There are changes to each team for the Ampol State of Origin series finale - forced by injuries at the Blues, forced by form, suspension and a biosecurity breach at the Maroons.
Match: Blues v Maroons
Game 3 -
Venue: Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast
Blues: No late changes for Brad Fittler's team.
The loss of halves Nathan Cleary (shoulder) and Jarome Luai (knee) is a significant blow and the choice of the Moses/Wighton combination is designed to cause as little disruption to the game plan as possible.
Api Koroisau takes over Wighton's role in the No.14 jersey while the loss of prop Daniel Saifiti (ribs) sees Storm veteran Dale Finucane promoted to the starting side and has also been named vice-captain.
Wests Tigers youngster Stefano Utoikamanu was left out 24 hours before kick-off when the squad was reduced to 19 players. Clint Gutherson was the last man cut an hour before game time and Nicho Hynes is 18th man.
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Maroons: No late changes for Paul Green on game day.
Forward Jai Arrow has been suspended for game three and is facing a $35,000 fine for allegedly breaching COVID-19 protocols by bringing an "unregistered guest" into Maroons camp.
Arrow has been accused of breaking NRL biosecurity rules by inviting the guest into the team hotel and was served with a breach notice by the game's governing body on Thursday.
Green confirmed on Monday that Tino Fa'asuamaleaui would return to the starting side at lock and Thomas Flegler will join the bench.
David Fifita failed in his challenge at the judiciary and will sit out the series finale with 18th man Francis Molo taking Fifita's place on the interchange.
Key personnel changes have resulted in a speedier, more creative backline with Kalyn Ponga returning, Valentine Holmes shifting to the wing and Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow handed his debut in the centres.
The North Queensland teen's call-up means Kurt Capewell can shift to a more suitable spot in the back row, adding starch to the pack at the same time, while the return from injury of AJ Brimson in the No.14 role will also provide much-needed spark.
The theme continues with the promotion of bench utility Ben Hunt to starting dummy-half in place of hard-working No.9 and club teammate Andrew McCullough.
Cowboys forward Coen Hess was added to the squad two days out from the game after spending time in the Maroons camp already this series. Hess was cut an hour before kick-off and Kurt Mann is 18th man.
Match: Blues v Maroons
Game 3 -
Fullback for Blues is number 1 James TedescoFullback for Maroons is number 1 Kalyn Ponga
Winger for Blues is number 2 Brian To'oWinger for Maroons is number 2 Valentine Holmes
Centre for Blues is number 3 Latrell MitchellCentre for Maroons is number 3 Dane Gagai
Centre for Blues is number 4 Tom TrbojevicCentre for Maroons is number 4 Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow
Winger for Blues is number 5 Josh Addo-CarrWinger for Maroons is number 5 Xavier Coates
Five-Eighth for Blues is number 6 Jack WightonFive-Eighth for Maroons is number 6 Cameron Munster
Halfback for Blues is number 7 Mitchell MosesHalfback for Maroons is number 7 Daly Cherry-Evans
Prop for Blues is number 10 Junior PauloProp for Maroons is number 8 Christian Welch
Hooker for Blues is number 9 Damien CookHooker for Maroons is number 9 Ben Hunt
Prop for Blues is number 18 Dale FinucaneProp for Maroons is number 10 Josh Papalii
2nd Row for Blues is number 11 Cameron Murray2nd Row for Maroons is number 11 Kurt Capewell
2nd Row for Blues is number 12 Tariq Sims2nd Row for Maroons is number 12 Felise Kaufusi
Lock for Blues is number 13 Isaah YeoLock for Maroons is number 15 Tino Fa'asuamaleaui
Interchange for Blues is number 14 Apisai KoroisauInterchange for Maroons is number 14 Alexander Brimson
Interchange for Blues is number 15 Angus CrichtonInterchange for Maroons is number 16 Moeaki Fotuaika
Interchange for Blues is number 16 Payne HaasInterchange for Maroons is number 18 Francis Molo
Interchange for Blues is number 17 Liam MartinInterchange for Maroons is number 20 Thomas Flegler
Reserve for Blues is number 19 Nicho HynesReserve for Maroons is number 19 Kurt Mann
- Referee: Gerard Sutton
- Touch Judge: Todd Smith
- Touch Judge: Phil Henderson
- Senior Review Official: Ashley Klein
1. James Tedesco. The skipper has shown again in this series why he is still the number one No.1. Irrepressible from the back, Tedesco has the most busts (19), try assists (three) and offloads (seven) of any player through two games and trails only Brian To'o when it comes to metres (441) and carries (51). Another Brad Fittler Medal beckons.
2. Brian To'o. The Panthers winger has been a sensation in his first Origin series and tops the leaderboard after two games for metres (461) and runs (52). Scored two tries on debut and has been a huge part of why the Blues have consistently started sets on the front foot.
Mitchell intercepts a pass and goes 85m to score
3. Latrell Mitchell. After a phenomenal return to the interstate arena in game one, was at his game-breaking best in the first half of game two with a muscular one-on-one steal to set up the first try and a length-of-the-field intercept run for the second to turn what was threatening to be a tight contest into another runaway Blues win. Has 16 busts, three tries and two assists in two games.
4. Tom Trbojevic. Perhaps not quite as eye-catchingly spectacular in game two as in game one but still an enormous handful for the Maroons defence and leads the series try-scoring with four. His 12 busts is third most after Tedesco and Mitchell and has proven a huge threat in the air, out of the backfield and on both sides of the field.
5. Josh Addo-Carr. Got among the action in game two after a quiet series opener, involved in three of four NSW tries bagging a double at Suncorp Stadium and setting up another. Will be the fastest man on the field once again but with some stronger competition in the shape of Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow.
6. Jack Wighton. Last year's Dally M winner hasn't been quite the same player this year amid Canberra's struggles but has served a vital role as bench cover for the Blues this year, showing plenty of patience while getting very limited chances on field.
Has certainly earned a starting chance but how he combines with his left edge and new halves partner Mitch Moses will be critical.
Moses breaks into a gap and sprints away
7. Mitch Moses. On paper the best like-for-like replacement for Cleary, his attack-first mindset should suit Fittler's Blues and he has a strong relationship with the coach.
Has 13 try assists in 16 games and has stood up in close games several times this year to ensconce his side in the top four – although he would've loved that sideline penalty goal to go over against the Panthers last week.
18. Dale Finucane. Deeply unlucky not to have featured before now, the Storm lock has been the ultimate professional around camp and has been rewarded with not only a starting spot but the vice-captaincy.
Had a delayed start to the year with a calf injury but recent club form has been as good as any middle forward in the competition. What a luxury for Fittler to be able to bring into the side after Saifiti's injury.
9. Damien Cook. Despite being under some pressure for his spot ahead of game one, has shown his value to the Blues with excellent dummy-half service and well-selected runs including a line break to set up a try in game one while his 74 tackles are just two behind series co-leaders Cam Murray and Felise Kaufusi.
10. Junior Paulo. A phenomenon off the bench in game one, bending the Maroons line back with each enormous carry, Paulo justified his elevation to the starting side in game two in the absence of Jake Trbojevic with another sturdy performance.
Has been bumped out of nine tackles in two games while making 38 – a possible area the Maroons could look to exploit.
11. Cameron Murray. Playing his third straight game in his less preferred edge role, Murray has done a wonderful job shoring up the Blues' right-side defence with a series-high 76 tackles and nullifying wrecking ball David Fifita. Playing out of position has blunted his running game; usually so dynamic through the middle, Murray has made just 60 metres per match through two games.
12. Tariq Sims. May not even have played this year if Angus Crichton and Tyson Frizell were available for game one but has grabbed his chance with both hands.
Sims has been an aggressive intimidator for the Maroons' right edge getting through a hefty 57 tackles and making a dent with his runs, setting up a wonderful try early in game one.
13. Isaah Yeo. The Blues' unsung hero in the series to date, the Panthers lock has been just as effective for NSW as he is for his club. His 75 tackles for just two misses is one off the series lead while his ball-playing and link work have been crucial yet understated as always.
Match Highlights: Maroons v Blues
14. Api Koroisau. The Panthers hooker was 18th man for the first two games and is now handed a well-earned Origin debut through the absence of clubmates Cleary and Luai. Should get some time at dummy-half to spell Cook but can serve a role in the halves if needed.
15. Angus Crichton. Missed out on a starting spot due to his suspension for game one but was enormous off the bench in game two despite playing more in the middle than his preferred edge role. His 124 metres was easily the most of any bench player with four busts and a line break assist.
Fittler brimming with pride over historic defensive effort
16. Payne Haas. The Broncos big man has been close to the best prop from either side through two games – perhaps behind only the injured Saifiti. Has been given big minutes off the bench, churning through 238 metres (more than any forward other than Saifiti) and making 57 tackles with a remarkable zero misses.
17. Liam Martin. Rushed into the Blues squad for game one on the back of Tyson Frizell's injury, the Panthers tyro has justified his spot with energetic bench stints in which he has made his presence felt from the moment he gets on the field.
19. Nicho Hynes. It's quite simply remarkable that Hynes is only a regular in Melbourne's run-on 13 because likely Blues squad member Ryan Papenhuyzen was injured, and now he has played his own way into the extended Blues squad.
Hynes leads his club for try assists (14) which is good enough for fourth best right across the NRL.
Got the nod as 18th man as a great reward for a superb season.
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1. Kalyn Ponga. Initially named for game one before quickly being ruled out with a groin injury. Coach Paul Green will no doubt be wondering what could have been had the mercurial fullback been fit for the entire series given the struggles from the backfield.
Had a whirlwind return from injury for the Knights in round 16 with two tries and two assists.
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2. Valentine Holmes. Asked to play fullback in the opening two games due to a lack of other candidates and while not lacking in effort has been found wanting. Returns to the wing for game three where he has been absolutely elite in his Origin career to date.
3. Dane Gagai. "Origin Gagai" has become a creature of legend in recent years but hasn't been seen so far in 2021. Troubled by tonsillitis ahead of game one and monstered by clubmate Latrell Mitchell in both games, the Souths centre has struggled to produce his best despite coming up with a couple of big plays. Needs to lift in game three.
4. Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow. Traditionally a fullback, the Cowboys speedster has been moulded into a centre role this year. His blinding speed and instinctual play will add some much-needed spark to the Maroons backline but his defence is a work in progress and will be heavily tested by Trbojevic and Addo-Carr.
5. Xavier Coates. Has struggled in both games this series, though had an excuse in game two after being dropped then only recalled on game day after Ronaldo Mulitalo was ruled ineligible. Was able to break eight tackles in game two but for the most part has struggled to make metres from the backfield.
6. Cameron Munster. One of the best players in the competition and monumental last year, Munster's struggles have mirrored Queensland's.
Caught out repeatedly in defence, taking poor options in attack and struggling for any sort of impact so far, Munster at least showed what he's made of last round for the Storm and will be targeting a huge turnaround in game three.
7. Daly Cherry-Evans. Much like Munster, the Maroons skipper is a much better player than he's shown in two games this series.
Allowed himself to be frustrated off his game by NSW in game two and has to shoulder some burden for the directionless attack, DCE has one last chance to show why he should be the captain and No.7 when next year's series rolls around.
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8. Christian Welch. The Storm prop's head knock was arguably the turning point of game one with his side falling apart once he was forced from the field. He was one of his side's best in the game two loss, making easily the most metres (131) of the Maroons forwards.
9. Ben Hunt. Moves into the starting side in place of clubmate Andrew McCullough. Hunt's recent club form has been monumental and his ball playing from dummy-half should add plenty to the Maroons attack.
Will want to be able to play close to 80 in the middle with no recognised dummy-half on the bench.
10. Josh Papalii. Badly missed in game one, Papalii added plenty to the Maroons early on in game two, leading the way with his physicality through the middle. Unfortunately unable to maintain the rage throughout the whole contest but will be looking to do so in game three.
11. Kurt Capewell. The Panthers back-rower has done his best out in the centres but has been targeted to great effect by Trbojevic and co. Returns to his preferred edge forward role here. Commitment has never wavered, charging for a huge team-high 176 metres with five busts in game two.
12. Felise Kaufusi. It's been a challenging series for the Storm back-rower, who was immense in last year's upset series win but has struggled for impact this year.
Tried to target debutant Jarome Luai in game one but came off second best and has seen four line breaks go through his channel in two games.
15. Tino Fa'asuamaleaui. The then-Storm firebrand had a breakout Origin series last year but has seemed a little frantic this year and has not been able to produce his best so far. Was part of a big Titans win on the weekend and will be looking to carry that confidence into game three.
14. AJ Brimson. The Titans fullback appeared hampered by a knee injury in Origin I and was asked to cover the unfamiliar dummy-half role.
Had an excellent return against the Raiders on the weekend and will be looking to inject some spark off the bench in game three – though in which position he's used remains to be seen.
16. Moeaki Fotuaika. Arguably the only Queenslander to walk off Queensland Country Bank Stadium with his reputation enhanced in the game-one demolition, Fotuaika was a little more subdued in game two but still reliable.
18. Francis Molo. Was something of a bolter when called up for game two on the bench. Had a steady stint of around half an hour either side of half-time before being dropped to the reserves for game three. Will likely come onto the interchange bench if Fifita gets banned.
20. Thomas Flegler. Has previously been touted as a possible future Origin player and represented the state at 20s level but by his own admission has not produced anything like Origin form this year and was dropped by the Broncos ahead of their morale-boosting round 16 win. A curious choice but likely to be on the interchange now that Jai Arrow has been banned for a biosecurity breach.
19. Kurt Mann. Has been a little up and down for the Knights this year but arguably should have been in contention for a backline or bench spot before now. His genuine utility value having started in every spot in the backline plus hooker in his NRL career got him the nod as 18th man.
The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARL Commission, NRL clubs or state associations.