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Blues stack the deck

Wayne Heming 10/06/2011 06:46:04 PM Comments (0)

Darren Lockyer and his champion Queensland rugby league side are treading a familiar path on the way to State of Origin II in Sydney.

One of Lockyer's great strengths is his ability to play the cards he's dealt.

But, as he prepares to eclipse former champion Allan Langer's record of 34 Origin games, you can't help but get the impression he believes he and his players are victims of a crooked dealer.

First NSW were tipped off to a change in referees for game two with the emphasis on a faster ruck leading to coach Ricky Stuart picking a super mobile side including just two specialist frontrowers.

Next came NSW winger Akuila Uate's judiciary escape for an ugly spear tackle, the Queenslanders privately labelling it a joke 12 months after Parramatta star Jarryd Hayne was cleared of head-butting Billy Slater to take his place in Origin.

Nobody north of Tweed Heads was surprised when Uate received a grade one charge, clearing him to line-up on Wednesday night, least of all Queensland coach Mal Meninga who branded the decision the latest in a long line of dodgy calls in favour of NSW players.

"He is very important to them so he is playing," was Meninga's blunt assessment.

"It's not the first time - Jarryd from a year ago, it's been happening from day one, I know, I was there (playing in the first ever Origin game)."

Lockyer hasn't been as vocal but some comments he's made this week suggest he and the Queenslanders are adopting a familiar siege mentality.

Origin was built on conspiracy theories and Queensland used a number of them successfully over the years.

"There's going to be a few things against us," Lockyer told a gathering in the flood-hit central Queensland mining town of Emerald this week when asked about Queensland's chances.

"It started on Tuesday when (Akuila) Uate got off.

"The referees aren't going to make our job any easier, the crowd's going to be against us.

"But we've done it before and I'm sure we can do it again."

Queensland used insensitive comments about the recent floods by former NSW hooker Benny Elias as part of their motivation before winning Origin I in Brisbane last month.

"I think the Blues quickly distanced themselves from Benny after those comments," said Lockyer.

"It's always good to use a little bit of motivation but we've got enough within ourselves because whenever we take the field we want to do well for Queensland."

Forward Ashley Harrison, meanwhile, said he expected centre Greg Inglis to "fire up" following criticism of his fitness and form following a frustrating injury marred start to 2011.

"GI's keen, you just get the feeling he wants to make a statement," said Harrison, whose job will be to harass NSW five-eighth Jamie Soward.

"I think we'll see him fire on Wednesday night.

Asked if he thought he was still the same damaging GI who has wreaked havoc on the Blues in the past, Harrison said: "I'm pretty sure he is".

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