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State of Origin is based on great moments.
There's great games, great tries and even great fights - but above all, it's the emotion that does it.
With only two teams and three fixtures, the potential for one moment to change everything is huge: and that's before you factor in the stakes.
With that in mind, we've run through our favourite Origin moments, ahead of Game 3 on Wednesday night!
Playing Origin is hard. Playing Origin at 35 is really hard. Playing Origin at 35 when you've played more games at the hardest level of Australian footy than anyone else is superhumanly hard. So what do you call doing it when you've spent the last two seasons in semi-retirement in Super League?
Well, that's what Alfie Langer did in one of the great Origin moments, returning from his sojourn in Warrington to lift the Maroons to victory in 2001. Wayne Bennett made the call to England, Langer boarded a flight under a fake name and the rest is history.
2019 was the last real, non-COVID Origin Series, and it produced one of the all-time great finishes. Queensland, as is their wont, had won up in Brisbane, before New South Wales gave them a flogging over in Perth in Game Two. With the series on the line, we went to Homebush for the decider.
New South Wales seemed to be cruising to victory, only for two late Queensland tries to peg them back. With Golden Point imminent, Blake Ferguson broke down the right flank and looped a pass inside towards James Tedesco: he stepped the fullback to deliver a second successive Origin win for the Blues. Just 30 seconds remained on the scoreboard, making it one of the latest deciding tries in Origin history.
Darren Lockyer is a man for whom magic is second nature. The Queensland legend has scored better tries than this one, but few that were more dramatic and meaningful. 2006 saw the Maroons attempting to win the Shield back after three consecutive NSW wins: they'd lost game one by a field goal in Sydney and thrashed the Blues up in Melbourne going into the decider.
With just seven minutes to go in Melbourne, one of the most frantic plays in Origin history occurred. Eric Grothe Junior trucked back a kick with NSW leading 14-10 and the series in their hands. Brett Hodgson stooped in behind the play the ball and aimed a pass at Brett Finch...but totally missed him, with Lockyer pouncing on the bouncing ball in the shadow of the posts, powering through a despairing tackle and winning the series for Queensland and sparking their great run.
Women's Origin was, for the first two decades of its life, not even given the name "Origin". It was treated as a second class citizen and designated the "Women's Interstate Challenge". Queensland dominated, winning 17 in a row, before being put on notice in 2015 when New South Wales fought them to a 4 all draw.
Come 2016, everything was about to change: New South Wales reinvigorated the series, picking up the win on enemy soil on the Gold Coast and ushering in a new era for Women's Rugby League in Australia. The 2016 game was almost a proof of concept for Women's Origin, and the newly competitive Blues would go on to win the next three in a row.
Gordon Tallis is an angry, angry man. Just ask any of the Broncos players that he has been digging out publicly over the last few weeks. Ask Terry O'Connor, who walked through five of his punches in a World Club Challenge game in the mid-90s. Ask Brett Hodgson, who he ragdolled over the touchline is arguably the greatest tackle in Origin history.
Hodgson trying to break along the wing in Game 3 of Origin 2002, only for big Gordy to grab him by the scruff of the neck, take him one two full 360 spins and then deposit him over the touchline. Tallis' monster effort would be immortalised in meme form, and goes down in history as one of the all time great tackles.
Queensland, in the late 2000s and early 2010s, enjoyed one of the biggest spells of dominance in any sport. Fuelled by a generational combination of Cameron Smith, Jonathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk, Greg Inglis, Billy Slater and I could go on. For NSW to break the streak, it was going to take something amazing.
In one of the tightest games of all time, New South Wales and Queensland fought each other to a standstill in Game 2, in a game marred by penalties, intensity and strong defences. It would take something special to break it open, and with ten to pla, the Blues found it. They forced a series of repeat sets and, as Queensland looked to defend wide, Trent Hodgkinson threw the dummy and nipped over for the only try of the game. The Shield was wrested from Queensland for the first time in eight years.
Brad Fittler is one of the Blues best ever players, perhaps their greatest. His time with New South Wales began as the youngest player in Origin history - later bettered by Ben Ikin - and ended with one of the most fairytale finishes possible.
Freddy retired in 2002, but was pressed back into service in 2004 after Shaun Timmins - who had won Game 1 for the Blues with a Golden Point field goal - pulled out through injury. NSW lost the return in Queensland, forcing a decider at Stadium Australia.
Coach Phil Gould, who had first brought Fittler into the Blues side in 1990, masterminded a crushing victory, topped off by a late try to seal the win: Freddy charging down a kick, regathering and dotting down behind the sticks for a famous win.
It's hard to overstate how much Queensland were up against it in 1995. When the Super League War officially kicked off on April 1, 1995, the bulk of their team was rubbed out: the Brisbane Broncos, who had contributed 8 players in 1994, were Super League aligned and thus couldn't play, as were Martin Bella and Darren Smith from the Bulldogs and Steve Walters from the Raiders. Oh, and Wayne Bennett refused to coach such a weak team, so Fatty Vautin off the Footy Show was roped in to lead the Maroons.
Featuring just one Australian international, Dale Shearer, and Adrian Lam, who was from PNG, Queensland produced probably the most Queensland performance of all time in Game 1. In the belly of the beast at the Sydney Football Stadium, the Maroons scrapped and fought their way to a 2-0 victory, the only points coming off the boot of Wayne Bartrim, who (by most accounts) wasn't even eligible for Queensland. Guts, determination, triumph against the odds and an eligibility stoush: what could be more Maroons than that?
One of the greatest Origin moments is the one that nobody, not nobody, talks about. The 1997 Origin series was played at the height of the Super League War, when there were two competitions and thus two Origins. This was one with a difference, too: New Zealand.
They squared off over three weeks, with NSW winning both their games and QLD defeating the Kiwis to force a final. It would turn out to be a game quite unlike any other in Origin history, or indeed, rugby league history.
In front of 35,000 in Brisbane - more than showed out for the ARL-aligned Origin two weeks later - NSW and QLD fought to a draw, forcing (for the first time) Golden Point extra time. 20 extra minutes resulted in no score, however, so a fourth period was played, forcing the game clock above 100 minutes for the first time in rugby league history. In the 104th minutes, Noel Goldthorpe hit a field goal to settle it.
We covered this in the Origin Greatest Tries article, but in truth, it has to be covered again. There hasn't been a moment like it, before or since, and it stands alone at the top of Origin history.
The 1994 series was the game at its peak: attendances in ARL regular season were at a height, TV ratings were better than ever and the entire sport was cresting a wave. The dramatis personae in this game is about as good as it ever got too, as by the next year, Super League would tear everything apart.
For Queensland, you had the best of the 1980s in Mal Meninga, in his final series, plus Langer, the Walters brothers, Steve Renouf and Gary Larson. For the Blues, you had Laurie Daley and Ricky Stuart in the halves, Fittler and Andrew Ettingshausen in the backs and a killer forward pack that included Paul Harrogan and Ian Roberts.
The try that sealed Game 1 was, as Rabs Warren called it on commentary, a miracle. Queensland went from sideline to sideline and back again, through almost every set of hands on the field, before Mark Coyne ducked through to score.
The series is probably the high watermark of Origin: after Coyne's try settled Game 1, a new attendance record was set at Game 2 in the MCG, before NSW sealed the series with their first victory in a decider at Lang Park.
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