The Super League War is a distant memory to some and will never be forgotten by others. It was quite simply the most tumultuous time in the long history of this great game.
It has been 16 years since the split competitions of Super League and the Australian Rugby League. It was a difficult time for most and nobody paid more than the fans.
While Super League and its supporters were continually vilified, the breakaway competition did drag rugby league kicking and screaming into a new era.
State of Origin suffered too.
In 1997 the ARL kept with the original Origin format, despite a serious erosion of depth and talent. Super League, on the other hand, went with a tri-series competition containing New South Wales, Queensland and New Zealand.
For some, the memory of Super League still burns. But enough water has now flown under the bridge to recognise the representative caps these players received.
When looking through Origin records, startling omissions sit in the 1997 column.
Fringe players at their very best in a united competition, the likes of John Simon and Michael Buettner were selected for New South Wales in ARL’s series and will forever be branded Origin players.
Yet Super League players like Laurie Daley, Andrew Ettingshausen, Glenn Lazarus, and Brad Clyde are still not recognised for their efforts for New South Wales in the tri-series.
With the Super League-aligned Brisbane Broncos boasting so many representative players, Queensland’s ARL squad was severely ravaged.
Who were some of these guys handed Maroons jumpers? Good question.
Remember Danny Moore, Neil Teirney, Jeremy Schloss or Stuart Kelly?
What about Tony Hearn or Clinton O’Brien?
You can’t blame them for being selected and you can’t question their pride as Queenslanders and you’re sure as hell not going to try and take their Origin jumpers away from them.
Yet Queensland legends like Allan Langer, Kevin Walters, Wendell Sailor, Darren Lockyer, Gorden Tallis and Steve Walters all still boast an asterick next to their representative records.
Is it not time for all these men to be remembered for the games they played for their respective states too?
Where is their recognition?
Let’s not forget the quality of those games in ’97 either.
While the ARL series was played out over three dour struggles, the Super League tri-series culminated in one of the great forgotten marathons of the modern era.
In front of over 35,000 fans at Brisbane’s ANZ Stadium, Queensland and New South Wales battled to a 22-all draw after 80 minutes.
Canberra Raiders flyer Brett Mullins bagged a hat-trick, while Queensland’s Steve Renouf crossed for two tries.
After another 20 minutes of extra time, the teams were still locked at 22.
Finally, in the 104th minute, Noel Goldthorpe slotted a booming field goal in the driving rain to hand New South Wales victory.
Blues great Mark Geyer, who was playing for Super League’s Western Reds that year, agrees players from both New South Wales and Queensland’s tri-series competition should be remembered.
“Of course,” Geyer has told The Roar.
“It was what it was. If a joint and harmonious league existed I dare say there’d be players on both sides (of the war) lucky to have played origin.”