The total of 111 State of Origin matches brings with it plenty of great memories and moments.
I was tasked with somehow narrowing the list down to five. How do you pick just five State of Origin moments from 111 games?
From tries to tackles to Suncorp Stadium being rained in XXXX – to Bill Harrigan pointing Gorden Tallis to the bin for calling him something we won’t repeat here – Origin has been full of moments which have become steepled in Australian sporting history.
And yes, I realise the most famous send-off in Origin history isn’t on the list, nor is Wally Lewis being sent for five before Lang Park got pelted with XXXX, so here is the honourable mention of both of those efforts, as well as Bryan Fletcher’s hand grenade which sparked a decade of dominance for the banana benders.
5. Brett Hodgson gets slung into Row F by the Raging Bull (2002)
Okay, so it wasn’t exactly Row F, but one of the great tackles in Origin – actually, rugby league history – only grew the legend of Tallis.
The big second-rower, trying to reverse the momentum for his state who just starting to get behind in the field possession and territory count, took Hodgson and basically did whatever he wanted.
The former Tigers fullback was at one point looking to get into space and run after a pass from Timana Tahu, the next, Tallis had him by the collar.
It was early enough in the game, but it’s the image which sticks with most from that 2002 series, which ended in a draw. Game 1 saw the Blues win 32-4 at home, before the Maroons took Game 2 26-18.
The game with the famous tackle ended 18-all after Dane Carlaw made a 50-metre try to ensure Queensland would retain the title at the end of the contest.
4. The Slater chip and chase (2004)
There have been some good tries in State of Origin history, but through hang in the memory bank like Slater’s chip and chase effort in 2004.
The then 20-year-old, selected to make his debut on the wing for the Maroons in that series, had been relatively quiet during a 9-8 loss in Game 1 at the Olympic Stadium in Sydney. He was behind Rhys Wesser, and of course, it was the last time Slater wasn’t considered as the state’s premier fullback, with their 11 out of 12 run starting in 2006.
But the try which he is remembered as the one kickstarting Slater’s career was a long-range effort deep into the second half which sparked a Queensland win to keep the series alive.
With the Maroons down 12-10 just 18 minutes from fulltime, Slater read Darren Lockyer’s mind. The champion half grubbered to the then future champion fullback wearing number five. Slater would regather and set sail, dragging Anthony Minichello towards the middle of the field, all the time getting closer to being caught by centre Matt Gidley.
He would then straighten his run and chip over the top in the other direction, running rings around the former Roosters fullback Minichello to regather his own kick and score, putting the Maroons back in front.
3. Pouring rain, from the sideline and out of form, but there was no stopping Michael O’Connor (1991)
It’s the greatest kick you’re ever likely to see. Michael O’Connor, from the sideline, stood up in the driving rain to slot one between the sticks and keep the series alive for the Blues.
O’Connor hadn’t even been kicking at club level and after a 6-4 loss away from home in Game 1, the Blues simply had to win Game 2 to force a series decider.
Of course, the game was full of drama. It’s the night of Mark Geyer and Wally Lewis having their famous staredown, with Geyer then following it up by elbowing fullback Paul Hauff. Geyer got off with it though, despite being suspended for five matches in the aftermath.
Down by four points in the dying minutes, Mark McGaw would score in the corner, with O’Connor stepping up to ice the game in dramatic fashion.
2. Arthur Beetson brings Origin to life (1980)
It’s hard to pick one moment from the 1980 one-off, almost experimental match which allowed Queenslanders who were playing in New South Wales to represent their state for the first time, but Arthur Beetson leading the Maroons onto a packed Lang Park for the first time would have to be it.
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While there were fights during the match, the incident between Beetson and his Parramatta teammate Cronin and plenty of good footy played at a packed Lang Park, Beetson, who had been the man fighting for the Origin concept, was able to captain his state for the first time.
Beetson’s effort as tensions spilled over multiple times between the two states let everyone know this Origin concept was for real and here to stay.
And thank goodness they did, because after almost 40 years, there is still no sign of the concept slowing down.
1. That’s not a try, that’s a miracle! (1994)
If there’s one commentary line which has become synonymous with league and Origin, then it’s this one.
“That’s not a try, that’s a miracle,” belts Ray ‘Rabbits’ Warren after Mark Coyne had scored in the corner, the ball having gone through more sets of hands than thought possible, travelling 60 metres from right to left and then all the way back to the right.
It was miracle enough Queensland were even in the game. They had been more or less dominated for 75 minutes, down 12-4 and with fans already heading for the exits of a full Sydney Football Stadium.
Willie Carne scored the first, keeping Queensland in the contest and with a chance at pulling off a miracle, which they would do after the Blues started their next defensive set strongly.
With time quickly running out for the men from up north, Alan Langer would spread the ball left for Kevin Walters and Carne, who then flipped a pass over the top of the defence for Steve Renouf who found himself in space. He went over halfway, then threw it back on the inside for Michael Hancock. An offload to Darren Smith then saw him pass back to Langer in space to captain Mal Meninga who found Coyne with a final offload, the winger crashing over in the corner.
It’s one of the greatest tries in rugby league history and a fitting way to round out this list.
Well, there you have it. The top five individual moments in Origin history. Roarers, do you agree? Disagree? Which moments would you have had? Let us know below and be sure to join us on Wednesday night for live coverage of Origin 1 from 8pm (AEST).