BY CURTIS WOODWARD
It is Game II of the 1988 series at Lang Park and ‘The King’ has just been put in the sin bin by referee Mick Stone. A riot looms. One can of XXXX is thrown onto the field, followed by hundreds more.
Ball boys duck for cover. Photographers stand staunchly in the midst of the shower, feverishly clicking away. Commentators moan. Police officers (Queenslanders) begrudgingly make their way across the field. All the while, the crowd’s fury rages on.
How dare you banish our king?
This incident is now infamous and part of State of Origin folklore.
But how did it start?
It began with a fired up New South Welshman and a shot on Maroons hooker Greg Conescu.
Never one to back down from the Blues, Queensland’s Lewis made a beeline for Blues prop Phil Daley.
“Turtle [Conescu] made half a break through the middle and I tried to slow him down and a few punches were thrown,” Daley tells the81stminute.com.
“The next thing ‘The King’ has come flying in.
“I don’t think he’s a Manly fan or a fan of mine, anyway.”
That incident alone would be enough to tell Origin yarns for a lifetime.
And the reaction from the QLD fans as he came from the field?
“It was like the Christians in the Coliseum.”
But the ’88 series would have another twist for Daley who’d made his debut for both the Blues and Australia a year earlier.
Days before Game III in Sydney, just weeks after the Brisbane skies opened up with XXXX, the Sea Eagles forward broke team curfew. Not for any old reason. He’d gone to visit his pregnant wife in hospital.
The 55-year-old, now working for Australia Post as an account manager on the Gold Coast, says no curfew had ever been discussed with management.
“The team manager at the time was Bullfrog [NSW team manager Peter Moore],” Daley begins.
“We all got together [NSW team] and then we went to bed. I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong. I went home, checked on a few things and when I came back the next morning, they told me I was gone.”
“I think Steve Hanson took my place – the Bears prop – I think he’s passed now.
“I spoke to some of the Queensland boys about it and they said that never would have happened to one of their own players up there.”
Daley would never represent NSW again.
But he doesn’t hold a grudge. In fact, you can hear the smile down the phone line. He’s proud of what he achieved and why wouldn’t you be?
After breaking his jaw playing in the Los Angeles Origin exhibition in August of ’87, Daley returned just weeks later to help the Sea Eagles knock over Eastern Suburbs in the major semi-final. Manly would then beat Canberra 18-8 in the last grand final to be held at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Daley will never forget ’87 and ’88 where he finished a turbulent year by donning the Kangaroos jersey.
It’s a fair rollercoaster ride.
“Now that you mention it,” Daley looks back, “I did have a few Origin stories didn’t I?”