Laughing off Queensland’s claim for underdog status, NSW are on guard against a Johnathan Thurston backlash in State of Origin II on Wednesday night.
With Test halfback Cooper Cronk already ruled out with a broken arm and fellow match winners Billy Slater, Greg Inglis and Daly Cherry-Evans all said to be in doubt, the Maroons have applied a backs-to-the-wall mentality as they try to keep the series alive in Sydney.
But five-eighth Josh Reynolds said the Blues were having none of it and were wary of any team containing Thurston, the reigning world player of the year.
“Eight series (wins) in a row, I find it a bit hard for them to be the underdog,” Reynolds said on Saturday.
“Both teams have got injuries. We’ve got both the Morris brothers out and they’ve been a vital part of this side for a long time.
“In the end, I think whoever throws on that jersey – for both sides – is going to have a dig.
“I don’t think it comes down to the big players or the superstars. It comes down to the guy that’s willing to put his hand up, as a few of the boys did in that last 10 minutes in the last game (for NSW).”
Only The King – former Queensland captain Wally Lewis – has won more Origin man-of-the-match awards than Thurston’s four and Reynolds says subduing the champion No.6 is once again a key for NSW.
“I know what he can do so I’m definitely not not thinking of him,” Reynolds said of his personal five-eighth duel with Thurston.
“It’s more working with my right edge on how we can shut him down and just make sure we don’t give him too much time to play because, if you give that bloke enough time, he’s going to eventually put you to the sword.
“So we’ve definitely had a little chat about him, but our main focus has been about us.”
With Cronk out, Reynolds suspects Thurston might want the ball in his hands even more at ANZ Stadium.
“He might try to take more of a leadership role, whereas those two usually share it pretty well,” he said.
“We’re definitely ready to cop some massive plays on the right – but we’re ready.”