First he defended the shield, then he claimed back-to-back medals.
Another year, another Origin, and it was a cracker.
Which was more then I expected. Not to take away from our best players in the NRL, but this year I expected less, but was pleasingly surprised by the quality of the game, the passion shown, and the result.
I must admit, even though the Maroons were playing at home, I thought we were a slim chance of winning. Change of the guard, injuries, and lack of club form all combined for me to hope for a win, but be resigned to a loss to the enemy.
It was a steady night at the hotel, with about 30 people sitting around the bar at one of the two pubs in a town of 300, with a similar crowd at the other hotel.
About half of that crowd were going for NSW, as we are situated in an area much frequented by those travelling via caravan from towns afar, which always make for great banter over the bar.
That meant we had a crowd consisting of ringers working the land sinking rum to grey nomads enjoying their retirement and the sights of a small town pub.
The first half went as I’d thought, NSW winning the battle of aggression, with Payne Haas, David Klemmer, Paul Vaughan and Jake Trbojevic playing well off an always dynamic Damien Cook.
Nathan Cleary and Cody Walker combined well, and Josh Addo-Carr and James Tedesco looking dangerous every time they touched the ball. Josh Morris also turned back the clock and showed some class, keeping Queensland on their toes.
Queensland, on the other hand, seemed to lack any spice up front. Whilst the pack didn’t necessarily play badly, there was no first up aggression, and in the first 30 minutes, I missed the big hits – the one-on-one challenges.
Those charges at the enemy where everyone is surprised that neither player is injured just didn’t occur. There wasn’t a run that made anyone in the bar jump up and yell “Queenslander!”
The Maroons looked dangerous at times, especially in broken play. Yet NSW were always probing, and it felt like at any moment, Tedesco or Cook would open the game and shut us down.
Queensland have the players to open the game, with Kalyn Ponga, Cam Munster, Michael Morgan, Ben Hunt and Daly Cherry-Evans, yet we missed the likes of Greg Inglis and Billy Slater to finish those moments.
At half-time I made the beer-backed statement that we had too many playmakers and not enough finishers, and that NSW should have been ahead by 20.
At no point did DCE take control, and Hunt, Munster and Morgan seemed to be gun-shy about stepping up and taking control. Ponga, whilst dangerous, seemed to be trying to do too much.
As the kick off to the second half occurred, I’d switched from beer to rum and made one last statement: that NSW were looking more aggressive and in the drivers seat, but I thought – and hoped – that they would run out of puff.
Wasn’t I happy to be proven right.
All of a sudden, Queenslanders were shouting. There was moments of brilliance, both in attack and in defence.
The enemy in the bar went quiet after being quietly confident.
Queensland won and rum was drank.
Bring on the next two games!