NSW Blues skipper Boyd Cordner is "quietly confident" his side can wrap up the State of Origin series on Wednesday night despite the Maroons being bolstered by the return of champions Billy Slater and Johnathan Thurston for the Game Two clash at ANZ Stadium.
The Maroons greats boast 63 Origin appearances between them and are sure to provide Queensland’s attack with some much-needed impetus after they were held to just one try in the 28-4 loss at Suncorp Stadium in the series opener.
Slater returns to the Queensland side for the first time since Game Two of the 2015 series while Thurston is back after his 36-game streak was snapped due to a shoulder injury.
"It’s been well-documented how they’ve made a few changes and also [have] the big inclusions of Johnathan Thurston and Billy Slater," Cordner said on Monday morning.
"If you put those guys in any footy side, they’re going to be a better team, so we’re under no illusions how big a task it’s going to be to try to win here on Wednesday night.
"In saying that, we’re quietly confident that we can wrap up the series."
The inclusions of Slater and Thurston headline an unprecedented seven changes to Kevin Walters’s side, and Cordner expects the dynamic duo – and Queensland’s new-look forward pack – to inspire a reinvigorated Maroons side in both attack and defence.
"I think they’re going to be a lot better defensively through the middle there through the ruck so we’re going to be expecting that," he said.
"Obviously with the likes of ‘JT’ coming back, he’s going to help Cooper Cronk out a lot. He’s been there and done that before so he’s going to spark their attack.
"We’re expecting them to be better on both sides of the ball and we’re going to have to be good enough to match that."
Slater has shown this year that he is well and truly over the shoulder injuries that have plagued him over the past two seasons, with the superstar fullback quick to prove that he is still one of the best kick-returners the game has ever seen.
The Melbourne Storm custodian has long been a thorn in NSW’s side with the 34-year-old seemingly always in the right spot at the right time to claim their kicks on the full to get his team on the front foot.
However, Cordner has backed Roosters teammate Mitchell Pearce to take advantage of the slippery ANZ Stadium surface to pin the Maroons with his right boot.
"It’s something that he’s been working on really hard over the last few years and I think it’s shown this year, especially in Game One," he said.
"I think they’ve re-laid the turf and we know that – even on a good night – it can get really dewy, so with the likes of Slater at the back now and with their back five carrying it out of trouble, we’re going to have to keep turning them around and kick into good positions where we can defend them."
Just to add some extra spice to an already dramatic build-up, Thurston sent shockwaves through Maroons camp with an injury scare on Sunday, but according to Cordner it’s simply fake news.
"I don’t think it was too major anyway, but because of the week it is, I think everything comes under a lot more scrutiny and under the microscope," he said.
"I’m not sure what the extent of the injury was, but I’m sure he’ll be sweet to play."
This article first appeared on NRL.COM