NSW State of Origin coach Laurie Daley could finally crack a smile by Saturday night, with key players Robbie Farah and Paul Gallen giving the Blues reason to believe.
Farah made a successful return from a dislocated elbow to help the Tigers snap a two-game losing streak in their 22-20 comeback win over Cronulla at Remondis Stadium.
The NSW hooker suffered the serious injury back in round six and was originally thought to be in some doubt for game one against Queensland on May 28, however he returned earlier than expected on Saturday night and managed to punch out 80 minutes without complaint.
Queensland sent a warning with the performances of Billy Slater, Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk on Friday night for Melbourne.
Their efforts compounded what's been a horror week for Daley, with injuries and off-field dramas plaguing the Blues' attempts to snap the Maroons' eight-year winning streak.
But NSW's big guns stood up to be counted on Saturday, with Jarryd Hayne outstanding for Parramatta in their thrashing of St George Illawarra, and inspirational skipper Paul Gallen back to his stats-smashing best against the Tigers.
Gallen fought through a couple of nasty knocks to run for 189 metres from 22 carries, with a try, a try assist, a line-break and a game-high 46 tackles.
Teammate Luke Lewis also got battered around in his second game back from a serious shoulder injury, but survived unscathed.
Farah said he'll be fighting fit for game one.
"My lungs are probably a bit worse than the elbow to be honest. But it's good to get a run under the belt after a few weeks out. It was always going to take me a while to warm into the game but I got through with no dramas," Farah said.
"Having been out for four or five weeks, you can train all you want, and the medical staff kept me pretty fit, but there's nothing like playing a game."
Coach Mick Potter said Farah was the difference, as he set up the go-ahead try for Chris Lawrence in the 57th minute.
Tigers prop Aaron Woods may have cemented his place in Daley's 17 with another strong match up front.
"I don't think he needed a performance to put his hand up, he's been doing that week-in-week-out," said Farah.
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