State of Origin has quickly grown to be one of the biggest sporting events on the Australian calendar, regularly pulling more than two million viewers for each game. The three-part annual series pits NRL players from New South Wales against counterparts from Queensland. The result is an absolute blitzkrieg on the general sporting public with the QLD Maroons against the NSW Blues.
The lead up to Origin is full of name calling and two-bit psychological games. But in the end both sides play the hardest rugby league you will ever see with a strong possibility of tempers fraying and violence simmering just beneath the surface.
Since 1982 Origin has pitted “State against State: Mate against mate” and the Australian public has loved every single minute of it. It is the ultimate competition. It is rugby league at its best, at its toughest.
Since its inception Queensland have walked away with 21 series wins while New South Wales have claimed just 14 series wins with a further two drawn. The major deficit in wins can be attributed to Queensland’s recent dominance in the Origin arena, winning nine of the last 10 Origin series’.
So what are the five moments that epitomize Origin? What are the five best State of Origin moments?
5. Billy Slater’s individual try
Back in 2004 the Blues had won game 1 — 9-8 — with a golden point.
A hunch-backed, long haired young vagabond called Billy Slater had burst on the scene for the Melbourne Storm and earned himself a call up to the Maroons squad.
Game 2 saw Slater burst on the scene with one of the most impressive individual trys Origin has ever seen.
Down 10-12 Maroon’s Darren Lockyer slipped a little grubber behind the Blues line of defence and Slater burst onto the pill and scarpered down field, put on a step to bamboozle Blues fullback Anthony Minichiello, chipping over his head and collecting his lollies to dive over for one of the best individual State of Origin tries.
The Maroons went on to win Game Two 22-18, but ultimately lost the series.
4. The all in brawl
The first year that Super League players were deemed ineligible for State of Origin duties was 1995. This saw the Queenslanders expected chances of winning slip dramatically.
I remember the lead up this series, even before the first kick off in game 1 there was a rumour going around that there was a fight on the cards. But nothing really eventuated.
But it was on in game 2, a royal rumble broke out from the first scrum of the match. Every player on the field swarmed to the scrum and every player seemed to be throwing punches. There were at least half a dozen separate fights going on at once.
Manly teammates John Hopoate for the Blues and Maroons Danny Moore were boxing each other, perpetuating the “state against state, mate against mate” ethos.
This was one of the greatest fights Origin has ever seen.
Despite their underdog status during 1995 Queensland took the series in a clean sweep, winning all three.
3. The Immortal and the Cattledog
1997 was another series apart from the rest in that the NRL was at odds with itself and had been torn apart by the Super League concept.
NSW legend, Tommy Raudonikis, was coaching the Blues and had a secret Ace up his sleeve. The legend goes that if Raudonikis’ Blues squad ever heard Tommy scream “Cattledog!” from the sideline, they were instantly meant to cause a fight.
By game 3 in 1997, the Maroons had already lost the series. That didn’t stop Raudonikis screaming “CATTLEDOG!” just before a scrum. Then it was on for young and old. Blues hooker and future Immortal, Andrew Johns went after Maroons hooker Jamie Goddard only to be met with a crippling flurry of punches from Goddard.
After things were quieted down, Johns attempted a sneak go, tip-toeing around the ref to throw a limp wristed punch at Goddard. Goddard turned around and thumped Joey, splitting his face and dropping him like a sack of potatoes.
The Maroons went on to win Game Three 18-12.
2. The King in a Blue
1991 was to be Wally “The King” Lewis’ Origin swansong. The Maroons had taken out game 1, 6-4.
Game 2 was played amid torrential rain. Blues enforcer Mark Geyer was running around during the first half like a rabid dog, slipping cheap shots into the Maroons at every opportunity, doing whatever he could to create carnage and chaos.
Things came to a head in the dying moments before half time when Geyer went bananas and put a swinging arm into Maroons hooker Steve Walters and then came down on him with a an elbow. Wally Lewis and Andrew Gee steamed in throwing hay-makers like there was no tomorrow. Every player on the field was either throwing punches or pushing and shoving.
Once referee David Manson had calmed things down he called out QLD Captain Lewis, NSW Captain Benny Elias and rogue Geyer. As soon as Geyer came on the scene Wally, who stood as tall as Geyer’s navel, gave him an absolute spray. The two came face to face, yelling obscenities before the ref separated them and sent them on their way.
But King Wally wasn’t done yet. He chased after Geyer, gave him another spray, an almighty shove and eye-balled him before Geyer tucked tail and ran for the sheds.
The Blues went on to win game 2, but would eventually lose the series 2-1.
1. Coyne miracle try
If Billy Slater’s earlier try is the greatest individual try of all time, then Mark Coyne’s miracle try is the greatest team effort try to have ever graced the Origin arena.
In the 78th minute of Game One in 1994 the Maroons were down 12-10. The Queenslanders had a scrum feed on their own 35m line. After two tackles from the scrum Mark Coyne was tackled on his own 40m line.
The pill was spread across field from the play the ball before Maroons winger Steve Renouf made a break down the sideline. A game of hot potato ensued across field again as the pill would have gone through the hands of just about every Maroon player on the field. Mark Coyne ended up with the ball and managed to scarper his way toward the try line and burrow his way through three Blues defenders to find the chalk and win the game for the Maroons.
Despite their nail biting victory in Game One, the Maroons managed to lose the following two games, handing the Blues victory in 1994.