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The Guardian - AU
The Guardian - AU
Jonathan Howcroft

State of Origin 2023 Game 3: NSW Blues 24-10 Queensland Maroons – as it happened

Bradman Best scores a second try on debut for the NSW Blues in Game 3 of the 2023 State of Origin series against the Queensland Maroons. Follow live updates and the latest score from Qld vs NSW.
Bradman Best scores a second try on debut for the NSW Blues in Game 3 of the 2023 State of Origin series against the Queensland Maroons. Photograph: Mark Evans/AAP


Thank you for joining me tonight, and the entirety of the series if you’re a regular visitor. True to form, it’s been a couple of months of brilliant theatre.

I’ll leave you with Angus Fontaine’s match report. Stay tuned for plenty more analysis during the week.

If it’s live stuff you’re after, you don’t have long to wait with the Matildas in action on Friday and the Wallabies on Saturday. Then we’ve got the Wimbledon finals later on this weekend, with the Ashes continuing next week as well as the Women’s World Cup kicking off! I’ll be here for plenty of that, so feel free to return and keep me company.

Queensland are 2023 State of Origin Champions

To the delight of hardly anybody inside Accor Stadium, Daly Cherry-Evans raises the shield, the fireworks go off, “We are the Champions” kicks in, and we cut to a commercial break.

DCE takes more time over his speech, which he delivers with a worryingly consistent series of upward inflections. I’m concerned he has nowhere to go, but he eventually drops an octave and guides us home.

James Tedesco just about does what he has to as the losing captain, and he does so as quickly as he runs on a footy field.

Player of the series: Reuben Cotter

The Queensland prop wins the Wally Lewis Medal for his wholehearted effort across the three matches. He delivers his acceptance speech clutching his adorable toddler in his arms, closing with “ubuntu”, the Maroons motto for 2023.

Player of the match: Cody Walker

It was a superb return to the big-time for the South Sydney five-eighth.

Time for the presentations.

Equally for James Tedesco, who returned to form in style. He almost broke free three times before he finally made the burst that iced the contest.

A good night for Brad Fittler. If this is his Origin swan song, it was a fitting one.

Because of the media boycott from the RLPA, the immediate post-match reaction on-field is from… coaching assistants Danny Buderus and Johnathan Thurston.

Not a whole heap to report, but Thurston is full of praise for Cody Walker, saying he was the difference between the two sides.

Full-time: NSW 24-10 Queensland

Ashley Klein brings the curtain down on a superb night of rugby league. The Blues restore pride on Sydney soil and avoid the whitewash, but it remains Queensland’s year.

78 mins: NSW are preparing to celebrate an excellent victory. Queensland know the Origin shield is waiting for them.

76 mins: Queensland have run out of inspiration.

Isaah Yeo is tackled by Ben Hunt and Corey Horsburgh.
Isaah Yeo is tackled by Ben Hunt and Corey Horsburgh. Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/AAP


75 mins: The Blues could easily nurse this one home, but on tackle two Walker orchestrates another move to the left that almost pays off, but Addo-Carr runs out of room approaching the corner. Cody Walker has rewarded all fans of rugby league tonight with his commitment to attacking footy.

Cody Walker on the attack.
Cody Walker on the attack. Photograph: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images


74 mins: The Blues grind to halfway, then hear the sweet sweet sound of the set restart siren. Four tackles later the even sweeter sound of Ashley Klein’s whistle for an offside penalty.

72 mins: Queensland have lacked imagination in the red zone this half, and again they flatter to deceive under the posts. The kick on the last is dangerous though, but Holmes, not for the first time tonight, fails to execute and NSW escape.

70 mins: NSW don’t make any mistakes on their set, helped in no small part by smooth hands from Addo-Carr on the last. Queensland are still well in their own half after five tackles, but this is State of Origin, so of course the Maroons find something. Munster launches an ugly bomb that bounces awkwardly and somehow finds the hands of Holmes, who fails to execute the quick pass that could have unlocked a try, but does find an offload to keep the broken field alive. Another kick, this time to the right corner, and Best smartly accepts a line drop out.

68 mins: Queensland win the short kick-off, Munster goes on a purposeful run, Brimson wriggles to 10m, now – is there any magic? YES! The kick high to the left corner is perfect. Taulagi taps back in the air like an AFL ruckman, into the waiting arms of try machine Tabuai-Fidow.

Or possibly not. Despite the try being given on field, replays do not look good for the Hammer. He does not gather the tap down cleanly and despite grounding eventually, he’s barely in control and the bunker rightly calls it a knock-on.

Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow
Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow’s try was disallowed. Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/AAP

Blues fans can breathe a sigh of relief.

Murray Taulagi and Brian To'o compete for the ball.
Murray Taulagi and Brian To'o compete for the ball. Photograph: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images


TRY! NSW 24-10 Queensland (Best, 66)

That’ll do it. Finally, finally, after three half-breaks Tedesco does burst through the Queensland defence, put through by Walker. It’s a sight we haven’t seen all series, but it is glorious. The NSW skipper stands up Brimson at full flight and invites Bradman Best to score his second try on debut. The Blues will not be whitewashed in 2023.

Crichton kicks the lead up to 14 points.

Bradman Best celebrates his second try with Josh Addo-Carr.
Bradman Best celebrates his second try with Josh Addo-Carr. Photograph: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images


65 mins: The Blues make little ground on a set that features Yeo spilling a soda backwards. Brimson does well to field a dangerous Walker bomb as the Maroons search for a route back into this contest. They can’t find any combinations in midfield though, or any space outside, and move after move keeps ending with Cherry-Evans bombing to a blue jersey.

Daly CHerry-Evans kicks the ball
DCE bombs can only do so much for the Maroons. Photograph: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images


63 mins: Queensland survive and begin their assault downfield though Carrigan and Fa’asuamaleaui. Not for the first time tonight Crichton is brilliant – and violent – in defence. There’s little magic from the Maroons and Addo-Carr handles the bomb on the last.

62 mins: What happened there!? Queensland go for the short drop out, the ball lands in the arms of Yeo who practically falls over the line for a try! It’s a try! Or is it!? Surely there was a knock-on from Crichton in the aerial contest, and an accidental offside from Yeo. It takes an age to get to the bunker, who then aren’t in a hurry to signal No Try. The players will be glad of the respite.

62 mins: The best drive of the half from the Blues, taking them 80m downfield to force a line drop-out. The grubber at the end from Moses was inch perfect.


61 mins: The tireless Cotter has a dart, so does Collins and Horsburgh, but there are no combinations and NSW do their job in defence. Finally the kick on the last is high to the right corner but despite the desperation of Coates in the air it’s an easy clearance for the Blues.

59 mins: Now it’s chaos in NSW’s end! The bomb is allowed to bounce, putting Addo-Carr under pressure in the Blues’ defensive left corner. Then the clearing set is unconvincing as fatigue begins to bite. Something is surely going to give soon. It looks likely to come from the visitors, especially after Murray concedes a ruck penalty allowing a full set from 30m out.

57 mins: Almost a moment of magic for Queensland! On the last, DCE fools us all by running through the line, chipping and chasing, kicking ahead his own ball, which Collins somehow grabs, but before he can pound linewards To’o literally heads the ball from his grasp. NSW slog their way out of defence, Moses launches a trademark roost and there’s pinball in Queensland territory that somehow ends without the Maroons conceding a knock-on or offside.

Referee Ashley Klein talks to James Tedesco.
Referee Ashley Klein talks to James Tedesco. Photograph: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images


55 mins: Queensland grind towards the line, keeping things simple, and they’re rewarded with a six-again on tackle five. And the Maroons will regret not continuing with similar grind because as soon as they expand, to the right, they run out of room, and the flick pass inside to keep the ball alive is intercepted and the Blues run a set to halfway.

53 mins: Hmmm. Walker throws a loose pass that flies over Addo-Carr and out on the left. Queensland with a rare freebie. Suggestions on the TV that Queensland have figured out their right side defence after being torn apart in that opening half.

52 mins: The Blues look rudderless in their set and Moses kicks limply on the last, but the defensive pressure shows no sign of easing up, and with their scoreboard lead, they can just suffocate Queensland for half an hour if they want to. Enter Horsburgh, the rampaging ranga Raider stomping his way to halfway to give his side momentum. This is so much fun.

50 mins: The intensity has been unrelenting all night, and now here comes Corey Horsburgh! The Raider is immediately pounded by a horde of Blues, and they repeat their earlier trick of inducing a knock-on at the ruck. NSW with a decent attacking platform.

Corey Horsburgh is tackled
Corey Horsburgh is making his Origin debut. Photograph: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images


49 mins: Queensland keep the ball in hand for three tackles, then Cotter almost smashes through on the burst but Crichton nails a magnificent shot. Then he stands up from marker, flicks the arm of Grant at dummy-half and forces the knock-on. Super double-play from the Panthers centre.

47 mins: A break! Taulagi! Where did that come from? From nothing, the Queenslander is galloping through after a sharp pass from Holmes, sidestepping Tedesco, but running out of gas to go all the way on his own. The Maroons play percentages and force a line drop-out.

Murray Taulagi makes a run.
Murray Taulagi makes a run. Photograph: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images


46 mins: NSW make more impact without the ball than with it, hammering into the Queensland runners with malice. DCE kicks long on the last, the chase is good, and the defensive effort matches the rising intensity of the occasion. It is throbbing out there.

44 mins: NSW don’t do much with the set, which ends with Walker running on the last. Curiously, the Blues elect to challenge, arguing Walker was tripped by Cherry-Evans. He wasn’t.

Referee Ashley Klein talks to Daly Cherry-Evans.
Referee Ashley Klein talks to Daly Cherry-Evans. Photograph: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images


42 mins: Bosh! Queensland Saifiti on his backside about 10 minutes closer to his line than where he initiated contact for the first hit-up of the half. Four tackles later Moses kicks from deep. Somehow, that is all better that Queensland’s first serve with Holmes throwing one of the worst passes Origin has ever seen stepping into the halves. DCE belts the ball clear but Tedesco runs it back with interest, and for the second time tonight almost bursts through mid-dacking.


The second half is seconds away. More of the same please and thank you.

Josh Addo-Carr sticks his tongue out
Josh Addo-Carr would be happy with a similar second half. Photograph: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images


“Cracking entertaining first half in SoO 3,” sure was HarryofOz. “But I am going so show my bias – the Bunnies’ boys have been outstanding.” They definitely have. Walker superb, Murray busy, Koloamatangi impactful, and I’m delighted Cook has shown no ill effects from his nightmare in the centres last time out.


Elsewhere on Twitter: Luai, Trending with Cody Walker. The Souths half has been outstanding with ball in hand. It prompts a very awkward question for Origin I 2024, especially if Luai’s Panther partner Nathan Cleary is fit again.

Chef’s kiss.

Half-time: NSW 18-10 Queensland

Glorious dead rubber Origin footy. Not a dud minute in the 40. Where has this version of the Blues been all series?

NSW players celebrate a try
The Blues were not put off by Queensland opening the scoring. Photograph: Mark Evans/AAP
Maroons celebrate their early try
Queensland scored early in the first half. Photograph: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images


Penalty! NSW 18-10 Queensland (Crichton, 39)

With the hooter approaching, NSW accept the two easy points.

38 mins: Queensland are in the mood now but Grant tries too much in midfield, Crichton reads the play and intercepts with a brilliant grab. He took a whack for his trouble, but if his gambit had failed it was try time for the Maroons. Not long afterwards there’s a six-again, then a penalty at the ruck.

Harry Grant of the Maroons passes the ball.
Harry Grant of the Maroons passes the ball. Photograph: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images


TRY! NSW 16-10 Queensland (Tabuai-Fidow, 36)

Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow! What a series. Queensland don’t look like they’re going anywhere but Collins has a big shunt up the guts, creating room for his backs to just about manufacture a hotch-potch catch-pass drill to the left. Tabuai-Fidow turns it into a try-scoring move, straightening up in the left centre role then chipping ahead, burning past To’o like Bowser with an invincibility star on Mario Kart, gathering and diving over. Rugby league, you are spoiling us.

Holmes misses the touchline conversion.

36 mins: A Hunt kick on tackle three buys some territory, but that tactical play is undermined almost immediately by a Collins offside. The Blues are back on attack.

But not for long. Best fumbles a regulation catch-pass in the left centre and the Maroons are back on halfway.

35 mins: Moses, Murray, and Walker, all do well to keep the ball moving from right to left. They are cutting open that side of the Queensland defence time and again with deep running angles. On this occasion Addo-Carr is isolated and his Hail Mary back inside needs to be pounced on by Cook. There’s a chasing Blue offside from the kick and Queensland are back in possession.

Mitch Moses is tackled by Harry Grant.
Mitch Moses is tackled by Harry Grant. Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/AAP


33 mins: It does not go according to plan though with Munster missing his target on tackle five, stalling all the momentum. Nanai still does his best on the last, outmarking Tedesco under the high ball, but failing to drag the Steeden in and conceding a knock-on. This has been an all-action half-hour of footy.

31 mins: Queensland are enjoying a better spell. Another decent set ends with Collins leathering Tedesco after the Blues skipper fielded a high ball. NSW make a mess of their clearing kick and the Maroons have a full six tackles in attacking territory.

29 mins: Brimson butchers a try! Grant does superbly to snipe from dummy half and make the break, somehow he releases the flick offload as he’s about to hit the deck in the tackle. Brimson, like all good fullbacks, is on his shoulder, but as he draws his opposite number he looks to his right – not his left – and throws a dud pass. That was Bairstow-esque decision making.

Brimson runs with the ball
Brimson on the run. Photograph: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images


27 mins: The Maroons do well for five tackles, Cotter to the fore, then it’s chaos on the last with Grant, Munster, and Fa’asuamaleaui all finding unlikely offloads while DCE kicked three times as the ball refused to go dead. NSW survive and complete their set 20m from Queensland’s line.

Cameron Munster is tackled by Liam Martin.
Cameron Munster is tackled by Liam Martin. Photograph: Mark Evans/AAP


25 mins: Smart from Queensland, DCE winning his own 10m kick-off to finally give his team some respite.

TRY! NSW 16-6 Queensland (Best, 24)

Queensland haven’t seen the ball for about five minutes, so they can ill afford a six-again on halfway. NSW smell blood. From right to left Walker and Cook dictate terms and there’s a sense of inevitability when Walker flings a bullet pass into the bread basket of Bradman Best who secures his try on Origin debut. The Blues are absolutely tearing this up. Especially on the left edge where Queensland look shellshocked. This is scintillating.

Crichton hits the target this time, and NSW are rampant.

Bradman Best celebrates his try
Bradman Best scores on debut. Photograph: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images
James Tedesco
James Tedesco as something to smile about. Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/AAP


23 mins: Addo-Carr hasn’t had he best of series so far, but that is a try that will be replayed ad infinitum.

Josh Addo-Carr.
Josh Addo-Carr. Photograph: Mark Evans/AAP


TRY! NSW 10-6 Queensland (Addo-Carr, 21)

One of the great Origin tries! Campbell-Gillard takes a punishing first hit-up to set the Blues in motion. Walker takes over, sending the ball early from the middle to the left, through hands, working space for Addo-Carr to exploit, and how he exploits it! A few paces to reach top gear, then the chip and chase, the ball sitting up perfectly for the Fox to gather and cross. That is liquid rugby league.

Crichton misses his second conversion of the night, this one more gettable.

Josh Addo-Carr scores a classic Origin try.
Josh Addo-Carr scores a classic Origin try. Photograph: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images


Penalty! NSW 6-6 Queensland (Crichton, 19)

The Blues accept the easy two points on offer, Crichton levelling the scores.

18 mins: NSW are so much more urgent tonight. The forwards are running hard, the backs are looking nimble, the halves are offering more than one-out moves, and sets are featuring plenty of offloads. They’re rewarded again with a cheap penalty, and once more it’s against Grant, this time for taking out Moses in the air a few steps after the halfback had punted the ball downfield.

Mitchell Moses is tackled in the air by Harry Grant.
Mitchell Moses is tackled in the air by Harry Grant. Photograph: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images


TRY! NSW 4-6 Queensland (To'o, 15)

Queensland take no risks and make no mistakes from their restart set. NSW respond with more intent and on tackle four Addo-Carr finds room outside Brimson on the left. He’s eventually scragged, as is Best on the second effort, but the ball is swiftly moved from the tackle to the right, via a magnificent tap pass from Koloamatangi, into the hands of To’o who had just enough room to scamper a few paces and dive into the right corner. Thrilling rugby league.

The left-footed Crichton cannot level the scores with the touchline conversion.

Brian To’o.
Brian To’o. Photograph: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images


14 mins: Tabuai-Fidow has had such a good series, and he was integral to that score on both try lines.

Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow celebrates
Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow enjoys David Fifita’s try. Photograph: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images


TRY! NSW 0-6 Queensland (Fifita, 12)

“It’s been a little clunky” confesses Billy Slater from the coaches box, just as Munster chips and chases on the last tackle, Tabuai-Fidow outjumps To’o in the air and Fifita pounces on the loose ball to crash over. Very Queensland areas again. The Blues on top in general play, the Maroons on top on the scoreboard.

Holmes strokes over a simple conversion.

David Fifita celebrates his try for Queensland.
David Fifita celebrates his try for Queensland. Photograph: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images


10 mins: Grant, on from the start for the first time this series, kicks on tackle four in behind Addo-Carr and over the sideline to give everyone a bit of a breather. NSW take possession 20m out from their own line. Soon Moses and Walker link well, and Tedesco gets an offload. Cook snipes down the blindside allowing Moses prime position to launch a bomb. He aims for Crichton but Tabuai-Fidow wins the aerial battle, and earns a very handy relieving penalty for his troubles.

8 mins: Crichton drills Fifita in midfield but Fa’asuamaleaui does well to even the ledger with a strong run, setting up a Cherry-Evans bomb on the last. This is a high energy start from both teams. NSW have their first set from deep and they make ground easily with Tedesco almost wriggling through with his shorts around his knees.

6 mins: Liam Martin spills a regulation pass just as the Blues were putting some combinations together. There’s much more intent about NSW with ball in hand early on. It’s yet to count on the scoreboard yet, but the momentum is there.

Liam Martin drops the ball.
Liam Martin drops the ball. Photograph: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images


5 mins: Queensland make good ground for three tackles and then expand, shifting the ball one way then the other, and finding offloads before Tabuai-Fidow is hauled down. DCE kicks dangerously to the right corner but Addo-Carr does superbly, evading a wild effort from Coates, and running clear. Soon afterwards NSW are awarded a second penalty, this time for a ruck infringement by Grant.

Daly Cherry-Evans.
Daly Cherry-Evans. Photograph: Mark Evans/AAP


3 mins: NSW look bright, but Cook misses the ball on the third tackle and is lucky not to knock-on. Play continues and by the last tackle the Blues are moving at speed in sight of the line. Walker shifts play to the left, drops the ball on his boot to kick through – there’s a ricochet off Martin, who looked offside, then it ends with Best, who looked offside – and the debutant collects the loose pill and crosses for an early score! It’s ruled no try on-field, and the bunker eventually agrees, for the second of the two possible offsides. An early warning from Cody Walker nonetheless.

Bradman Best celebrates with teammates after scoring a disallowed try
Bradman Best celebrates with teammates after scoring a try, which was then disallowed by the video bunker. Photograph: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images


2 mins: Queensland have the first hit-up and the big lads share the violence amongst themselves, with a little’un in Grant making a burst from dummy half. NSW enjoy the good fortune of an offside penalty from the kick on the last tackle, and they will take their first attack from halfway.


The final 80 minutes of Origin action for 2023 are under way…

After plenty of walking, and not a lot of talking, it’s time for some action.

James Tedesco leads the Blues on to the field.
James Tedesco leads the Blues on to the field. Photograph: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images


The Maroons are out first, much to the dislike of the locals in the crowd. Then come the Blues, to the strains of Metallica, with James Tedesco, knackered from his odyssey in studs, just about making it up the race and on to the turf.

Cody Walker, Josh Addo-Carr and Mitchell Moses
Cody Walker, Josh Addo-Carr and Mitchell Moses before the national anthem. Photograph: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images


In a beautiful metaphor for the series so far, Queensland take the direct route, the Maroons stopping only to dip their noggins in a literal bucket of smelling salts. How can you not love this?

Queensland players in the huddle
Queensland are hunting for their first series clean sweep since 2010. Photograph: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images


The Blues trickle down into Accor Stadium like a spillage of Mountain Berry Blast Powerade. They now have a “traditional” walk from their warm up area at the Centre of Excellence, which may as well be in Dubbo for all the time it’s taking James Tedesco and the rest of his squad.

Conditions are perfect in Sydney. The former Olympic stadium is dry underfoot, there’s little wind to speak of, and temperatures are cool.

Referee Ashley Klein is the man in the middle once again. He’ll be hoping calmer heads prevail after a fiery finish to Origin II that saw Reece Walsh, Jarome Luai, and Josh Addo-Carr all censured for their involvement in an unnecessary fracas.

Ashley Klein
Ashley Klein gives Reece Walsh his marching orders in Brisbane. Photograph: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

Turns out they’re good fun. Gentle South Pacific reggae-infused pop with a family-forward message, complete with Māori dancers and a haka. Lovely stuff.

Turns out a lot of people in New Zealand like Six60.
Six60 perform on stage
Six60 performing before game. Photograph: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images


Pregame entertainment is brought to you by Six60, a popular beat combo I literally had never heard of before.

I am Principal Skinner
Six60 perform with Māori dancers
A pitch perfect performance from Six60 at Accor Stadium. Photograph: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images


It’s an historic night for James Tedesco, but his future with the Blues is uncertain. He’ll be 31 by the time the next Origin rolls around, and the fullback, once by a distance the best player in the game, has seen his impact drop off alarmingly.

Brad Fittler has spoken to Phil Gould, still with an air of mystification about the series so far.

Yeah, well I’ve got to say every preparation has been good. The second game got away from us, but I feel like every preparation has been good. This has been no different. It’s been obviously different circumstances, but I feel like they know what to do better than we have in the first two games. I think if we get that on they’ll be a different team.

Brad Fittler interacts with young NSW fans on the fence
Fittler tries to win some fans before game three. Photograph: Mark Evans/AAP


We haven’t heard from any players yet tonight, and we’re unlikely to. Here’s why.

Billy Slater’s had a few words with the host broadcaster.

Queensland only get three opportunities to watch their team go around and this is the third one for the year. First and foremost we want to go out and do them proud.

Queensland are targeting a clean sweep, just like they did in Slater’s playing career.

It’s obviously great and that’s a result hopefully we can talk about after the game. Right now we’re thinking about earning that – thinking about earning our game and going out and getting our footy on.

I haven’t seen it [complacency] or felt it from the players and they’re the ones who have to go out and perform. So standing here right now I feel we’re in a good place. The players have been ready to play for a number of days now.


If tonight proves to be Fittler’s final match in charge of the Blues, it is not obvious who his replacement should be. I reckon they should follow the advice of Roy and HG and make a play for Cameron Smith. Failing that, their other suggestion of creating a Chat GPT script that contains all the insights from retired Queenslanders commenting on New South Wales, and handing it to the players in the change rooms before kick-off. Happy rugb’league.


Nick Tedeschi cast his eye on the series after Origin II, comparing the long-term performances of both coaches.

The tortoise and the hare is an appropriate parable for both this series and the Billy Slater-Brad Fittler coaching rivalry. For two years, Slater has been deliberate and methodical in his approach – in planning and preparation, team selection and interchange rotation, and how to deal with game plans and players who missed being picked. All contingencies have been prepared for. There has been nothing sexy about Slater’s approach but Queensland have just gone into every game confident they were ready and would not be let down by those off the field.

Fittler, by contrast, has opted for an increasingly dangerous combination of risk-taking and stubbornness throughout this series. His approach has at times been kamikaze in nature, featuring a resounding self-belief in the face of common sense and popular opinion that has led to moves few others could understand.

Andrew Johns sounds happy, but his face tells a different story. “It’s a more attacking team. I think there are more points in the team,” he said. He especially likes the Bunnies in the Blues with Cody Walker in the 6 jersey and the combination of Damien Cook at 9 and Cameron Murray 13.

Cameron Murray and Cody Walker
Cameron Murray and Cody Walker are used to celebrating together for South Sydney. Photograph: Hannah Peters/Getty Images

Queensland XVII

Billy Slater by contrast has made just two changes to his successful outfit, both of them forced upon him with Reece Walsh suspended and Tom Flegler injured. Corey Horsburgh was born for Origin, while the versatile AJ Brimson has already proven himself at the highest level.

Victory will give the Maroons a first series sweep since 2010.

Queensland: 1. AJ Brimson 2. Xavier Coates 3. Valentine Holmes 4. Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow 5. Murray Taulagi 6. Cameron Munster 7. Daly Cherry-Evans (capt) 8. Reuben Cotter 9. Harry Grant 10. Tino Fa’asuamaleaui 11. David Fifita 12. Jeremiah Nanai 13. Patrick Carrigan
Interchange: 14. Ben Hunt 15. Lindsay Collins 16. Moeaki Fotuaika 17. Corey Horsburgh.

Corey Horsburgh
Corey Horsburgh is made for Origin. Photograph: Chris Hyde/Getty Images



Unsurprisingly, Brad Fittler has rung the changes with seven alterations to the NSW squad. The headline omissions are Jarome Luai and Junior Paulo, while injuries to stalwarts Tom Trbojevic and Payne Haas, and the continued absence of Nathan Cleary and Latrell Mitchell gives this lineup an unfamiliar feel.

Veteran Cody Walker’s return in the halves is eye-catching, and he will be tasked with reanimating a moribund attack. Elsewhere, Reagan Campbell-Gillard will add some much need grunt to the pack, and Clint Gutherson some long sought-after x-factor off the bench. Bradman Best and Keaon Koloamatangi will debut.

“There is an Origin series, and we don’t have a chance to win that, but they have a chance to play for NSW in front of a home crowd and they need a good game,” Fittler said.

NSW: 1. James Tedesco (c) 2. Brian To’o 3. Stephen Crichton 4. Bradman Best 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Cody Walker 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Jake Trbojevic 9. Damien Cook 10. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 11. Liam Martin 12. Keaon Koloamatangi 13. Cameron Murray.
Interchange: 14. Isaah Yeo 15. Jacob Saifiti 16. Reece Robson 17. Clint Gutherson

Bradman Best
Bradman Best: if Chat GPT was asked to come up with the name of a sportsman. Photograph: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images


Angus Fontaine sets the scene for what could prove an unusual Origin experience.

Every State of Origin game offers brilliance, intensity and controversy. But with Queensland 2-0 up and players boycotting media due to their dispute with the NRL, Origin game three at a half-full Sydney Olympic Stadium could be an empty experience for all.


Hello everybody and welcome to live coverage of State of Origin Game 3 between the New South Wales Blues and the Queensland Maroons. Kick-off at Accor Stadium is not before 8.05pm (AEST).

You might think tonight is a dead rubber. I might think tonight is a dead rubber. But the headlines this week read: “No such thing as a State of Origin dead rubber, says NSW coach Fittler”. So it’s not a dead rubber. Even if it is.

As a consequence, it’s hard to know how to contextualise the next 80 minutes of Origin action. Queensland have the shield, the momentum, the coach with a magic touch, an experienced combination in the halves, youthful exuberance all over the park, and the spirit of Ubuntu driving them towards yet another dynasty.

The Blues, by contrast, stagger on to home turf on a three-match losing streak. Lose, and the future of the coach and a number of senior players becomes a formality. Win, and … who knows? How much does a dead cat bounce in front of a crowd full of blue wig-wearers count in the grand scheme of things?

The good news for us is that dead rubbers are statistically a bounty, with more tries, more average points, and more line breaks to enjoy.

I’ll be back with teams news and insights from the two camps. If you want to get in touch at any point you can always send me an email.

Brad Fittler and Billy Slater
The fortunes of Brad Fittler and Billy Slater have diverged in 2023. Photograph: Jono Searle/AAP


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