Billy Slater's suspect shoulder is set to be given its sternest test since his return to the NRL with NSW intent on harassing Queensland's No.1 at every opportunity in his State of Origin return.
Left out of the Maroons' Origin I caning – due in part to concerns over his perceived hesitancy in defence after almost two years out of the game – Slater is bracing for a torrid reception from the Blues, who have identified his injury as a focal point on Wednesday night.
NSW relentlessly bombed the axed Corey Oates in game one, but won't be afraid to direct their aerial raids at either Slater or Queensland debutant Valentine Holmes to stifle their ability to build a head of steam on kick returns at ANZ Stadium.
Asked whether roughing Slater up could work, NSW skipper Boyd Cordner said: "I suppose it can. In Origins in the past, where NSW has done well against Billy is they've got down there on Billy – the kick-chase has been awesome – and really got into [him].
"We've talked to the halves and the halves know how big a job they've got with their kicking game, especially out here. It's normally a bit dewy anyway. Turn them around and getting a good kick-chase to try to get us in good field position [will help] to limit [Slater's] opportunities in his half.
"Origin is a physical game so we'll be going out there with the same mindset as always no matter who is wearing the No.1 for them."
Slater is yet to commit to playing beyond this year given his torturous road back to the top, potentially paving the way for 2017 to be the last Origin series for him, Johnathan Thurston and Storm teammate Cooper Cronk. And it appears the Blues don't want to make it one to remember.
How NSW limit Slater's time with the ball won't be finalised until coach Laurie Daley consults Mitchell Pearce and James Maloney at Tuesday's captain's run at ANZ Stadium, but Cordner admitted the series-chasing Blues would be foolish to pour all their energy into the Melbourne ace and the fit-again Thurston.
And so Queensland would be too, to paint a pronounced target on the back of Origin I wrecking ball Andrew Fifita.
Cordner is yet to discuss with Daley the coach's plans beyond this year with speculation the Blues boss has been worn down in the past five years, but his skipper hoped a series win might convince the coach to stay on.
"If we're going to win it for anyone it would be for Loz," Cordner said. "I haven't sat down with him and maybe after this game or game three we'll have a chat, but he hasn't said anything [about his future yet]. He's probably the most passionate guy I've been coached by and I know how much this jersey and this team means to him. That's what you need at Origin level. He's the right man to lead us."
Cordner stands on the cusp of leading NSW to a series win at his first attempt and has momentarily drifted off to think about what it would like to hoist the Origin spoils this year. But his message to his teammates has been a lot sterner, advising them to avoid the media noise emanating from Camp Maroons and finish the job as he tries to settle his own frayed nerves.
"I've never felt the way I did before game one with the nerves and emotion," Cordner said. "I suppose it's going to be different for game two. I suppose it's going to be more comfortable because we're playing at home in front of our home fans, family and friends.
"They've got some great inclusions with Johnathan Thurston and Billy Slater, but if we concentrate on what we can do and how we play to get ourselves right it doesn't really matter what they're going to come with because I'm pretty confident if we turn up on Wednesday night we can win."