The stage is set for a classic Origin series decider in Sydney.
Queensland drew first blood with a gutsy comeback win in game one in Brisbane but NSW will take all the momentum into the July 10 showdown after their crushing 38-6 defeat of the Maroons in game two in Perth.
Both teams are dealing with injury issues, particularly the Queenslanders after they first lost star fullback Kalyn Ponga and then on Tuesday suffered another blow when experienced back-rower Matt Gillett withdrew with a groin injury.
The Maroons announced on Wednesday that Ethan Lowe will take his place in the squad.
Brad Fittler holds all the aces and it's up to Kevin Walters to make the necessary adjustments to spoil a victorious homecoming for the Blues in front of their adoring fans.
Match: Blues v Maroons
Game 3 -
Venue: ANZ Stadium
- Nine Network
NSW: David Klemmer will start for NSW alongside Knights teammate Daniel Saifiti in the front row, with Paul Vaughan to come off the bench as he did in Origin II. Dale Finucane will also come off the bench after starting in game two, with Jake Trbojevic starting at lock.
Queensland: Ethan Lowe replaces Matt Gillett in the Queensland 17 and comes straight into the starting side in the second row. Moses Mbye has been promoted to the starting side at centre with Michael Morgan the bench utility.
James Maloney was magnificent in the Blues' game two triumph and it's up to debutant Corey Norman to match him in the decider. The same goes for Daly Cherry-Evans after he had a quiet game in Perth. Mitchell Pearce has been called in for the Blues after Nathan Cleary was ruled out with an ankle injury. The battle of the playmakers will determine who wins the series.
For the Blues to win
The Blues can't get ahead of themselves and get over-confident. Yes it was a comprehensive game two victory but it's still only 1-1 in the series and they don't get a head-start in the decider. If they get over the top of the Queensland forwards like they did in Perth, NSW should have too much speed and power with the likes of Tedesco, Trbojevic, Wighton, Ferguson and Addo-Carr always ready to sniff out a try.
For the Maroons to win
Will the Maroons be able to convince themselves the game two rout was an aberration or can we expect more of the same in Sydney? There's no Smith or Thurston to get them out of jail, no Slater or Lockyer. But they do have Cameron Munster, who will have to deliver one of the greatest performances of his career if the Maroons are going to spring an upset and send the Blues home crying again.
James Tedesco didn't score a try in game two but the NSW fullback's hand-prints were all over the 32-point win. He ran for 209m (2nd most on the team) and also finished with two try assists, two line break assists and a line break. Josh Addo-Carr ran the most metres (215) by any player, while Maroons forward Matt Gillett topped the tackle count (47).
And another thing ...
State of Origin continues to be one of the most popular events with Australians with its high television ratings and sell-outs. It was in 2015 that the attendance record was set with an average of 74,712 spectators over the three games, which included the 91,513 people who attended game two at the MCG. That record was almost broken by last year's average of 73,520 over three games. The only other year it surpassed 70,000 was 2013, with the series average reaching a then-record 71,961.