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'Can't punch anyone in the head': State of Origin still strong without fights

By AAP
(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

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The days of “punching anyone in the head” are over and Queensland’s State of Origin preparation included watching an episode of children’s television series Bluey.

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But Valentine Holmes will tell you the goosebumps still appear and the sore bodies exist in the new age of Origin.

“We’re expecting a tough, grudgy one and we’re ready for it,” Holmes said ahead of Sunday’s Origin II at Perth’s Optus Stadium.

“In camp we focus on ourselves, but people watching from the outside, it gives me goosebumps talking about it.

“I remember as a young kid … the build-up was something special.

“These days we have HIA and it’s (player safety) gone in a good direction.

“You can’t punch anyone in the head, but it’s still quite fast and physical out there.”

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Popular series Bluey, based on a Brisbane family of Blue Heelers, produced an Origin episode that featured Ray Warren’s commentary and a classic Maroons victory.

Holmes and his teammates enjoyed an early release of that episode and the good-natured build up continued when rival coaches Billy Slater and Brad Fittler traded compliments at Saturday’s joint press conference in the Perth CBD.

“We’re coming into a period in Origin where both teams are just stacked with players playing in good teams and in good form,” Fittler said.

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“Not just this year, but in coming years, it’s going to be a great period in State of Origin and just close-fought battles.”

The Blues even suggested they were too nice after the 16-10 game one loss in Sydney, but rival skipper Daly Cherry-Evans reckons they were nasty enough.

“I was sore for four days after and most of my teammates were too, so I’m not sure they were too nice,” he said.

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