NSW back rower Willie Mason says he expects the Queensland State of Origin forwards to be harder to handle than the New Zealand Test pack. Mason says Origin football is still the toughest arena for any player to prove themselves in, and there will be no place to hide at Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday night.
The Bulldogs enforcer says Test match football has become much more intense, but described Origin as an 80-minute "bash-a-thon". Mason is desperate to taste success at Queensland's Suncorp Stadium fortress on Wednesday, having never won a game with the Blues at the venue.
Up north, and champion playmaker Darren Lockyer has taken his first steps towards playing in Wednesday night's State of Origin series opener, running on his injured ankle 24 hours ahead of schedule. The Queensland skipper tested out the ankle yesterday, running at half pace in a 20-minute solo session closely watched by Maroons medical staff.
Lockyer could train with the team today although that step could be delayed until the weekend should the team's medical staff feel it's too risky. Maroons centre Justin Hodges trained yesterday with his troublesome knee heavily strapped but is confident it will be right for the Suncorp Stadium showdown.
Meanwhile, St George Illawarra boss Peter Doust has refused to guarantee the future of under siege NRL coach Nathan Brown. Brown has come under fire with the Dragons winning just two from eight matches this year to sit second last on the ladder.
CEO Doust says there are no guarantees in coaching however the club hadn't had any discussions about alternative coaches to Brown.
Co-captain Jason Ryles says he is confident his side is improving ahead of tonight's clash with Gold Coast at WIN Stadium. The Dragons and Titans kick off round 11 of the competition from 7.30pm with former Dragons junior and new Gold Coast recruit Josh Lewis travelling to Wollongong as 18th man.
The Dragons beat the Titans in the first round of the season, but have struggled since, although Ryles believes the team's performances are getting better each week