Schick Hydro Preview: State of Origin III
The series is over. Done and dusted, dead and buried. Queensland's 2-0 lead is once again out of reach for the New South Wales Origin side.
Sometimes though a game of footy means a lot more than the scoreboard, the wins and the losses.
In New South Wales's case, this game is one for the future as they look to send their retiring skipper Paul Gallen out on a high note.
Greg Bird and Dylan Walker have been dropped with Dragon Josh Dugan coming back into the team and Sharks back-rower Wade Graham set to make his NSW debut.
Wests Tigers fullback James Tedesco will also make his Origin debut. Tedesco's inclusion initially came at the expense of Matt Moylan, but the Panthers skipper's exodus lasted just three days following halfback Adam Reynolds' (shoulder) withdrawal.
Queensland have similar motives to their blue counterparts with Corey Parker set to bid adieu to Origin on July 13. Otherwise the Maroons' preparation has been with little fuss.
Michael Morgan (knee) and Josh Papalii (hip) won't play, replaced by Manly's Nate Myles and 30-year-old North Queensland debutant Gavin Cooper.
Watch out New South Wales: They may have won the series already, but a host of Queenslanders haven't kicked out of first gear yet in the 2016 series. Greg Inglis and Cooper Cronk are two examples. Superstars on their day, the duo have been solid for the Maroons without being outstanding. Inglis touched the ball the most amount of times in Game Two and hardly bent the line. The two will only be better this time around. Cronk's five try assists in the Storm's huge Round 17 win over the Broncos was a scary reminder of his capabilities.
Watch out Queensland: Coach Daley said it himself: James Tedesco's irresistible form was too good for him to not be picked. The Tigers haven't had the best of seasons but Tedesco remains one of the NRL's most lethal players. A quick glance at his season tally confirms this: 11 tries (equal-third in the NRL), 11 try assists (equal-seventh) and 80 tackle breaks (first). A shoulder injury denied him a crack earlier in the series with the 23-year-old expected to make up for a lost time.
Key match-up: Paul Gallen v Corey Parker. Daley has pulled a swiftie before both games which has seen Gallen shift to his preferred positon of lock. If it happens again then the two retiring stalwarts Gallen and Parker will lock horns on the representative scene for the very last time. Parker has been more successful at state level but NSW fans will never forget the Gallen-led Blues side of 2014 which ended the Maroons' eight years of dominance.
The history: Played 107; Queensland 58, NSW 47, Drawn 2. Sydney hasn't been the happiest of hunting grounds for the Blues in recent years. NSW sealed their first series win in eight years there in 2014 but that's been their only victory in the past four games at ANZ Stadium. The Blues will look to avoid a clean sweep this time around too – a situation they have been in seven times since the concept's introduction. They have evaded a 3-0 series scoreline three times in Origin III prior (1984, 2007 and 2009) but never have they done so in Sydney.
What are the odds: The money is running three to one in favour of Queensland, who actually opened as outsiders for Game Three with Sportsbet. There's as much invested on Queensland to win by 13-plus as there is on all of the other winning margins combined. Corey Oates is favourite for first try scorer but Tedesco has been the most popular with punters. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au
Match officials: Referee: Gerard Sutton. Assistant Referee: Ben Cummins. Sideline Officials: Jeff Younis and Michael Wise.
Televised: Channel Nine – Live coverage from 7:30pm.
The way we see it: The Blues have spoken at length for the entire build-up about sending out Gallen a winner. There's no denying that such motivation will hold true for the Blues, but let's not forget what Queensland are playing for either. Parker will go down as one of the best Maroons ever once he too retires and they are playing for a historic whitewash. Reynolds' shoulder woes will hurt the Blues where it counts and with Johnathan Thurston opposing Moylan and/or Jack Bird – Queensland will be licking their lips. Maroons by four points.
This article first appeared on NRL.COM