NSW Blues Captain Paul Gallen is not one for giving big speeches. Photo: Steven Siewert
The ultimate rugby league foot soldier, Paul Gallen has never pretended to possess Churchillian qualities on top of the Herculean ones.
"I don't come up with big speeches," the NSW captain said. "I just get out there and do my job. That's all I'm concerned about."
Gallen has kept a low profile in the lead-up to tomorrow night's second instalment of the State of Origin series, distancing himself from the verbal tete-a-tete carrying on between rival coaches Ricky Stuart and Mal Meninga.
Stuart used his newspaper column at the weekend to accuse Queensland – aiming for a seventh straight series win – of being "smug". He was hitting back at Meninga's remarks that the Blues lacked the mentality to win the interstate contest.
To the casual passer-by the pre-game barbs may seem straight of the make-believe WWE – the adversarial intensity drummed up, perhaps even contrived, for promotional purposes. You can imagine Stuart and Meninga, former Canberra teammates, having a laugh about it all behind closed doors. Indeed, they did clear the air publicly and became mates again after falling out during last year's series.
However, Gallen insists the antagonism is very real.
"There is genuine hatred between the two states and it brings out people's emotions," he said.
"Ricky wrote what he thought. That's just all part of Origin. My job is to worry about what happens on the field. Ricky's job is worrying about how to get us there, and how to best motivate us. I'll always stand by Ricky.
"They've fired some at us, we've fired some back, it's all part of the biggest sporting event in Australia." While the bitterness of repeated defeat continues to be a driving motivation for Gallen at this level, he refutes any suggestion the Blues will be out to achieve long-awaited superiority via pugilism at ANZ Stadium.
The series opener was marked by an all-in brawl in the first half that led to centre Michael Jennings being marched for 10 minutes and the momentum NSW had built being obliterated. Given the words traded by the coaches in recent days it would not surprise if another similar episode erupted tomorrow night.
"Every player out there has spilled blood for their state and I'm sure if that comes into the game it'll be a part of it," Gallen said. "But I doubt very much whether Queensland are looking to get out there and punch on and we're certainly not looking to do it."
The letdown will be enormous for the captain if the Blues are thwarted again in Origin II. However, he argues NSW has never been better equipped in his time at representative level.
"This is probably the best Origin team I have played for in the 11 times I've been involved," Gallen said. "Every player picked is in the position they play at club level and they're all in form. We're going in with 100 per cent confidence and have ticked all the boxes."
The Blues are very confident their debutant front-rower Tim Grant will be fit to take to the field despite being troubled by a hamstring and lower back problem.
The Penrith prop was pulled out of training early on Sunday but Blues doctor David Givney said he was in little danger of missing the match. Grant is expected to complete NSW's final training run at Sydney Olympic Park tonight.
"He's doing all the things that everyone wanted him to do," Givney said. "He's had a bit of trouble with his lower back and his hamstring getting a bit strained. It's certainly nothing that we should be getting too panicky about it."