AFTER winning his own race against the clock to play in Origin I, Queensland halfback Cooper Cronk is confident young winger Dane Gagai will win his battle to play in Wednesday night's return game at Suncorp Stadium.
Cronk overcame a major ankle sprain to take his place in the hard-fought 6-4 victory in Sydney and said he believed the outcome would be the same for Gagai, who has been restricted to swimming and light training because of a quad strain.
North Queensland Cowboy Kyle Feldt has been brought into camp by coach Kevin Walters as insurance for Gagai, who quit training early again yesterday as Queensland held its first field session at its makeshift field at Sanctuary Cove on the Gold Coast.
"I think Dane is in a better position than I was," Cronk said. "Mine (injury) happened at training and was an impact injury, while he has been managing his injury for a few weeks. I'm sure he'll be right, I hope.
"I can tell you this, nobody in this football team is going to put their hand up to play if they're not capable of doing their job for 80 minutes."
NSW had accused Queensland and Cronk of playing smokes and mirrors leading into game one, but the Storm halfback, who worked on his injury around the clock, said he gave himself no hope of playing until late on the Monday before the game.
"There was no smoke and mirrors. I was gone Friday and Saturday and on Sunday I didn't think I was a chance. The footy gods looked after me," he said.
While Cronk conceded NSW would be a much better football side this time around, he said the result would come down to special moments in the game.
"Football is pretty simple. It's about effort and toughness and going out there and making the other team crack," he said.
"It comes down to the individual. You just don't pull this jumper on and do something you are not capable of doing. It's in our DNA going back to Arthur Beetson in 1980 and Wally (Lewis) and then Allan Langer, Kevin Walters, Mal Meninga and Darren Lockyer.
"When you pull on that maroon jersey you're not meant to let your mate down - it is a simple as that.
"This group has been good at doing that."
Cronk said there was no better stage on which to perform than State of Origin.
"It's the best platform for rugby league. It's the best 34 players in the world, basically, and they go hammer and tong," he said. "But sometimes it just comes down to effort, not the trick plays.
"This game will be no different, this game is on the line to be won and we want to wrap up the series 2-0 in front of our home crowd."
Queensland is renowned for coming good when the chips are down and their record against NSW at Suncorp Stadium is very intimidating (11 wins from its last 13 games).
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