State of Origin 2022: Mitchell Johnson embracing Queensland roots ahead of game two at Optus Stadium

Ben SmithThe West Australian
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Former Australian fast-bowler Mitchell Johnson and AFL champion Matthew Pavlich showcase the Ampol State of Origin Shield on the roof of Optus Stadium.
Camera IconFormer Australian fast-bowler Mitchell Johnson and AFL champion Matthew Pavlich showcase the Ampol State of Origin Shield on the roof of Optus Stadium. Credit: Matt Jelonek/The West Australian

He may be an adopted West Australian, but it comes as little surprise Mitchell Johnson is opting for home comforts this weekend.

The proud Queenslander cannot wait to witness his first ever State of Origin game in the flesh this weekend, when his beloved Maroons take on New South Wales at Optus Stadium on Sunday.

Stoking the fires ahead of this weekend’s game and a potential series-clinching victory for Queensland, Johnson admitted he did not have too many nice words for New South Wales.

“There is a lot of passion that comes and even the messages I’ve been getting from mates, it starts pretty early and everyone gets involved,” he said.

“Is a bit like that rivalry you have between the West Coast and Fremantle sides; it’s real and it’s passionate.”

The ex-Test paceman said the rivalry was a deeply personal one which had permeated the tight-knit ranks of the Baggy Green.

“We used to play touch football a fair bit in our warm-ups or in training sessions and Brad Haddin was a guy that was quite intense when it came to playing touch footy and especially around Origin times, it got a little bit rougher for sure,” he said.

Johnson said the lore and passion of Origin had a way of pulling in casual fans.

“The aggression of the game, the pace that we saw in the first game, it’s a really exciting game and even my wife who is not a supporter of rugby league used to really get into these big games,” he said.

Johnson’s love of the maroon has put him at direct odds with ex-Fremantle legend Matthew Pavlich, who has backed in New South Wales to square up the series this weekend.

Former Australian fast-bowler Mitchell Johnson and AFL champion Matthew Pavlich showcase the Ampol State of Origin Shield on the roof of Optus Stadium on June 20, 2022.
Camera IconFormer Australian fast-bowler Mitchell Johnson and AFL champion Matthew Pavlich showcase the Ampol State of Origin Shield on the roof of Optus Stadium on June 20, 2022. Credit: Matt Jelonek/The West Australian

“I always like the underdog and I think after game one, with New South Wales going down by six, I’ll stick with the underdog for Sunday afternoon,” Pavlich said.

Pavlich said he was taken aback by the atmosphere at game one and impressed by the speed and quality.

“I love the fact it’s become a lot more fast paced, seeing Origin One, how quick the game was back and forth and just the energy that the players were exuding out there was huge,” he said.

Tickets on sale at nrl.com/tickets or at Ticketmaster.

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