NSW

Fire-hit Australia faces 'dangerous' downpours

Severe weather warnings for rain, winds and flooding have been issued for coastal areas of the eastern state.

Australia's Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) warned of "dangerous conditions" on Saturday and Sunday.

There has already been flooding in Sydney and other areas along the coast.

Friday was the wettest day recorded in well over a year in Sydney, where roads were closed and public transport delayed.

Other NSW towns faced flood waters as well, including Byron Bay and Coffs Harbour, where 280mm and 250mm of rain fell respectively.

Australia fires: Strong winds hamper efforts to control flames

A southerly change with powerful gusts up to 80mph (128km/h) threatened to spread huge fires raging in New South Wales (NSW), officials said.

In the neighbouring state of Victoria, army helicopters have been deployed to evacuate people trapped by the flames.

Since September, fires in Australia have killed at least 23 people.

More than 1,200 homes have been destroyed and millions of hectares of land scorched. Although much attention has centred on worst-hit NSW, every state and territory has been affected.

Sydney gets toughest water restrictions in a decade

On Tuesday, level two restrictions were enacted in the capital of New South Wales (NSW), a state 99.9% in drought.

These could be increased to level three within months, local media report.

Temperatures are predicted to soar above 40C (104F) from Tuesday, worsening fires which have already killed six people since October.

There are now more than 100 fires in NSW and Queensland states, many of which have been burning for several weeks.

What are the water restrictions?

Fresh warnings in Queensland and New South Wales

About 150 fires are still burning in New South Wales (NSW) and Queensland, feeding off tinder-dry conditions.

Fifty houses were destroyed or damaged in NSW on Tuesday but no lives were lost, officials said. At one point, fires broke out in suburbs of Sydney.

On Wednesday, blazes caused fresh emergencies in Queensland.

"The conditions are of concern to us," Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told reporters.

The threat in NSW has been downgraded from catastrophic - the highest level - but officials urged residents to remain vigilant.

State of Origin: The key numbers as NSW Blues hope to make home advantage count in decider

After the bitter blow of losing to Queensland Maroons in Brisbane first time out, a thumping 38-6 victory for the Blues in Game II was a stark contrast.

Yet ahead of this week's crucial game, Queensland can point to having won on four of their last seven visits to the former Olympic Stadium, while they also possess a supreme recent record in deciding games.

We look at key facts and figures with the help of Opta numbers ahead of Game III.

Queensland win Origin opener

A try-scoring double by man of the match Dane Gagai helped the Maroons overcome an 8-0 halftime deficit and a string of missed chances to draw first blood in front of 52,191 fans.

It was a dream start for Queensland's new Origin era as they look to reclaim the title.

And it was a pretty good look for polarising mind coach Bradley Charles Stubbs.

Ahead of his fourth campaign, Maroons coach Kevin Walters was looking for inspiration as his side began an Origin series without the last of their future Immortals, Billy Slater and Greg Inglis.

NSW seal Origin series in Sydney

Blues coach Brad Fittler, new to the role this year, guided New South Wales to victory in his first match in Melbourne and they wrapped up just their second series win in 13 years with a game to spare on Sunday.

Unlike in 2017, NSW were able to build on their opening victory, even with veteran Billy Slater back from injury for the Maroons.

Soward's Blues team: Why Cleary shouldn't be picked yet

All things being equal with injuries and form, Cleary is going to be there for the next 10 years.

But for me, Cameron Smith's retirement press conference on Tuesday told us everything we need to know about Origin. The Queensland captain, who has more experience in the interstate arena than anyone else in history, spoke about how draining each campaign can be.

For a 20-year-old halfback, it's unfair to bring him in off, at best, two weeks' game time and preparation, which starts this Thursday against his old man's Wests Tigers side.

NSW set to rival Queensland for Indigenous representation

While the Origin teams aren't named for another three weeks, there are more players of Indigenous heritage under genuine consideration for Blues selection than in any previous series, with the possibility of a three-quarter line-up featuring Blake Ferguson, Latrell Mitchell, James Roberts and Josh Addo-Carr.

Wade Graham is expected to be selected if fit, while Tyrone Peachey is in strong contention for a utility role, and Jack Bird and Nathan Peats are incumbent members of a Blues team which last year fielded more Indigenous players than the Maroons for the first time.

NSW series win within reach: Fifita

For he and 16 other NSW teammates – 13 of which are yet to experience a series win – the opportunity could not be any more perfect with the Blues fielding an unchanged line-up for the first time in over two decades.

While much of the talk heading into State of Origin II has centred around how Queensland are going to contain Fifita and the Blues forward pack in a bid to level the series, the man himself has other ideas.