Lockyer: Stop Haas, or risk Blue riot
Maroons legend Darren Lockyer has challenged Queensland's pack to muscle-up to NSW monster Payne Haas as Cameron Munster backed his side to "bash some heads in" on Wednesday night in Origin I.
The 118kg Haas will be the heaviest player on the field in the series opener and NSW coach Brad Fittler is banking on the Bronco's bulk and rampaging charges to smash Queensland's midfield at Suncorp Stadium.
Queensland skipper Daly Cherry-Evans on Monday spoke of the Haas threat, admitting Origin I will be decided by the battle of the bench.
Despite having played just 10 NRL games, the 19-year-old Haas is primed for a barnstorming NSW debut and Lockyer warned the enormous Blues prop could run riot unless Maroons forwards attack him in numbers.
"Payne has been enormous for the Broncos," said Lockyer, the former Maroons skipper and current selector.
"I know it's a different level, but Haas coming on with fresh legs against tired defenders ... he is a guy Queensland need to do a good job on.
"Haas likes to come on and hit and spin and keep pumping his legs.
"Once you make contact with him in numbers, you can't let him keep pushing for another three or five metres.
"Queensland need to stop him in his tracks."
Haas has had a phenomenal start to his 2019 campaign, amassing 1219 running metres from just seven games at an average of 174m per match.
Incredibly, the Broncos hulk has run for 150 metres or more in six of his seven games.
Haas produced 200m-plus efforts in consecutive weeks against Manly (202m) and the Roosters (221m) in brutal performances that clinched his meteoric Origin debut on Wednesday night.
Fittler is expected to unleash a fresh Haas around the 20-minute mark of Origin I.
The composition of Queensland's bench was tailored to combat Haas' potential impact, with Maroons selectors believing rookie David Fifita's fusion of muscle and power can counter his Broncos teammate.
Five-eighth Munster backed Queensland's bench trio of Fifita, Dylan Napa and Joe Ofahengaue to stand up to NSW's interchange trinity Haas, Cameron Murray and Angus Crichton.
"We have some good young faces in our team," he said.
"I'm excited to see Joe and David run out and bash some heads in."
Of Queensland's bench strategy, Lockyer said: "After the opening 20 minutes, you need your bench to make an impact, that's why Fifita and Napa are there.
"Both teams will work extremely hard early to negate the momentum.
"Once that early intensity settles down, the key is who can make the most impact off the bench."
Cherry-Evans says it is vital for Queensland to nullify Haas' effectiveness in midfield.
"We have to match him," he said.
"The bench for both sides will be crucial. The intensity that an Origin game starts off with is huge and what happens after that is people fatigue and then the interchange starts to get used and that's where the game opens up.
"I'm backing our guys to combat anyone that comes off their bench.
"I'm confident in our side and our bench coming on and making a bigger impact than theirs."