Dubbed a weak link
FORMER NSW playmaker Scott Hill has dared to utter the unutterable by labelling Petero Civoniceva a Maroons weak link ahead of tonight's Suncorp Stadium Origin decider.
Hill, who now lives on the Coast, has pinpointed the 36-year-old's aging engine as one of the reasons why he believes the Blues will end Queensland's six-year series dominance.
While he said Civoniceva remained as potent as ever when on the field, the front-row warhorse's reduced playing time this series presented NSW with a great opportunity in his 33rd and final Origin game.
Hill also questioned the effectiveness of Civoniceva's front-row partner, Matt Scott, while hailing the performances of NSW's props.
"Queensland, for probably 10 years, has had front-rowers play a long time (each match)," the former Storm pivot said.
"Guys like Petero, Steve Price and (now) Matt Scott coming into it have been able to play a long time and be physical.
"It's Petero's last game and he's not playing the time he played previously.
"And Matt Scott is a young guy going well but again, (playing) time is not a big thing for him."
The NRL's website does not contain a breakdown of each player's game time for the opening two Origins. But in those matches Civoniceva had a total of 24 runs for 179m and Scott made 205m from 22 hit-ups.
In comparison, NSW prop Paul Gallen ran for a whopping 222m off 21 runs in game one before moving to lock in game two.
Blues prop James Tamou's two-match total was 187m from 22 runs, and his front-row partner in game two, Tim Grant, had five hit-ups for 46m.
Hill, who played the last of his five Origin games in 2002, said the "ducks were in line" for a NSW win, but Queensland's home ground dominance left him feeling anxious.
The ex-Australian international called on NSW's halves Mitchell Pierce and Todd Carney to step up.
He said: "Mitchell needs to continue to come up with the plays and Todd needs to run the ball a lot more. He's shown what he can do when he does run the ball."
Queensland second-rower Sam Thaiday bristled at talk that Civoniceva was a fading force, saying his Broncos teammate was as good as ever.
Speaking at the Maroons' Coolum Origin camp before the side travelled to Brisbane this week, Thaiday warned against underestimating Civoniceva's impact.
"He wouldn't be here if he wasn't worthy … he is just as good as he was and he always will be," Thaiday said.