ORIGIN: Pressure on JT as Blues niggle away, poll

JOB DONE: Laurie Daley at Blues training in Brisbane yesterday. Picture: Getty ImagesTRASH-TALKING NSW prop James Tamou has apologised to Johnathan Thurston, but the Blues are likely to be less accommodating to the out-of-form Queensland pivot tonight.
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NSW appeared to up the ante on their series-long niggling of Thurston before State of Origin III when his North Queensland Cowboys teammate Tamou rated Blues No.1 Jarryd Hayne ‘‘better’’ than the Maroons five-eighth.

Tamou’s betrayal loomed as another blow to Thurston as he tried to regain his mojo on the eve of his record 30th straight Origin game.

But Queensland captain Cameron Smith said Tamou had already apologised for his comment and expected Thurston to fire in a match the Maroons must win to avoid their first whitewash in 14 years.

‘‘I don’t think JT needs any motivation from comments made in the paper, given that James actually texted him this morning and apologised for the comments that he had made,’’ Smith said. ‘‘So that was a bit of a funny one.

‘‘But he’s a guy who has never lived off comments from other players or the media to try and make him play better.

‘‘He is a competitor. He will want to beat you on Playstation, let alone on a footy field. I am sure you will see the best of him on Wednesday night.’’

But Smith admitted he did not know what to expect from a Blues outfit that had harassed Thurston all series.

The two-time Dally M Medal winner has been a shadow of himself after being targeted in both games, and tensions threatened to boil over in Origin II in Sydney.

Thurston appeared to finally crack, slapping Beau Scott across the face and almost coming to blows with Blues pivot Josh Reynolds.

The spiteful match has fanned fears game three may repeat the ugly scenes of 2009’s dead rubber, which was marred by Maroons prop Steve Price being punched unconscious by Brett White then manhandled by Justin Poore.

‘‘I am not too sure what to expect,’’ Smith said. ‘‘At the end of the day, there are two referees to officiate the game. If there’s niggle, then stop it.’’

Queensland coach Mal Meninga was more focused on saluting Thurston’s 30-game milestone after dismissing fears over the pivot’s corked thigh suffered on Sunday.

‘‘That’s external pressure from you guys, to be honest,’’ he said of Thurston being targeted. ‘‘We have no problems with John and he will go out and show that tomorrow night.

‘‘To play 30 straight in this arena, it doesn’t get much better than that.’’

Still, Meninga could not avoid a subtle crack at NSW when asked if he would like to see Thurston receive more room to move in game three.

‘‘You better ask NSW,’’ he smiled.

Smith was uncertain about what to expect from NSW but knew what Queensland had to do after having their eight-year dynasty snapped.

‘‘We have to come out here and win, otherwise it is a 3-0 deficit, which is the last thing you want to experience,’’ he said. ‘‘The series has been won by NSW and we accept that, but we have to get on with things, look forward to 2015.’’

NSW skipper Paul Gallen has been public enemy No.1 in Queensland for as long as he can remember.

But about 10.15 tonight Gallen will have the last laugh when he raises the State of Origin shield, the first Blues captain to do so since Andrew Johns nine years ago, a moment he says will be the highlight of his career.

The Blues will toast their series victory in what’s expected to be a deserted Suncorp Stadium, with Queensland supporters set to exit en masse after the final siren.

About 5000 tickets are unsold, but a similar number of Blues fans are tipped to travel up the Pacific Highway.

Gallen said, regardless of the size of the audience, lifting the shield for the first time would be a moment to savour.

‘‘It’ll be nice. I played up here a few weeks ago against the Broncos and they certainly let me have it,’’ Gallen said.

‘‘Hopefully, they won’t be too loud when we go up so I can congratulate Queensland for what they have done over the last eight years and thank our boys.

‘‘It’s something I am looking forward to and it will certainly be a career highlight.’’

Gallen said he would not hold any hard feelings towards the home crowd if they chose to snub the presentation as he dedicated the series win to the 87 players and four coaches who had pitted their wits against the Maroons since 2006.

‘‘That’s understandable. It’s up to them what they do. I am not too worried about it … I can’t wait to hold it up. I don’t care if there’s 55,000 here or five,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s going to be a great moment, not just for myself and this team, but for every player and coach that’s played a part over the last eight years.

‘‘We’ve played against this Queensland side who’ve been blessed with all these great players … and to finally beat them is a great moment in history. I can’t wait to hold that trophy up.’’

Gallen makes his 18th Blues appearance tonight and has put behind him for now the pressures of skippering a Cronulla club caught in the crosshairs of the ASADA investigation.

‘‘Gal is a fantastic captain. I couldn’t ask for anyone better,’’ Daley said. ‘‘He has been a great servant to NSW over the years and throughout this series. No one deserves to win this series more than him.’’

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