stick policy goes on the line
QUEENSLAND'S 33-year pick-and-stick policy goes on the line tomorrow for the first time in eight years when coach Mal Meninga announces his side for Origin II.
And although some tweaking of the side beaten 14-6 in Sydney 12 days ago has been speculated, it would surprise if Mal and his long-term band of selectors actually made any changes. Now, more than ever, is the time to stay loyal.
Sure, some players did not perform up to expectations in game one. And if circumstances were different, a couple of those probably deserve to be dropped.
But this is not just another game of Origin. This is not just any footy team, and these are not run-of-the-mill players. Having won seven successive series, this is the most successful team in State of Origin history and many of these players are the cream of the crop.
For those who do not recall, State of Origin was born in 1980 because the interstate series had become a joke. Of the 221 games played since 1908 Queensland had won just 54, and matches in Sydney had been shunted to suburban grounds.
Even when Origin started and Sydney-based Queenslanders were able to play for their home state, NSW initially treated the games with indifference. It was not until 1985 - the fifth series - that the Blues held the shield.
But before the present day crop of champions came along, the Origin flame - particularly in Sydney - was starting to flicker. In the decade and a half since 1990, the Maroons had won just four of 16 series. Once again Queensland was the poor relation of interstate rugby league.
But under the coaching of Meninga and the captaincy of the heroic Darren Lockyer, the resurgence came in 2006. Just like now, the Maroons were one down in the series after being beaten by a point in Sydney.
They went to Brisbane, flogged the Blues 30-6 and then won a cliffhanger in Melbourne - 16-14 - to kick-off the record seven-series run. Of that winning team, five remain - Tate, Thurston, Thaiday, Myles and Smith.
Progressively since, the likes of Slater, Inglis, Hodges, Boyd, Cronk, Harrison and Scott have forged a path to Origin immortality as part of this team that has given a surge of pride and passion to all Queenslanders. These players have put the Maroons where they are today and they all deserve to defend this title until the very end.
More importantly, they deserve the chance to answer a query from Lockyer, their spiritual leader, who has asked whether they lack the necessary fire in the belly to keep this run going. And that question mark over their character would - I imagine - be just about the ultimate Queensland insult.