'A lot of heat': Woods denies Origin's gone soft
ANDREW Fifita's spat with Josh McGuire is just the tip of the iceberg in an Origin series that's featured more fire and brimstone than it's been given credit for, according to Aaron Woods.
It's a surprise revelation given the respectful manner in which the two sides have talked about each other in a build-up that hasn't been laced with the usual tension, often caused by former Blues bash brothers Paul Gallen and Greg Bird.
Gallen and Bird were never afraid to throw darts across the border in the days leading into big Origin games but that approach has been ditched in a bid to stop poking the bear.
Fifita did his best to inflame tensions in the immediate aftermath of game two when he went public with an accusation that Maroons firebrand McGuire was "disrespectful" in a verbal tirade aimed at NSW's disconsolate front-rower.
McGuire's spray only served to rub salt into a fresh wound after Fifita failed to back up his man-of-the-match performance in game one, with Queensland's targeted defensive approach working beautifully.
Neither camp will have forgotten the incident and Fifita's front-row partner Woods expects the edge in the verbals to go up another notch in the decider.
"Sledging's an awesome part of the game and that's why I love playing," Woods said.
"But you never say anything out of line but it's part of the game and you shake hands afterwards.
"It's awesome, it's part of the game, it's what rugby league is. I grew up watching it and it's good to be a part of it but whatever's said in my books I leave on the field."
That's not all he leaves on the field, with Woods earlier this series admitting he "gets on really well" with Maroons rivals Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk.
However, he dismisses claims that Origin has become too friendly without someone calling Queenslanders "two-heads" or the invective-filled "rats and filth" column penned in The Courier-Mail by then Maroons coach Mal Meninga.
"That's what you guys are talking about, we never said it was friendly on the field ... That 80 minutes is a lot different. There was a lot of heat in that last game and even the first game. It just hasn't been built up in the media as much as other games have been," Woods said.
Fifita isn't one to let go of a grudge lightly and he has already promised to pay a visit to a Queensland pub that infuriated him with a Facebook post that he claimed was racially motivated.
Coupled with the McGuire beef, it's a siege mentality that the Blues big man will be eager to make Queensland regret when he runs out on to Suncorp Stadium next Wednesday.
First he will have to overcome a virus that has kept him in bed during the early stages of NSW camp and Woods is confident in the signs that game-three Fifita will be close to his scary best.
"Probably for us it's a good thing. His back's against the wall a little bit. They did target him and now you know, we're going into a game where he wants to perform for his teammates," Woods said.
"He wasn't happy with the way he performed, the way he was targeted in game two, so it's good for us. We know that he's a huge player for us."
Woods said Fifita was smarter than people gave him credit for, so much so that he will have been plotting a subtle change in the way he approaches his ball-running in a bid to break the shackles Queensland fitted him with in game two.
"They attacked him real hard when he had the ball," Woods said.
"So I think he's gone away, and I assume he would have watched the game a few times, where he carried and how they came into contact with him. So knowing Fifita, he would have done a lot of work on that and trying to fix it up.
"A lot of people think he's just big and fast but he's actually a very smart footballer, so I'm sure he's thought of some ways to fix it up."