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Prop whisperers: Roach, Lazarus answer Origin call for Stuart

THEY are men not normally used to tip-toeing through anything yet, quietly and unobtrusively, two of NSW's front-row greats have been mentoring the Blues' latest props in an attempt to halt Queensland's dominance.

For several months, since before the start of the NRL season, Steve Roach and Glenn Lazarus have been carrying out the instructions of the NSW coach, Ricky Stuart, getting in the ears of a dozen forwards earmarked to play a role in the series, and to ready the chosen few for Wednesday night.

It was Roach who explained to the Herald that, while the Blues camp began officially on Monday, extensive reconnaissance work had been carried out well in advance.

''We've just been watching their games and keeping in touch with them and talking them through what's required, or what we think they should do,'' Roach said. ''It's just building that relationship.

''And you know the great thing about it: they started ringing us.

''We've got to be careful we don't overload them. It's a simple game, especially when you play in the front row. You know you're going to get a whack around the head, or you're going to get kicked in the head or whatever you've got to do, but you do it anyway.''


Roach and Lazarus each took ownership of six forwards, predominantly front-rowers, to prepare them for league's biggest stage.

''Blocker called me to tell me what I needed to work on to become an Origin player, and what I've been doing good already,'' said North Queensland's James Tamou, selected for game one in Melbourne.

''I'd never met him before. He rang me out of the blue. It gave me a bit of motivation. After hanging up the phone, I sat there for five minutes thinking, 'Blocker Roach just called me'.''

Likewise, when Trent Merrin was in Brisbane when the Dragons played Brisbane, Lazarus took him out for coffee. ''Ricky asked Blocker and I if we'd stay in contact with some of the guys we felt were a chance of playing Origin this year,'' Lazarus said. ''They all responded pretty well to it.

''We didn't want to get too involved with them, because they've got their club coaches … but I thought it worked pretty well.

''Ricky's always trying to maintain the players' hunger to play Origin. He's picked 17 guys that he believes want to play for NSW and want to beat Queensland.

''By us talking to them on the odd occasion, it helped that process.''

Lazarus said his role came down to providing feedback and advice when it is needed.

''They're in a pressure-cooker situation playing NRL at the level they do, and sometimes they need someone away from the club that will listen to them,'' the five-time premiership winner said.

''We just explained that we were there if they wanted to talk about something. If we see something in their game that we think they could tweak, we just give them a call.''

While much of Queensland's success has come through players such as Johnathan Thurston, Billy Slater, Cameron Smith and Greg Inglis, Roach also knows that they can be muffled by a dominant forward pack.

''What it comes down to is desire,'' Roach said. ''The people who win Origin games are people who will not lay down, or will do anything to win. It's all about will and want. The tide's going to turn. I hope I'm there the day it happens.''