Josh Papalii has issued a stern warning for the Baby Blues.
Josh Papalii has issued a stern warning for the Baby Blues.

Papalii issues warning to baby Blues

MAROONS hit-man Josh Papalii believes Brad Fittler's Baby Blues are in for a shock as Queensland legend Gary Belcher warned NSW could be facing Origin pain.

New Blues coach Fittler will hand a record 11 players their State of Origin debuts in Wednesday's series opener at the MCG.

The Maroons have farewelled 101 games of Origin experience with Cameron Smith, Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk retiring, but still boast 112 appearances in their team compared to 39 for NSW.

Fittler has opted for a team packed with youth and speed in a bid to snap Queensland's three-series winning streak.

But that has come at the cost of experience in the Origin arena, with Maroons coach Kevin Walters blooding only three debutants in Jai Arrow, Felise Kaufusi and Andrew McCullough.

Papalii, preparing for his 10th Origin match, said the new Blues were in for a surprise in league's toughest arena.

Papalii says the many NSW debutants are in for a shock.
Papalii says the many NSW debutants are in for a shock.

"It's a big shock going from club footy to Origin," he said.

"The pace of the game and physicality is on a different level as well.

"Everyone that has been named in the NSW squad deserves their spot and it should be a big game."

In 1989, the Blues blooded eight players in Game One and lost 36-6 as Queensland won the series 3-0.

Belcher played in all three games for the Maroons that year and said the short-term pain led to success, as NSW won four of the next five series.

"In 1989 they brought in eight players. They were picked for the future and they got a shock up against a more experienced Queensland side," he said.

"They turned it around and won a few after that with that fantastic side they had.

"Picking the best players, best talent, and most exciting players doesn't mean they're automatically going to gel and have success.

"Having said that, I understand where Freddie (Fittler) is coming from. They had to make some big changes."

The departure of Smith, Cronk and Thurston has forced Walters to make significant changes, however Queensland has slowly been introducing new players to the Origin fold.

Ben Hunt, Cameron Munster, Valentine Holmes, Coen Hess, Dylan Napa and Jarrod Wallace made their Origin debuts last year, giving the Maroons valuable experience.

Bench utility Michael Morgan has played eight Origins and said he expected the young Blues would be up to the challenge.

"It's certainly a different environment and a different pressure to the NRL," Morgan said.

"Some of their guys like Reagan Campbell-Gillard have played for Australia, so they have been in big games.

"We've lost a few senior players but we've still got more experience, so hopefully that can work to our advantage and we can test them out."

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