The state rivalry between Queensland and NSW has kicked up a notch in the lead up to the Waratahs v Reds Super Rugby clash this weekend, with State of Origin legend Paul Gallen caught up in between.
Reds coach Brad Thorn had a cheeky crack at Gallen, who was permitted to enter the Waratahs’ camp this week to give the team a pep-talk before their game against their northern rival in Super Rugby’s long-awaited return.
“I guess that was surprising because I didn’t know [with] bubbles [that] people were supposed to come in,” Thorn said as Super Rugby – like most Australian sports leagues – have a COVID-19 bubble to keep the impacts of the pandemic infiltrating teams.
“Don’t know about that.
“The game means a lot to both sides. They’re preparing as best they can and they’ll be excited to play.
“New South Wales-Queensland, it’s the oldest rivalry there is in Australia with rugby.
“It’s just fantastic. What a good kick-off to the Super Rugby competition.”
Gallen, who has played 24 games for the Blues over 10 State of Origin series, spoke to the NSW rugby side to psyche them up for the fierce clash on Friday night.
As a former Blues captain Gallen would be more than familiar with Thorn, who was a dual code star, representing Queensland in State of Origin 11 times before transitioning to a successful career in union, and coaching the Reds.
Reds skipper Liam Wright called Thorn their Gallen equivalent, before vowing to “smash” the Waratahs.
“He’s our Paul Gallen,” Wright said of the coach.
“He doesn’t need to pump it up too much. We’re Queenslanders and Queensland want to smash NSW. It’s just in the water up here. We can’t wait.
“There’s only so much you want to smash your mates [at training]. You want to smash the opposition.
“We’re very looking forward to going out and smashing some New South Welshmen. Ask any of the boys, this is the number one game on their calendar.
“There’s a huge passion between the states.
“In past games it’s a bloodbath and we want to really do a number on them. Once you pull on that Queensland jersey, anyone with that sky blue jersey becomes an enemy.”
Former Wallabies star James O’Connor agreed there was added motivation for Friday’s game.
“The guys are hungry. I know they’ve had Gallen come in. We’ve got our own guys. We’ve got Brad for one,” O’Connor said.
“Everyone is ready to go. Queensland-New South Wales, it’s the one you want, no matter what code you’re playing.”
Waratahs coach Rob Penney will feel confident going into the game despite fielding a up to five debutants, with the NSW side facing a desperate Reds team trying to end a long losing streak.
But Queensland are tipped to come out on top, with the added advantage of home turf and up to 14,000 fans expected to turn up at Suncorp Stadium while maintaining social distancing guidelines.