They were given next to no chance of winning a game this series, but somehow, Queensland have once again earned bragging rights in the traditional interstate showdown.
Blake Ferguson has been left out of coach Brad Fittler’s NSW State of Origin squad after Daniel Tupou earned a Blues recall as one of nine squad additions.
Fittler on Sunday named the next batch of Blues to fill his 27-man squad, made up of players whose teams dropped out in the second week of the NRL finals.
Sydney Roosters five-eighth Luke Keary headlines a list of four possible debutants, with uncapped Parramatta players Nathan Brown, Junior Paulo and Clint Gutherson also named.
Captain Boyd Cordner and fullback James Tedesco were the mere formalities, while Eels prop Reagan Campbell-Gillard has earned a recall after his 2018 series ended when he broke his jaw.
Mitchell Moses has missed out on being a back-up half after a strong start to a season that faded late, while Eels second-rower Ryan Matterson can also count himself unlucky.
But it is Ferguson’s omission that is most notable.
The Eels winger played in games two and three last year as NSW blitzed their way to a second straight series win.
And while he did not score a try until round 17 this year, he had remained a powerful runner of the ball out of his own end.
However he had a tricky end to the year defensively, before missing Saturday night’s semi-final with an ongoing knee issue that won’t require surgery.
Fittler has long insisted players left out of initial announcements can still be called into the squad.
But with Josh Addo-Carr a certainty and Nick Cotric and Josh Mansour the other options still playing finals, Tupou’s selection for the first time since 2015 appears the death knell for Ferguson.
“I’ve known Toups for a long time and have coached him in the City team and been part of NSW squads,” Fittler said.
“He has been fantastic this year. Not only is he a target (to kick to in attack), he brings the ball out of trouble.
“He is a complete player.”
Gutherson could also play wing if required, however it’s more likely that he would be another option to replace the injured Tom Trbojevic at right centre.
Meanwhile Keary’s selection comes after he has for so long been considered a Blues player in waiting.
After initially claiming he wanted to play for Queensland as a youngster, he was favourite to win the NSW No.6 jersey last year before concussions ruled him out.
This year it was almost a no-brainer, with the in-form Cody Walker the other likely five-eighth option.
“He’s another player who I have been dying to spend some time with,” Fittler said.
“I love the way he goes about his job. He does so many great things on the biggest stage.
“I am really looking forward to giving Luke Keary the chance to wear a Blue jersey.”