Recalled Maroons forward Jai Arrow has vowed not to be “defined” by his highly-publicised axing in 2021.
Arrow copped a $35,000 fine and two-game suspension for sneaking a woman into Queensland’s team hotel last year.
The 26-year-old watched game three from home as his side won 20-18 to a void a series whitewash.
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Arrow has been promoted from the Maroons’ reserves and onto the bench for game two this Sunday following an injury to Reuben Cotter.
“I don’t want to let what happened last year define me as a person and define me as a player,” Arrow said.
“All I could do was control what I was doing moving forward, that was just doing the right things and make sure I prepare myself as best as I can.
“It was hard watching Game Three in isolation from home but I have definitely moved on and Billy reiterated at the start of the year that I had not done my dash.
“Playing for Queensland is something I hold close to my heart and now I’m looking forward to pulling on the Maroon jersey again.”
TALE OF TWO CAMPS
There are some stark differences between NSW and Queensland’s preparation for Game II of the Origin series.
Traditionally, with Origin games played on Wednesday night, teams have 10 days to get themselves set for the fierce rivalry — but for a Sunday game coaches are only afforded seven.
NSW’s squad made the five-hour flight to Perth on Monday following the weekend’s rugby league action and the new-look team will be hoping to gel quickly to take the series to a decider.
Meanwhile, the Maroons will travel on a private jet four days after the Blues on Thursday after spending time at a Gold Coast camp.
Channel 9’s Danny Weidler revealed the Blues training program seemed like “a lot” after a full round of NRL action.
“Really interesting, they have got a training session today, one again on Wednesday, they have Thursday off and a big session again on Friday,” Weidler said on Big Sports Breakfast.
“To me, that feels like a lot in the lead-up to a game, Laurie would probably be far better placed than I would be.
“But it is a short turnaround that feels like they are cramming a lot into a short amount of time and I hope they don’t run out flat.”
Former Blues coach Laurie Daley believed that Brad Fittler would be using the time for low-intensity, recovery training.
But Weidler revealed the length of each session might prove otherwise.
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“What they’d be looking at is low intensity and not staying out there too long, so they might instead of having an hour and a half session, might be a 40 per cent session which might be at 50 per cent rather than 80 per cent cent,” Daley said.
“It is interesting loz, some of the sessions that were initially sent out on the media advisory were two and a half hours,” Weidler said.
“We were told you can get there at 10am and catch the warm-up and it finishes at 12:30pm, I think today that might be a bit different now, but initially those were the times we were given.”
“That might include weights,” Daley said.
“No so that is when we are at the ground, that was in the initial media release,” Weidler said.
“I don’t think it includes their weights… they usually have a break and then do weights as well, I will be interested to see how much they are actually doing, I find that fascinating that it is a new team and it is a short turnaround.”
Meanwhile, Slater’s side are living it up on the Gold Coast before “Air Billy” will fly the Maroons to Perth on Thursday afternoon.
Queensland’s first two days in Origin camp will have a focus on recovery before the squad will take a private flight.
The Maroons were originally scheduled to travel to Perth on Friday after a training session, but medical staff insisted the schedule should be changed, using Thursday’s rest day as the travel day.
“It changes a little bit to the 10-day preparation,” Slater said to The Courier Mail.
“The first thing we need to focus on is getting everyone fit and healthy. We had three guys play (on Sunday) so recovery is what we will be focusing on today and making sure we put to bed game one (16-10 win).
“We need to take out the good things we did and make sure that’s part of our foundation and also look at some things where we can get better.
“We won’t hit the track properly until Tuesday and a session on Wednesday then head over to Perth.
“Recovery is certainly something we will consider early in this preparation.”
FREDDY’S SECRET MEETING
Blues coach Brad Fittler reportedly held a secret meeting with referee boss Jared Maxwell ahead of the State of Origin series opener.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Fittler came armed with video highlighting illegal plays from Maroons players during last year’s Origin series and while playing for their NRL clubs.
He pinpointed forward passes out of dummy half by Maroons hooker Harry Grant, off-side plays from Cameron Munster and kick pressure on halfback Nathan Cleary.
Fittler’s fear was that the referees could have a big influence on the result and took the unusual step of making the approach ahead of the series.
He didn’t stop there. Fittler then sought out Maxwell after Game One, incensed at the performance of referee Ashley Klein.
Among his list of grievances were a cut-out ball from Kalyn Ponga leading to Dane Gagai’s try and Blues prop Junior Paulo being held in the scrum while Daly Cherry-Evans scored from close range.
He also wanted to address the speed of the ruck which has since become a key talking point leading into Game Two in Perth.
“(Queensland) got in tight and they held on,” Fittler said earlier this month.
“They didn’t want to give penalties away, I think we got a penalty with 17 minutes to go. “They did a great job, they worked hard there and they definitely won the ruck.”
It was a sentiment echoed by Blues assistant Greg Alexander on Monday night.
“We have to pay more focus to the ruck and realise it is not a club game,” he said on NRL360.
“It is origin and penalties like to be at a minimum. You have to push the boundary. You don’t want to play too nice. I thought we were just too nice about things.
“It seemed like we didn’t want to offend anyone. We jumped off nice and clean and we did lose the ruck and we learned a lesson from that. I’m sure we will be better in that area.”
FITTLER’S BAFFLING RESPONSE EXPLANATION FOR MASS CHANGES
Blues coach Brad Fittler revealed he was happy with his selections for the series opener but still made a staggering seven changes to his side after a 16-10 loss in game one.
Now, ‘Freddy’ has admitted NSW selectors had to reassess, hoping to equal the series before heading to Queensland’s stomping ground in Game III.
Matt Burton, Apisai Koroisau, Angus Crichton, Siosifa Talakai and Jake Trbojevic are set to come into the 17, while Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Ryan Matterson and Tariq Sims were dropped with Jack Wighton ruled out due to Covid-19.
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“I was confident with the first team, but I have got to pick a team we can go over there and win with and this is it,” Fittler said.
“When you get beat, you need to reassess.
“We have no safety net at the moment, went into the first game thinking a certain way about how the game would go and what we could do but it didn’t happen.
“So going to Perth with a team I think we can win with.”
Fittler also explained he believed Jack Wighton was the Blues’ best in the series opener, revealing Panthers gun Stephen Crichton would take his place in the starting side.
“I thought he was our best player, I thought he was really strong, I am really disappointed for him,” Fittler said.
“I was talking to him and there was nearly movement around him being able to play, but he has been pretty crook, so the first two or three days he was very sick so he was ruled out straight away.”
Siosifa Talakai’s inclusion is a huge reward for his barnstorming form in the centers for the Sharks, but his selling point is his versatility according to the Blues coach.
The 25-year-old can be utilised in the middle and has played on an edge and in the centers for Craig Fitzgibbon this year.
“Talakai, well he gives us versatility, I think he started the season in the middle, played on and edge and then also has played center the whole year and done a great job,” Fittler said.
“He was mostly unlucky not to make the first game and he is someone we have been watching, it has been very exciting watching his season so I look forward to watching him play.”
Meanwhile, pundits slammed Jake Trbojevic’s omission from the Origin arena after Fittler announced his squad for the series opener.
After some passionate performances in recent weeks for the Sea Eagles, the turbojevic family names return to the state vs state showcase, while
“Jake Trbojevic, just the way the game went in Game I, we really needed someone really defensive minded,” Fittler said.
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