I wrote two years ago on this blog of my love for State of Origin (https://shumpty77.com/2012/06/14/for-the-love-sport-state-of-origin/ ) and nothing has changed. Whilst I have become an ever more passive fan of Rugby League, aside from when the Canberra Raiders are playing, this is a time of year that still focuses my attention away from Rugby Union and onto the other rugby game.
This year I will not be attending the games in Brisbane: I refuse to pay the exorbitant prices the QRL have placed on tickets. That does not mean though that I will not be focused on the game come Wednesday night; I will just be doing it from the comfort of my lounge!
As with any major sporting event that is about to chalk up its 100th edition, everyone has favourite moments of the event and here are my top 5:
1. 1995: Fatty’s “Nevilles” win 3-0
I concede that this is not a single moment rather a full series but as a Queensland fan I can not go past it. This is the series that is quintessentially what State of Origin is about: a group of mates totally written off by everyone standing up for each other and their state and besting a more fancied rival. Every year I pull out my old VHS tape of highlights from this series and re-watch it. Enough said!
If you want to watch the highlights again, here they are: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_CGsa5Tehb8
2. 1991: The King is dead … Long live the King
In 1991 the man who dominated State of Origin for its first 11 years and remains, to this day, the best player ever produced in Queensland (if not Australia) retired from State of Origin competition. That game was also my first attending live. I will never forget the roar of the crowd as Mal Meninga converted from the sideline to win the match nor will I forget seeing grown men openly weeping as King Wally did a lap of honour at the end of the game.
3. 2008: Thurston’s show and go
I have been lucky enough to venture into “enemy territory” twice to watch the Maroons play in Sydney. This is the game for me that always stands out. The series was tied at 1-1 and the game was tied 10-10 with 17 minutes to go, when J Thurston changed the game. Now you have to remember that I was in my Queensland jersey amongst a sea of blue and my mates and I had been copping it deluxe from everyone around us. What happened in the next 30 seconds silenced the crowd and move us to full voice. I can still see it now: Thurston shapes to pass outside and then slides through a tired NSW defence, Slater looms on his inside and suddenly is in under the posts. Game, set, match and series for Queensland. We still haven’t been beaten in a series!
Check out the highlights here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xAgudkW2fCA … the try is at 8mins 30secs.
4. 1995: Queenslander!!!!!!
I know I have spoken of 1995 above but this wouldn’t be a trip down my personal memory lane of highlights without including Billy Moore and the “Queenslander” chant. Watch this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rpim4HKHq3k
I really don’t need to say anything more do I?
5. 1992: Alfie’s field goal
Another State of Origin classic was played out in the second game of the series at Lang Park. Queensland had been down to 11 men early in the game (Bill Harrigan at his NSW favouring best) but fought hard to ensure their line was not broken all game. With 66 seconds to go (after Ricky Stuart had missed two attempts) and the scores locked up 4-4, Allan Langer nonchalantly slotted a field goal from the 22 metre line to secure a 5-4 victory for Queensland.
This year the season is no less exciting for Queensland’s almost decade of dominance and history again beckons for the Maroons. Maybe there will be a moment to rival one of these five moments. Even if there is not: this will still be a season for the ages.