DECIDER ON FOR
The Maroons hope to send Justin Hodges out in style, but David Klemmer and his NSW teammates have other ideas,
Emotional swansongs? Check. Injury dramas? Yep. Conspiracy theories? Of course. Anyone north of the Tweed River a David Klemmer fan? Probably not.
Either way, the script could not have been written better for the State of Origin series decider in Brisbane.
The Maroons will have extra motivation as they look to send veteran centre Justin Hodges out a winner in front of a sold- out crowd at Suncorp Stadium.
Few will forget Hodges’ Origin debut in game two in 2002 – but for all the wrong reasons. Picked at 19 and out of position on the wing, Hodges never looked at home but still surprised when he suffered one of the great brain snaps – twice.
In a gaffe that would rival maligned NSW half Mitchell Pearce’s YouTube blooper reel, Hodges fielded a grubber in- goal before inexplicably throwing a hail Mary pass and gifting NSW a try.
That was difficult to fathom, which made it even harder to believe he did it again barely 30 minutes later.
Fast- forward 13 years and the 23- Origin veteran has matured into a Maroons leader, the 33- year- old a mainstay of Queensland’s record eight straight series streak that ended last year.
Queensland believe reclaiming the Origin title would provide a fitting send- off. However, NSW bruiser Klemmer is making a habit of spoiling Queensland’s plans.
The fiery 200cm, 120kg forward will be public enemy No. 1 when he is injected off the bench. Relishing his first Origin series, the 21- year- old has ruffled feathers with his in- your- face approach, but Queensland think he went too far in their 26- 18 game- two loss in Melbourne.
Sick of Klemmer mouthing off in his second match, 33- year- old Maroons veteran Corey Parker demanded his young rival “show some respect”. Judging by the expletive- riddled response, Klemmer didn’t grant the request.
With a target on his shaved head, Klemmer will again look to spark the monster NSW pack that has dominated at times this series.
Another in the limelight is NSW teammate Robbie Farah. The hooker is keen to play game three after having hand surgery the day before he arrived in NSW camp at Coffs Harbour – albeit after he was stopped boarding his initial flight because he hadn’t received a medical clearance.
In the meantime, niggling Cronulla rake Michael Ennis looms as his replacement despite receiving a onegame ban from the NRL judiciary. In a move that will stoke Queensland’s ever- flickering conspiracy theory fires, NSW can exploit a loophole that allows Ennis to don the Blues No. 9 jersey if Farah succumbs.
Queensland also have injury dramas, as their backline has been reshuffled after fullback Billy Slater had season- ending shoulder surgery.
Greg Inglis moves to No. 1, Will Chambers shifts to the centres and Newcastle young gun Dane Gagai makes his Origin debut on the wing.
The Maroons will also sweat on returning halfback Cooper Cronk, who hasn’t played since missing game two with a knee injury.
His stunning comeback ensured there was no room for disappointing game two halfback Daly Cherry- Evans in the Maroons’ 17.
The polarising Cherry- Evans may be known for a backflip but Queensland coach Mal Meninga could be accused of somthing similar.