BY CURTIS WOODWARD
How many times during Queensland’s epic dynasty did they steal a game from New South Wales? The Blues were never that far behind but they just weren’t good enough.
How times change.
The Blues have started something.
And it started, from the opening minutes of Game III.
It was clear from the opening stages that the Blues had a plan to shift the Maroons around the field. Channel Nine’s Phil Gould gave it to the Blues constantly in the first stanza. QLD were brave, strong and gutsy but it was evident NSW were running the Maroons off the field.
It was 8-all at half-time.
QLD captain Daly Cherry-Evans told TV at the break that the Maroons just wanted to complete their sets and they’d be ‘okay’. A high completion rate was never going to beat the Blues. Brad Fittler’s men are so dangerous. So slick. So intimidating.
Paul Vautin interviewed Maroons coach Kevin Walters before the game. The coach had dark rings under his eyes – he looked beat up. Everything pointed to the Blues.
Coach Whisperer? Help?
The Blues got their game plan wrong in Game I but still almost won it.
They destroyed QLD in Game II.
Despite the visitors leading for most of the first-half, NSW looked like they were playing within themselves. Then the Blues went bang and Paul Vaughan went through the guts off Damien Cook for a try.
QLD were on the ropes at oranges and they didn’t know it.
The referees kept their whistles in their pocket in the second half which only helped the Blues.
Some, including Nine commentator Gould, couldn’t see what NSW were doing in the opening minutes. Spread the Maroons far and wide and then attack with murderous precision.
It was an avalanche at the back end of the game.
QLD were gone.
Despite being completely shot and outclassed, QLD summoned the gods of the sunshine state. First, Ethan Lowe charged down a James Maloney kick. Josh McGuire scraped across the line. Then Ben Hunt made twenty metres over halfway. Josh Papalii scored.
All the ghosts… all the skeletons in the NSW closet… Queenslander!
But then it happened.
At 20-all with no time left, NSW gave the Maroons a dose of their own medicine.
Mitch Pearce with the long ball. A long break down field. Tedesco!
Blues custodian Tedesco won the Wally Lewis Medal but NSW captain Boyd Cordner was indestructible. The skipper ripped and shred defensively for 80 grueling minutes. It may take you three replays of the match to pick out everything the forward did. This was a defining captain’s knock.
And then there’s Pearce.
His few errors will be highlighted but he was brilliant.
Pearce and halves partner James Maloney controlled Fittler’s game plan perfectly. On top of that, Pearce was gutsy as hell without the ball.
But what about the match-winning try?
Someone asked Fittler in the press conference if that try was as good as Mark Coyne’s for QLD in 1994. Fittler replied that he knew how Wally Lewis felt as coach of the Maroons when they scored that try back at the SFS 25 years ago. That’s enough for Freddy.
And what about Fittler?
We all bagged him in Game I.
His decisions in Game III were crisp – as good as any boss in any sport on the planet.
The interjection of Dale Finucane and Paul Vaughan was perfect timing.
He kept Wade Graham and Cameron Murray a little later.
They exploded when they got their chance.
At the end of the day, QLD were gutsy but that was the Blues for years. It never amounted to series wins. The Blues took everything QLD had and still burnt them. There’s something real, tangible, happening now. It has dominance written all over it.
Yet nobody in a sky blue jersey should feel sorry for QLD.
State of Origin was built on QLD’s hate. All those years. From 1908 to 1979, the Maroons were pillaged by the NSWRL. Then Origin happened. Something similar has spawned from the 11-year domination of QLD.
Now it’s NSW’s turn.
Get used to it QLD.