Queensland's Billy Slater is bailed up by two Blues players during Game 1 of the 2010 State of Origin.
Queensland's Billy Slater is bailed up by two Blues players during Game 1 of the 2010 State of Origin. Matt Roberts

No blueprint to Maroons 'spine'

QUEENSLAND fullback Billy Slater has rubbished talk from NSW press that the Sharks discovered a blueprint to contain the Maroons' "spine" in their win over Melbourne on Sunday.

The Sharks shut down the Storm and Queensland trio Slater, halfback Cooper Cronk and hooker Cameron Smith in their upset 12-10 win at Toyota Stadium.

This sent sections of the Sydney media into overdrive with speculation that a formula on how to dull the big three's effectiveness has finally been discovered after six straight years of Blues heartache.

"Every team's now had a loss haven't they?" Slater said. "So does that mean every team is down on confidence?"

Slater believes his combination with Cronk and Smith in next Wednesday night's Origin I clash at Melbourne's Etihad Stadium will assist his side in a crisis situation.

"It certainly helps," he said. "Just to go out there when times are tough and have that continuity among us.

"Origin's about being consistent and not playing erratic and we've been doing that at club level."

Slater believes Cronk is ready to step up and take on the No 7 jumper for Queensland after he spent last year on the interchange bench.

"He certainly deserves it," he said. "Cooper has not only been playing really good at club level, but he's been playing really good at Origin level.

"He's been coming on like a forward and taking hit-ups and it just shows you the toughness of the guy.

"He's a great halfback as well and defence suits in Orgin suits him - he's very courageous."

Cronk is just thrilled to be handed his seventh Queensland jumper.

"Obviously it's a massive thrill to play halfback but I haven't taken in a bigger smile than when I wore the No 14 jersey in previous years," he said. "The only thing that changes is that I'll get more game time."

Cronk, Slater and Smith know each other's games so well, the Storm playmaker said the three can predict what each other will do in advance.

"It's great to have a few blokes around you that know what you're going to do even before you do," Cronk said. "That will help."



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