The game of their lives

FORMER NSW State of Origin centre Brad Izzard believes the five debutants for the Blues are in for the game of their lives when they line up against Queensland Maroons at Suncorp Stadium tonight.

Izzard, who now lives in Lennox Head, debuted for NSW as a 20-year-old after playing just nine games for the Penrith Panthers in 1982.

“It really is something that's hard to describe,” he said.

“We played on the old Lang Park and I remember how daunting it was. You get booed and jeered and you think to yourself ‘what am I doing here?'.”

Izzard is expecting a big game out of prop Tim Mannah and the entire Blues forward pack.

“Mannah plays a lot of minutes for a modern day front rower,” Izzard said.

“He had a taste of Origin in game three last year too.

“A guy like Darren Lockyer will tear Jamie Soward apart if he shows any sign of weakness. We have to win game one, it's too hard to bounce back and there are so many injuries and other variables that can happen along the way.”

Former Queensland prop and Casino resident Cavill Heugh is staying loyal despite some cracks starting to appear in the Maroons squad.

They will be without injured centres Justin Hodges and Greg Inglis.

“They're lucky that they have players like Willie Tonga and Dane Nielsen to slot straight in,” Heugh said.

“Nothing against big Petero (Civoniceva) but I get the feeling he might struggle with the pace of the game and his age is a bit of a concern.”

Heugh was quick to back Arthur Beetson's remarks about NSW coaching themselves to death, with Andrew Johns, Steve Roach, John Cartwright, Jim Dymock and Trent Barrett among the assistants at Blues' training this week.

“It seems like a bit of overkill to me,” he said.

“I'm all for pep talks, but I don't think they should have six or seven blokes constantly in their faces telling them what to do.

“I think Queensland still consider themselves underdogs, too, even though they have won five series in a row.

“I know for a fact that they still keep that mentality in their heads.

“Every game the Queenslanders take the field as if NSW are expected to win, so it's always special for them to win at home or in Sydney.”

Heugh played three matches for the Maroons in 1985-86.



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