State of Origin: Billy Slater trains with Maroons, cleared to play in Origin decider
In a shot in the arm for Queensland, veteran fullback Billy Slater has been cleared to play what might be his final State of Origin game.
But Maroons coach Kevin Walters believes sidelined Johnathan Thurston will have just as much influence, as Queensland look to extend their remarkable dynasty in Wednesday night's decider.
Queensland were breathing easier on Tuesday after Slater was a confirmed starter, defying a rolled ankle and taking part in the Maroons' captain's run at Suncorp Stadium.
The series decider might be the Origin hurrah for 34-year-old Slater and Maroons halfback Cooper Cronk, who are yet to confirm whether they will play on in 2018.
But Walters believes someone who has already retired from Origin - Thurston - might prove the difference as they look to seal their 11th series win in 12 years.
Thurston will receive a pre-match tribute on Wednesday night after his 37-Origin match career was ended by a shoulder injury in Queensland's come-from-behind 18-16 win in Game 2.
However, Walters said Thurston was as influential as ever after entering the Maroons' camp in the lead-up and had kept nerves in check before one of the most-anticipated Origin games in years.
Among those Thurston has helped settle are Queensland debutants Ben Hunt and Cameron Munster. Melbourne's Munster faces the daunting task of replacing the Maroons' great at five-eighth.
While Walters admitted it was time for "someone else to put their hand up" as they began life without Thurston, he believed the Queensland great's presence would help inspire that.
"He has been with us the last few days. He has been a calming influence on everyone," Walters said.
"His presence tomorrow night is going to lift a lot of our players.
"He's been the backbone of this team for 10 years. Now it is time for someone else to put their hand up."
But asked if Queensland would be "doing it for JT", Walters said: "No - Thurston has addressed them about that."
Slater will run out for his 29th and possibly last Origin after Walters had given the fullback the all-clear at Tuesday's captain's run.
"Billy wouldn't be playing if he didn't think he could go out and perform at his best," Walters said.
"We know NSW are going to target him but he's an old pro."
Walters said he was unsure whether Slater and No 7 Cronk, with 21 Origin appearances, were running out for the last time for Queensland.
"They haven't given any indication to anyone really," he said.
"But we just want the best out of them tomorrow night and worry about that next year."
At the other end of the scale, Walters had no concerns with his two rookies' nerves, although admitted Storm playmaker Munster would be targeted.
"I would imagine so but he is a pretty big boy. And knowing Cameron and his defensive traits, I am sure he will be looking forward to that challenge."
Queensland have dominated deciders, winning 12 to NSW's four with two draws.