Smith believes new-look Maroons can force decider

After weeks of introspection following a heavy game one defeat, Maroons captain Cameron Smith has gone on the front foot ahead of Wednesday night's Origin in Sydney, denying the Maroon reign has come to an end and backing his team to send the series to a decider.

With five-eighth Johnathan Thurston given the green light to play after taking a knock to his knee in training, Smith said his return had raised confidence levels ahead of game two at ANZ Stadium, where the Blues will start as favourites against a new-look Queensland outfit.

The Maroons completed their Gold Coast camp on Monday morning before flying to Sydney. Smith said they could barely wait to get into their Parramatta base and complete final preparations for the next instalment.

"I don't think we are on the canvas. We're extremely confident we can go down there and play well and level the series," Smith said.

"We're one-nil down. We have to go to Sydney and win. But we're not shying away from that pressure. We're embracing that opportunity to go down there and win.

"We know it's going to take a lot of effort to get it done, a lot more effort than in game one. We're pretty keen to get down there and get ready for this match."

There were sighs of relief after Thurston was cleared to take the field following vision of him leaving Maroons training, then icing his knee. It would barely be a Queensland camp without an injury concern surrounding one of their halves.

Thurston will be doing everything in his power to ensure his final series doesn't end in a dead rubber and Smith said he was as intense as ever.

"This is JT's last series and there's a lot of talk about that and the way he's going to play. But I don't think he lifts for occasions - he puts in the same performance every time he plays. He's an ultra-competitor. He doesn't change the way he approaches things," Smith said.

Four players will debut for Queensland, with Valentine Holmes and Jarrod Wallace starting, while Tim Glasby and Coen Hess join the forward rotation off the bench.

Smith said the team was relaxed and prepared for game night but he admitted to being blown away by Hess, the 20-year-old Cowboys giant who will be let loose on the edges of the ruck.

"It's the first time I've seen him in real life. I watched him on the tele and he looked big and he's bigger in real life. He's been fantastic.

"He's 20, he turns 21 next month. He's a confident kid. Young guys these days, coming into these big matches, it's like they don't get nervous. I remember my first game, I couldn't stop the thoughts running through my head. For these guys, it's another football game."

The story Smith believes new-look Maroons can force decider first appeared on Brisbane Times.

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