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Maroons confident of winning streak

Friday, May 30, 2014

BRISBANE - Queensland are confident they can win a ninth-straight State of Origin series but coach Mal Meninga will be forced to make key changes to his champion side.

"We've been in this position before and come through" was the recurring line from the Maroons after their 12-8 loss to NSW in the series opener at Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday night.

With halfback Cooper Cronk (broken arm) set to miss game two in Sydney on June 18 and Broncos forward Sam Thaiday (calf injury) primed to return to the side, Meninga has some tough decisions to make.

Daly Cherry-Evans is certain to move from the bench into the starting side at No.7, which opens up a utility spot for the likes of Canberra livewire Anthony Milford and Broncos halfback Ben Hunt, who can also play hooker.

Chris McQueen, Josh Papalii and Matt Gillett will be feeling edgy after indifferent performances against a Blues outfit inspired by the electric Jarryd Hayne and workhorse skipper Paul Gallen.

One safe player for the Maroons is Aidan Guerra, who looked like an Origin veteran in his debut for his state.

The Sydney Rooster made 71m, had three tackle breaks and 21 tackles.

"If my form warrants it and Mal wants me in the side, then I definitely want to be here," said Guerra.

"Out there with the calibre of players around, you have to lift to their level. I found myself standing next to Nate Myles, Corey Parker and Matt Scott and I thought 'I can't let them down, I just hope the boys around me thought that I was up to that level.'

Much was made about Queensland's relaxed approach in the lead-up to the Origin opener, while it was reported the Blues had left no stone unturned in trying to end the Maroons' dominance, even resorting to monitoring the sleep patterns of their players.

But McQueen defended Queensland's preparations, saying that could not be used as an excuse for the loss.

"We just didn't put it together well enough and that's why we lost."

McQueen said he was confident the Maroons could win the series without their playmaker Cronk.

"I think in terms of our structure we didn't lose too much (when Cronk left the field in the first half) but I think that extra number missing off the bench was a killer."

Winger Brent Tate took faith from the Maroons winning the decider in Sydney last year.

"I know this team is not going to go down without a fight."

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