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State of Origin: Queensland's mental edge comes from pride, not revenge writes Richard Hinds

The best sport this weekend was not played on the field, but in the minds of the 34 players preparing to contest one of the most anticipated State of Origin games in the series' 35 year history.
How frayed are the nerves of Queensland debutant Cameron Munster as he prepares to play understudy to the brilliant Johnathan Thurston? And Blues' half-back Mitchell Pearce who enters a potentially career-defining game?
Will NSW wrecking ball Andrew Fifita be motivated to reproduce his incredible game one rampage by the post-game taunts of Maroon Josh McGuire, or will his lust for revenge lead to potentially game-losing acts of ill-discipline?
Is Queensland's desire to give the injured Thurston — and perhaps also Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk and even Cameron Smith — the perfect send-off party a tremendous motivation, or a debilitating millstone?
The psychology of State of Origin is as delicate as the games themselves are brutal. But in an important regard the mindset of one team, Queensland, is greatly misunderstood. At least by those south of the Tweed.
While losing 10 of the last 11 series, the conquered Blues continued to believe they were suffering the backlash of the wrongs — real and imagined — suffered by the Maroons at the hands of their southern oppressors, as symbolised by that galling image of Queensland great Artie Beetson in a Blues' jersey.
But having spent time with a handful of Queensland stars in recent times, this chip-on-the-shoulder view of the Maroons' dominance is a myth; or at least ancient history.
revor ''The Axe'' Gillmeister stills sends shivers down spines in the Maroons' camp with his bloody stories of early Origin battles. Back when the supposed arrogance and snubs of the NSW Rugby League provided a rallying call for every Queenslander.
But now, rather than an act of retaliation, Origin has become an act of affirmation for loyal Queenslanders.
One hundred and sixteen years after a federation, there is some argument whether state governments — and even states themselves — should exist. But listen to the Maroons talk about their Origin preparation and it becomes clear ''Queensland pride'' is at the core of their performances, not settling old scores that have long been invalidated by the success of the Broncos and the Cowboys, if not the Titans.
During one Origin camp each season, the Queenslanders travel to a regional town, an exercise intended to remind the players who and what they represent. This year's pep rally took place in Mackay.
The difference between this positive reinforcement of state pride and the negative motivation of ''sticking it to the southerners'' is important. To play in defiance creates a level of anger and aggression that once made Queensland dangerous, but also prone to the kind of heat-of-the-moment recklessness that is punished rather than praised in more sensitive times.
''Queensland pride'' means adhering to a set of values and principles that have served the team, and in turn the state, very well over the past decade. The essence of this pride is entering every game knowing they have each other's backs.
It helps, of course, when the players expressing this state pride happen to be the best in their positions in this, and in some cases, any generation.
But, as the players tell it, there is as much importance placed in the performances of those journeymen who might never have been selected by star-struck New South Wales than in the eye-catching deeds of the all-time greats such as Smith and Thurston.
Storm forward Tim Glasby is the latest unfashionable selection to fit the Queenslander mould. It was not merely Glasby's potential to curb Fifita that was considered in his selection, but the fact his character was seen inside the camp to embody the ''Queensland way''.
This also accounts for the non-selection of Daly Cherry Evans despite his superb recent form. There was no particular disagreement with the Queensland incumbents or even a personality clash, merely the feeling Cherry Evans' motivation was different than that embodied by the ''one for all, all for Queensland'' pact.
Most of this will sound hopelessly romantic and even desperately naive to some in an age of ultra-professionalism, where sports science has supposedly replaced appeals to raw emotion.
But Origin, which puts enemies in state jerseys and pits clubs teammates against one another — ''state against state, mate against mate'' — is different than any other top flight competition in the country.
The chemistry to bind a team, and the motivation needed to perform in such an exacting contest, requires a delicate blend of professional sports science and old-fashioned coaching mind games.
If Queensland completes another stunning comeback to win this series, no doubt some in the grandstands and the press box will interpret it as another act of vengeance against their despised former southern rulers.
But get inside the sheds and watch the Maroons sing that hokey anthem that only a Queenslander could love — 'Singin' aye aye yippee yippee aya' — and you will understand they are now a formidable force because they play for the love of teammates and state, not to settle old grudges.

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