Top Ten NSW Origin MomentsSince the history of State of Origin (30 years exactly on the 7th of July, 1980), Queensland had their fair share of being crowned Origin champions. With players like Wally Lewis, Arthur Beetson, Mal Meninga and Chris Close back in the days, they became a force not to be messed with - until 1985. That was the year the likes of Steve Mortimer, Noel Cleal, Wayne Pearce and Peter Sterling (the NSW Blues) ended Queensland's reign of terror. Let's take a look back into 30 years of memories and relive the Top Ten Origin moments of NSW.
We all remember the image of Mick DeVere, blood streaming down his face, waiting patiently for the trainer to raise a staple gun to the side of his head. His hand shaking uncontrollably, the trainer closed the gash with staples directly into DeVeres brow. This is the picture of NSW toughness, unlike the image of Benny Elias' mother fussing over the blood all over his face at the end of Game 1 of the 1992 series.
After winning Game 1 at Lang Park, the Blues, led by Steve Mortimer, took out their first Origin series at the SCG. The image of an emotion wracked Mortimer collapsing on the ground after being chaired off by his teammates marked the turning point, the end of Queensland's initial dominance of the interstate rivalry. This was when both the Queensland and NSW fans and media alike realized the importance of Origin, and how big it would become.
The iconic battle cry that kicked off one of the biggest brawls in Origin history has become a symbol of defiance, that we aren't intimidated by our northern enemies, and can give as good as we get. Some of the best battles of the war include: Mark Geyer towering over Wally Lewis, after waging a one man campaign against Queensland in Game 2, 1991; Paul 'the Chief' Harragon belting Marty Bella in 1993; Tommy Raudonikis going for Greg Oliphant like a patriot missile; and Mark 'Spud' Caroll's outraged revenge on Tony Hearn for a head butt in 1995.
State of Origin from 1992 through 1997 was dominated by the Blues, winning all but one series. Under the coaching of Phil Gould and the captaincy of legends such as Daley and Fittler, the nineties were a golden age for New South Wales. With players of the caliber of Ettingshausen, Brasher, Lazarus and Wishart at the peak of their powers, Queensland could do little to stop the onslaught of the mighty New South Wales.
A vengeful NSW sealed the series with the first two games after Queensland had previously retained the shield with a draw. Gorden Tallis called for the 'dead rubber' third match to be cancelled. Fat chance. Hailed as the 'best NSW team ever, ' the Blues defeated Queensland 56-16 in Game 3 at Stadium Australia, and matched or broke six Origin records. Ryan Girdler scored three tries and 10 goals to produce one of the most stunning individual performances yet seen.
I was at this particular match last year, roaring with laughter, as Michael Crocker unwisely tried to charge down a kick from Mitchell Pierce with his face. He tried to get up, stumbled around for a few moments but eventually got taken off. Funniest thing ever.
Surprisingly, there aren't very many instances where the series was won in the dying moments of Game 3. The 1992 series is the one exception. 54 minutes in, the score was four all. The break came when a deft kick to the blind side from Laurie Daley was scooped up by Paul MacGregor, who managed to offload back to Daley who sent Andrew Ettingshausen over to break the dead lock. NSW went on to win 16-4. Another memorable decider was that of '94, the final Origin appearances of legends Mal Meninga for Queensland and Ben Elias for the Blues. NSW had lost game 1, and never before had won a series under that circumstance. But it was Elias who got the ending he wanted. Much to the fury of the Lang Park crowd, Elias set up one try and kicked two field goals to put victory out of the Maroons' reach and rob Meninga of the fairytale ending.
Coach Phil Gould managed to persuade Brad Fittler to come out of representative retirement to rescue the 2004 series for the Blues. He scored the final try of the decider at Telstra Stadium, his last match for NSW.
Every single New South Welshman out there relished the sight of the most hated Queenslander (even before poor Brett Hodgson got dragged halfway out of the stadium two years later) get taken down a peg by referee Bill Harrigan, for verbally abusing him in Game 1 of the 2000 series. The words "Don't argue with me, just go," drew cries of glee and jeering from all 61,511 Blues fans at Stadium Australia.
Despite a string of injuries and trying to convince the media all year that he was done with representative football so he could concentrate on Newcastle, Andrew Johns returned for Game 2 of 2005, much to the delight of all NSW faithful (but slight trepidation to Knights fans who were worried he would injure himself again). Fortunately he didn't, and Johns led the Blues to their third series win in a row.