On Sunday I had my first experience of Brisbane’s iconic Suncorp Stadium.
I had been told there was no better stage for rugby league’s greatest contest and after seeing the Blues run out 26-0 winners and claiming the State of Origin series, I concur.
However, I felt I was robbed of something.
New South Welshmen attending the previous 51 meetings at Lang Park would have – must have – felt something more than I did.
Yes, I was stoked to see NSW trounce the Maroons, but there wasn’t any tension, any stress, or any contest.
The result was a foregone conclusion before kick off since this Queensland side simply couldn’t hold a candle to any of their forbearers.
Leaving the ground I messaged my Queensland-supporting mate that I thought a bunch of Blues backups could down his sorry side.
So as I walked back through Caxton Street, which was packed with Cane Toads resigned to the glum reality of their once-proud institution, I put together my NSW B-side.
And here it is.
Note – This side excludes players who have featured in the first two games of the 2021 series and those out with long-term injuries eg. Cameron McInnes and Kotoni Staggs.
1. Ryan Papenhuyzen: The Storm ace was in the Origin mix this season before repeated concussions disrupted his season.
2. Adam Johnston: Nathan Merritt 2.0. It is incredible someone with 123 tries in 158 games hasn’t played for his state.
3. Zac Lomax: There were murmurs the 21-year-old would feature in this year’s series before suffering a broken thumb.
4. Campbell Graham: The 197cm Rabbitoh has been a part of the Blues extended squad this year.
5. Matt Dufty: The Dragons fullback is in the form of his career with ten tries and ten assists this season.
6. Cody Walker: Time will tell if Walker, at 31, gets another chance for the Blues, but his freakish talent would make him the captain, coach and bus driver if he was from north of the Tweed.
7. Adam Reynolds: Struggled in his only two Origin matches back in 2016, however, he’s now one of the NRL’s premier halves. He would goal kick for the scrubs.
8. Jordan McLean: The eight-time Kangaroo is yet to get a Blues jersey, but he has been one of the few consistent performers for the Cowboys in recent seasons.
9. Apisai Koroisau: The 18th man for games one and two. A canny operator out of dummy half.
10. Paul Vaughan: The Canberrean was the starting front-rower for the successful 2019 series. His form then dropped away in clubland, but it’s been on the up in 2021.
11. Tevita Pengai Junior: The Broncos firebrand can play anywhere in the forwards, but I think he’s best on an edge.
12. Nathan Brown: Has been one of Parramatta’s best in recent years, but one wonders if he will forever be a sacrificial lamb from last year’s shock series defeat.
13. Dale Finucane: One of the most honest players in the game. The Storm back-rower came close to adding to his four Blues appearances in Game 2.
14. Clint Gutherson: Was unable to shine in last year’s series, but he remains one of the competition’s greatest attacking outlets.
15. Alex Twal: A defensive workhorse and offers forward pack flexibility.
16. Toby Rudolf: Has adapted well to the NRL since his debut. A hard runner through the middle.
17. Mark Nicholls: It does what it says on the tin. A reliable front-rower.
My mate replied, “Nah [NSW wouldn’t win with that team], it would be close though.”
I wouldn’t be so sure, but I wonder what Freddy would make of it.