Sunday, 1 July 2012
A relaxed Ricky Stuart looked a man without a care in the world as his NSW side put the finishing touches to their final day in camp in Sydney on Sunday.
While Queensland coach Mal Meninga banned the media from the Maroons' training session in Coolum on Sunday morning, without giving a reason, the usually intense Stuart cut a picture of serenity at Kogarah Oval.
He even went as far as claiming there's no pressure on his players as they look to end a run of six successive State of Origin series defeats next Wednesday.
The Blues went through an opposed session with the St George Illawarra under-20s side before boarding their flight to Brisbane, and Stuart said his side was looking forward to getting the chance to win a first series decider in Brisbane since 2005.
"We don't feel any pressure at all," Stuart said.
"The camp itself this week has been very relaxed. There is a good belief in the whole joint.
"A great spirit, mateship and camaraderie and I know all the blokes are enjoying it. They've been so professional and it's been enjoyable to be a part of."
An injury to Billy Slater, the axing of David Taylor and the naming of a 20-man squad by Meninga, has led to claims that the Maroons are in crisis ahead of one of the most eagerly-awaited Origin clashes in years.
However, Stuart insisted he was paying little attention to what has been going on north of the Tweed and won't alter his gameplan with Greg Inglis moved to fullback and Dane Nielsen named in the centres.
"We haven't focused too much on Queensland," he said.
"We're not in the position they're in of winning six series in a row and having the same team for the past four of five years.
"We're a young, fresh team who have to really get our game in order first.
"They're a wonderful football team and they're going to have everything go their way up there and the advantage of playing at home."
Despite the Blues having only ever won two deciders in Brisbane, which Stuart was a part of, as a player in 1994 and then as coach in 2005, he believes last year's losing experience holds his visiting side in good stead.
Like this year, the Blues won game two in Sydney in 2011, before being blown away in the first half of Darren Lockyer's farewell, to sink to a flattering 34-24 defeat.
"It's hard going up there and playing against this mob," Stuart said.
"We got a lot of valuable experience from the guys who were involved in this game last year and that is an added bonus.
"We've had the advantage of knowing what is going to confront us. We'll be ready for it.
"Whether we're good enough is another thing."
Stuart also revealed Jarryd Hayne would switch to the right wing, with Brett Morris to play on the left.
"Brett is a left-sided player, he's played left for his club. A pretty easy decision," Stuart said.
"I asked Jarryd if he'd be comfortable playing right and he is. He's played right centre for me before in a Test match in 2008 so I`ve got no problems with it."