Why Slater isn’t worried about Queensland’s Sydney record – Brisbane Times

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Inspired by the memory of Arthur Beetson’s famous State of Origin debut, new Queensland coach Billy Slater insists his team won’t carry the burden of a woeful recent record in Sydney.
Having not won at Accor Stadium since Slater was still playing in 2017, the Maroons are trying to take a giant step towards giving him a one-from-one record in Wednesday night’s opener.
It will be the first time the Blues’ spiritual home has been at capacity since James Tedesco’s last-minute series-winning try in 2019, and the Maroons have never beaten the Blues in Sydney since Brad Fittler took over in 2018.
Johnathan Thurston kicked a second-half conversion from near the sideline with a busted shoulder in the second game of the 2017 series to seal their last win in Sydney.
Told they had a troubling record at Accor Stadium since the representative retirements of Slater, Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Thurston, the coach told the Herald: “You said it was the case. Maybe it’s not.
“It’s a different environment to playing in Queensland. They [NSW] only get 17 players. They don’t get more players. We get 17 and at the end of the day, the actions on the field are the most important part of the week. It doesn’t matter what we say here, how you perform is the ultimate priority.”
Billy Slater is at the end of his first week in camp as Queensland State of Origin coach.Credit:Getty
Slater has picked four Origin rookiesSelwyn Cobbo, Reuben Cotter, Jeremiah Nanai and Patrick Carrigan – all from the high-flying Broncos and Cowboys sides.
But his team selections have been overshadowed by the furore of NSW leaving out veterans Josh Addo-Carr and Jake Trbojevic for game one.
The Blues had harboured concerns about the height of their wingers from last year’s series, Addo-Carr and Brian To’o, under aerial bombardments from Queensland’s kickers, and plumped for the giant Daniel Tupou, who will help them with yardage out of the back field.
Asked if he thought it was strange Fittler had seemingly picked a side to counter Queensland’s line-up given the Blues’ recent dominance, Slater said: “I don’t think he has. I don’t know whether he’s come out and said that, but Freddy has picked his best team. They’re a bloody good team.
Queensland haven’t won in Sydney since Slater was still on the field.Credit:Getty
“We’re very respectful for who we’re playing and we know their strengths. Although they haven’t got Tom [Trbojevic] and Latrell [Mitchell], I see different strengths in the players who have come into those positions.
“By no means have we looked at them any different to how we would have looked at them if they had the Fox [Addo-Carr], Latrell and Tom in there.”
Much like Fittler, Slater has already indicated he won’t be playing ducks and drakes with his team selection despite surprisingly naming Ben Hunt at starting hooker ahead of Harry Grant.
The Melbourne rake missed the first few days of Maroons camp with a bad bout of the flu.
‘I had no idea how I was going to feel [being Maroons coach], and what I was going to feel. I’m really proud to be here.’
Apart from having Smith and Thurston as part of his support staff, Slater has used Queensland legend Wally Lewis to speak to his squad as he finds his feet as coach of the state after Paul Green’s ill-fated stint last year.
But it’s the vision of the late Immortal Beetson leading Queensland onto the old Lang Park which is fuelling Slater’s desire to wrest recent Origin supremacy away from NSW.
“I wasn’t even born, but I have this memory of a vision of Arthur Beetson running out onto Lang Park in 1980 and [Wally Lewis] just spoke [to our squad] about that year, and what it meant to that group of players, and what it meant to Queensland.
“It’s really strange actually. I had no idea how I was going to feel [being Maroons coach], and what I was going to feel. I’m really proud to be here. I’m proud to put a Queensland shirt on every day and go down to have breakfast.
“Off the field, I’m having conversations with Selwyn and about his upbringing, his family and where he is now, about Cherbourg and the kids running around the schoolyard and what they’re feeling right now because one of their own is playing for Queensland. To have a young, shy guy like that from the country open up and be comfortable talking about that stuff, that’s what’s really impressing me at the moment.
“And our guys know who they’re playing for. When you play for Queensland, you understand who you’re playing for.”
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