The 2020 State of Origin series is fast approaching and NSW fans’ minds are wandering, and wondering, whether a threepeat is possible. No, not for the Roosters, but for the mighty Blues.
When we think of the Blues, and the 287 players who have represented NSW in the Origin era, we tend to think of the legends who have battled and shed blood.
Players like Steve Mortimer, Paul Harragon, Benny Elias, Laurie Daley, Boyd Cordner, Paul Gallen and Brad Fittler.
But what about the forgotten players, those who answered the call when needed, did their best with limited opportunities, filled in for the injured superstars, and then faded from the limelight quicker than a Josh Addo-Carr kick return?
No doubt they’ve still got their framed Blues jerseys in their pool rooms, but let’s take a moment to remember some of the players who flashed briefly onto our TV screens and then disappeared back to the real world.
Bailey played all three games off the bench in the 2003 series, won 2-1 by NSW. Bailey was a tough second rower or centre who struck his best form during his stint with the Cronulla Sharks during the 2002-06 seasons. 2003 was a great year for Bailey, representing Australia against New Zealand following the Origin series and at season’s end he was selected in the Kangaroo team to tour England and France.
Brooks was selected in the second row for Game 3 of the 1985 series, replacing Noel Cleal. Queensland won the game comfortably but lost the series. Brooks was a hard-hitting defender and useful goal kicker who was a Balmain club legend, turning out 175 times for the Tigers in a ten-year career.
Campese was selected at five-eighth in Game 1 of 2009. Both that game and the series went to the Maroons. Campese was a talented ballplayer and goal kicker and deserved his selection, however things didn’t quite go to plan and he was dropped for the rest of the series and not selected again. He was unlucky with injuries throughout his career, as illustrated by the fact that he only managed an average of 12.6 games per season in his 11 years with the Canberra Raiders.
Conlon was picked on the wing for each of the three games of the 1984 series, which was ultimately won by the Maroons. Primarily known for his goal kicking and unusual kicking style, Conlon was also a capable centre or winger. 1984 was a rocks-and-diamonds season for Conlon, selected in three Origin games and one Test for Australia, before being dropped from first grade and missing out on selection in the Bulldogs’ winning grand final side, before moving on the greener pastures at Balmain.
Hazem El Masri
Everyone remembers El Masri as a prolific goal kicker for Canterbury who kicked 891 goals for the club in his 14-year career, but he was also a prolific try scorer, with 159 tries in 317 first-grade games. He was also selected for Game 1 of the 2007 victory over Queensland, scoring a try and kicking three goals from the sideline from as many attempts.
Field was selected in the second row in Games 2 and 3 of the 1983 series, won by Queensland. He was a rarity, a Cootamundra-based player picked from Country Firsts and never playing in NSWRL before or after his brief Origin career.
Just like the inaugural Origin competition of 1980, there was only one Origin match in 1981 and Jensen was chosen as hooker. A tough and clever player back when hookers had to work for a living, Jensen’s one Origin appearance was the highlight of his brief career, apart from being the first player sin-binned when the rule was introduced by the NSWRL. After 90 games with both Newtown and Illawarra, his career was brought to an end by injury in 1982.
Lyons was a speedy winger or centre who played four seasons for Souths between 1988 and 1991. He played all three games for the Blues in the 1990 series, won by NSW, including one from the bench. Unfortunately, his career didn’t kick on to the heights of his more famous cousin, Cliffy.
I guess nobody with a name like this will be forgotten. Niszczot was selected to play centre in Game 1 of the 1982 series and then shifted to the wing in Game 2. He scored two tries in the Game 1 victory but did not score in Game 2. Niszczot was a big, hard-running back who took no prisoners and he played 114 games for Souths between 1980 and 1984.
O’Hara was selected in the front row in Game 1 of the 2004 series, which NSW won by a point thanks to an unlikely field goal by Shaun Timmins, and won the series 2-1. O’Hara was an old-school front-rower who left nothing out on the field but injuries limited his NRL appearances for Canberra and Wests to just 125 matches in eight seasons.