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Carney the wild card in Blues' Origin deck

Published: 8:23PM Tuesday May 22, 2012 Source: AAP

He's the ace that has New South Wales believing they can finally end Queensland's State of Origin dominance, but the Blues are adamant they won't expect debutant five-eighth Todd Carney to carry them to glory tomorrow night.

NSW fans will hitch a ride on the Carney roller-coaster at Melbourne's Etihad Stadium - a ride with as many spills as it has seen thrills, but with the potential to stop the Maroons in their tracks.

For the first time since the likes of Brad Fittler and Laurie Daley donned the sky blue No.6, the Blues have a genuine match-winner at five-eighth, a player capable of changing the course of a game with a few deft touches.

Carney's contribution to making previously pedestrian Cronulla NRL premiership contenders is proof of his ability, but conquering a Maroons machine containing some of the finest talent to play the game is another thing altogether.

Especially for a player making his first appearance on rugby league's biggest stage.

"I think we've got a few potential match-winners, but definitely he [Carney] is one of them and he's showed that this year," said recalled Blues hooker Robbie Farah. "Todd's capable of winning footy games.

"It's his first game and he's going to be nervous. We're not going to expect him to go out there and win us the game, but we know if the game's on the line, Todd can produce something for us."

It's a luxury the Blues haven't enjoyed at five-eighth throughout Queensland's six-year domination. The likes of Braith Anasta, Mark Gasnier, Greg Bird, Terry Campese, Trent Barrett, Jamie Lyon and Jamie Soward have all worn the No.6 jumper over that time, all quality footballers, but none with all the play-making qualities of Carney.

"He's in great form," said Farah. "The speed he's got just troubles any sort of defensive line. If we can get him some good ball and he's going at Queensland with any sort of speed, that's really going to ask their defence some questions."

Had things gone to plan, this would have been the script heading into last year's series opener. But coming off a 2010 NRL season in which he was crowned player of the year, a career that had already reached the depths of being banished to park football was again spiralling out of control.

Twelve months on, coach Ricky Stuart has the man he always wanted as the focal point of a game plan to take it to the Maroons.

"Toddy's a very talented player - we saw that two years ago," Stuart said. "He's got enormous skill, but I'm not expecting Toddy to come out and win the game for us. It's not about any individual.

"It's not about Paul Gallen. It's about the people around Paul Gallen. It's about the people around Todd Carney."

And while his presence in the Blues line-up might not have Queensland shaking in their boots, it may have at least encouraged the Maroons to ponder the end of Origin's greatest dynasty.

"At some stage we're going to lose one [series]," said Meninga. "There's no doubt about that."

"And it could be this year - we don't know."

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