State of Origin is built on the underdog getting up. When Arthur Beetson led his outsiders to a 20-10 win on June 8, 1980, the spirit of Origin was born.
That spirit really distils down to the Queenslanders hating New South Welshmen so much that they find a way to beat what is often on paper a far superior Blues side.
State of Origin 1 2021 was not one of those occasions by a long way.
The Maroons were flogged, whipped and embarrassed by a New South Wales side that was simply miles out of their league.
Queensland and their new coach Paul Green are now firmly staring at their first series clean-sweep defeat since 2000.
More Origin 1
» MAROONS PLAYER RATINGS: Queensland struggle all across the park
» BLUES PLAYER RATINGS: Turbo stars but all NSW players dominate
» All the talking points from State of Origin 1
» AS IT HAPPENED: Game 1 scores, highlights, result and blog
» Team news for NSW and Queensland ahead of Origin 2
And it is really hard to see just how they’ll avoid it. They don’t look even vaguely competitive and the Blues look superb.
The only thing I can see Queensland have in their plus column is that they have some good players to come back, they can’t possibly play any worse and they are now truly a massive underdog.
Although much was made pregame about the game being held in front of a massively parochial Townsville crowd, the Maroons were completely outclassed by a Blues side that just had too much strike power.
The 50-6 scoreline was the second biggest win ever in Origin history. Only the Maroons’ 46-point victory in 2015 when they beat the Blues 52-6 is a bigger drubbing.
The Blues scored eight tries to the Maroons’ one. They made 550 more running metres, with seven New South Welshmen making over 100 metres with the ball.
These are the stats you see when a top-two side plays a bottom-two side at home, not those that you expect in rugby league’s showpiece matches.
Admittedly, before a ball was kicked the Maroons were already well down on first-choice players with Kalyn Ponga, Reed Mahoney and Josh Papalii not available. Adding to the Maroons’ challenge was two of their key players – Cameron Munster and Harry Grant – having close to no match fitness between them.
Already with a makeshift pack, the Maroons lost Christian Welch for the game following an accidental head knock with Brian To’o in the 12th minute.
From that moment it was just a matter of time before the Blues rammed home their significant dominance.
With ten of the Blues’ 17 still stinging from losing the 2020 series to a side dubbed the worst Queensland Origin side ever, the subsequent drubbing was a showcase of the sheer pedigree that Brad Fittler’s side has and their intent to grind the Cane Toads remorselessly into the dirt.
And nowhere was that more blatant than in the outside backs.
There has been some issue made of Fittler choosing players out of their club positions in his back line, with fullbacks aplenty. The performances of Tom Trbojevic and Latrell Mitchell should truly put that issue to bed.
The two NSW centres were completely dominant. While the Maroons’ makeshift centre Kurt Capewell – one of the seven Panthers players in the game – scored Queensland’s only try, Dane Gagai was invisible. Only Harry Grant (nine) and Felise Kaufusi (six) missed more tackles than Gagai’s four. Six of the Blues’ eight tries went through the Queensland centres.
They were owned by Mitchell and Trbojevic, plain and simple.
Playing his first Origin game since 2019, Latrell Mitchell was superb. He tore the Queensland defence apart for two tries, 162 metres, a line break assist and two try assists.
His efforts were somehow outshone by Tommy Turbo. The Sea Eagle continued his brilliant season with a hat trick of tries that displayed his strength, speed and skill. He made 209 metres and laid on a try to boot. Trbojevic, long established as a great talent, has now transformed into a superstar. He is the total package.
Together those two blew the Maroons away. That James Tedesco, with 220 metres from 24 runs and a try assist, was relegated to third best fullback on the field really rams home the Blues’ massively superior fire power.
And I haven’t even started talking about the NSW halves.
Nathan Cleary and his Panthers teammate Jarome Luai transitioned their imperious club form directly onto the Origin canvas. Cleary now has nine Origin games under his belt and he isn’t yet 24 years old. His game control was complete.
His organisation, kicking and passing is already only below that of Andrew Johns and Johnathan Thurston in Origin history. There is little doubt in my mind that he’ll at least match their dominance by the time he hangs up his boots. And his defence is better than both of those legends.
Jarome Luai was playing his first Origin game and took it on with all of the enthusiasm and rapier-like skill we’ve come to expect from the lad from Mount Druitt with the game’s biggest smile. He plays with a violent optimism and deadly intent I haven’t seen since Laurie Daley’s Dally M-winning season in 1995. His influence will only grow in this arena and it is hard to see him relinquishing the NSW number six jersey any time soon.
Also making a huge Origin debut was diminutive winger Brian To’o. His 26 runs for 214 metres were everything we’ve come to expect from this nugget-sized hurricane. His two tries would usually have been the story of the night.
But not this night.
This story was clearly just how good the Blues are, and just how far off the pace that the Maroons are.
Paul Green during and after the match looked like he was lost in a nightmare. It’s hard to see how his side comes back from here, with history heavily favouring the side that wins Game 1 taking out the series.
If Green is to see a second season as coach of the Maroons he’ll need to get Papalii, Ponga and Mahoney back on deck for Game 2, as well as having lots more playing minutes in the legs of Munster and Grant.
But what can he do about the massive inadequacies in his centres? What can be done to blunt Trbojevic and Mitchell? Can Munster and Daly Cherry-Evans wrest back the upper hand from Cleary and Luai?
Game 2 is in just 18 days. That’s a very short amount of time to try and get a demoralised side to recover from such a rout.
Who is going to yell Queenslander and who is going to hear it and make the great Maroons underdog rise once again to grasp victory?
No one. That’s who.
The Queenslanders aren’t good enough.
And the Blues are just too damn good.