League: Lockyer's swansong will spur Maroons

Darren Lockyer. Photo / Getty Images
Darren Lockyer. Photo / Getty Images

The end of an era for Queensland, the beginning of one for New South Wales, but whether the Maroons' unprecedented State of Origin dominance will change remains to be seen.

Motivation is never a problem for Queensland but captain Darren Lockyer's farewell series is the kind of extra lift that can have a NSW coach wondering why he took the job.

Taking it on is Ricky Stuart, at the helm for the second time and the most recent successful Blues coach with victory in 2005, his only series so far.

He will attempt to drag the battered Blues off the canvas and avoid a demoralising sixth straight series loss, a feat bookmakers say is highly unlikely.

Lockyer will equal Maroons' great Allan Langer's record 34 Origin matches when he runs on to Suncorp Stadium tonight, rewriting the record books yet again in his 13th series.

"We haven't talked about it at all," Queensland coach Mal Meninga said yesterday. "I know it's going to be in the back of everyone's minds.

"Darren understands that he's got a role to play and everybody else has got a role to play and we're going to do it collectively."

The Maroons go in with chinks in their armour after losing injured test centres Greg Inglis and Justin Hodges but still out-Origin their opponents to the tune of 19.3 games per player to the Blues' 1.5.

Their spine of Billy Slater, Lockyer, Johnathan Thurston and Cameron Smith is among the greatest ever assembled and a pack that includes Petero Civoniceva, Sam Thaiday and Nate Myles would be fearsome enough if they weren't all doing it for Lockyer.

By contrast, the Stuart era is beginning without promises but with possibly the best-laid plans a Blues set-up has ever managed following a sweeping review of their operation last year.

There are five players on debut and no Jarryd Hayne, a proven Origin performer.

"I'm not looking at the scoreboard," Stuart said. "We're playing against probably the best Queensland team we've ever seen. It's a monumental challenge.

"It doesn't intimidate us but we know how good this football team is."

- AAP

Brisbane, 10pm today

QUEENSLAND
Billy Slater
Darius Boyd
Dane Nielsen
Willie Tonga
Jharal Yow Yeh
Darren Lockyer (c)
J. Thurston
Matt Scott
Cameron Smith
Petero Civoniceva
Sam Thaiday
Ashley Harrison
Nate Myles

NSW
Josh Dugan
Brett Morris
Michael Jennings
Mark Gasnier
Akuila Uate
Jamie Soward
Mitchell Pearce
Jason King
Michael Ennis
Kade Snowden
Beau Scott
Greg Bird
Paul Gallen (c)

Queensland: Cooper Cronk, Corey Parker, Jacob Lillyman, Ben Hannant.

NSW: Ben Creagh, Trent Merrin, Tim Mannah, Dean Young.

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