Queensland’s top man relaxed on home turf
QUEENSLAND coach Kevin Walters has declared his job won't be done until the Maroons can lift this year's State of Origin trophy.
The former Ipswich Jets coach got his new tenure as Queensland's head coach off to a perfect start with a 6-4 win at ANZ Stadium.
With big shoes to fill having replaced outgoing coach Mal Meninga, Walters told the QT that tomorrow night's game 2 would be just as important as his Sydney debut.
"I'm still very excited about what lays ahead," Walters said.
"It was nice to get the first win down in Sydney but we've since moved on and the focus is fully on winning up here in Queensland.
"I've been around the side for a number of years now and it's always a privilege to work with the elite players of our game."
Having survived the NSW's home ground advantage in Sydney, the Maroons will enjoy the overwhelming support of fans in Brisbane.
The last time the two teams ran out onto Suncorp Stadium, Queensland sent the visitors packing with a 52-6 victory.
Despite their impressive record at home, Walters said Queensland was far from home yet.
"It's about winning the series and we haven't achieved that yet," he said.
"It will be a big challenge for sure but it's very exciting too. Certainly with the crowd support at the venue it is important that we put in a good performance for those watching across Queensland.
"It's a great atmosphere at Suncorp Stadium and as a player you want to challenge yourself to put in a good performance for the fans."
In the only change for Queensland ahead of tomorrow night's clash, Manly Sea Eagles veteran Nate Myles has been ruled out through injury.
His absence has opened the door for the return of New Zealand Warriors hardman Jacob Lillyman to rejoin the squad after appearing in all three State of Origin games last year.
While disappointed that Myles will be forced to miss game 2, Walters was happy to see the return of Lillyman to the Queensland camp.
"Nate will obviously be a big loss for us," Walters said. "But we are very fortunate to have a player like Jacob Lillyman as a ready replacement.
"I think he was very unlucky to not get picked for game 1. That was a tough decision for the selectors and I to make but he has been rewarded in his selection for game 2."
The 32 year old from Richmond had played six games for Queensland between 2003 and 2011, before returning from a two-year absence to become a regular feature of the Maroons recent dominance.
Walters said there was never any doubt that the giant second-rower's form would be overlooked despite playing across the Tasman.
"He was never a chance of being overlooked by our selectors," he said.
"His club form for the Warriors has been brilliant and this is an exciting moment for him to come back into the side. He'll bring plenty of go-forward with his no-nonsense approach.
"He is a determined young human being and he certainly loves the challenge. Origin is a big step up from the NRL but he fits in well at this level."
Walters was also glad to see Newcastle Knights winger Dane Gagai overcome an injury scare to be ready for game 2.
"He had a bit of a leg problem but he trained well on the weekend and is a certain starter on Wednesday," he said.
"He worked very hard with our medical and support staff to overcome the injury and was determined to take his place in the side. It is great news for Dane and we will need him to continue that form against NSW."
Queensland will run out against NSW from 8pm tomorrow night at Suncorp Stadium.
A Queensland win would clinch the series for the Maroons.
BEFORE Queensland have a chance to claim their 10th State of Origin series in 11 years, one lucky Ipswich rugby league player will make his second appearance for the Queensland under-18 outfit.
Former Keebra Park High School student Thomas Mikaele was selected to represent Queensland after being a major part of the Ipswich Diggers Cyril Connell and Mal Meninga representative teams.
The New Zealand-born prop started playing rugby league at Redbank Plains before moving to the Goodna Eagles.
Earlier this year the 115kg and 180cm young forward trialled with the Wests Tigers under 20 side before returning to Queensland to rejoin the Ipswich Diggers.