The Queensland Maroons are tonight in enemy territory in Sydney, two days before their State of Origin opener. But there’s a shadow over the team’s preparations. Injured halfback Cooper Cronk is racing the clock to prove he’s fit for the match.

Bryce Heaton reports.


The Maroons left camp this afternoon with a mission in mind, to storm the ANZ Stadium fortress and win with or without linchpin Cooper Cronk.

Cameron Smith, Maroons Captain: “To me I reckon if he’s a chance of playing, although there’s no guarantee at the moment. There’s a fair bit of swelling there but I think the medical staff are fairly confident that he’s a good chance of playing.”

Cronk’s ankle injury recovery appears promising walking this morning without the assistance of crutches or a moonboot.

If unfit, Cronk will be replaced in the halves by Cowboy Michael Morgan, with 18th man Jacob Lillyman to join the bench.

Laurie Daley, Blues Coach: “He’ll be there so even if he’s not there they bring a guy in like Michael Morgan, he’s a pretty fair player.”

Debutants Justin O’Neill and Corey Oates aren’t daunted by what will be the most hostile crowd they’ve ever faced, and Smith says they’ll take it all in their stride.

On Wednesday night, Cameron Smith will play in his 37th origin match overtaking Darren Lockyer as the games record holder.

It’s a far cry from when he started out in Brisbane as a label printing apprentice, earning just $5.60 an hour.

Cameron Smith, Maroons Captain: “Actually had to borrow some money off my girlfriend pretty much every week, who’s now my wife, to pay for my fuel so I’ve had to pay her back a little bit.”

A 52-6 thrashing in Game 3 last year will be fresh in the minds of both teams as they head into the match, as Queensland aim to win their 10th out of the last 11 origin series.

Bryce Heaton, QUT News.