Moore tips tough test from Blues in first State of Origin
STATE of Origin legend Billy Moore believes this year's series may be the best in more than 20 years and that Queensland's all-star line-up must play to its full potential to stand any chance of winning it.
The Maroons arrived at Coolum yesterday for a five-day training camp ahead of Origin I in Sydney next week and Moore, who embodied the passion of the series during the 1990s, predicted this year's campaign would be among the toughest.
"I think the greatest series that has ever been played was in 1991. It had everything," he said.
"Each game was won by two points and Michael O'Conner won one from the sideline. That's your benchmark.
"Last year's series (also won 2-1 by Queensland) was just a tick below that. But this year I believe the intensity will go up by a notch.
"I think the recipe is there. The pressure that has built from seven consecutive losses on New South Wales is unheralded and that's created a perfect storm for them and that's going to be brought to a head by them having two home games.
"So for Queensland to win this series, it's going to take all the potential we know that's in that team. It will need to come to the fore for them to win again."
Given Queensland's run of series wins and its high-profile roster, some pundits may think Moore is being alarmist, but the Sunshine Coast 42-year-old Moore says many Queensland rugby league fans have been lulled into a false sense of security.
"Everyone forgets that last year's series was won by only one point," he said.
"You'd think, based on the press coverage and the sentiment you see splashed across the media, that New South Wales got beaten by 100.
"But it's the momentum of seven series wins that really caused an exaggeration of how lopsided that series was."
Moore anticipates an intriguing battle between the forwards this year.
"The Queensland pack will have to do their job against a very powerful, mobile New South Wales pack," he said.
"I think New South Wales will try and run Queensland around a bit and get them on the fringe, two or three passes wide.
"And they will probably use the combination of (James) Maloney and (Mitchell) Pearce, which they've developed at the Roosters, to really capitalise on good forward momentum and what they hope will be a bit of a dint in the Queensland defensive line around tackles three and four."
Moore saw no reason, however, for Queensland to change its game plan from previous campaigns.
"I think Queensland will be doing very much the same," he said.
"The forward pack has been great with the way it is balanced with great yard-getters up front, power players like (Sam) Thaiday and with workaholics like (Nate) Myles and (Ashley) Harrison doing their bit to mop up all of the players on the fringe.
"You can put all that together and tie it off with the smartest number nine (Cameron Smith) in the history of the game."