The fervour of State of Origin is like an extra squirt of spicy sauce when it comes to Queenslanders cranking up the meaning of rugby’s interstate matches against the NSW Waratahs.
The Reds can find more than enough passion of their own but why not appropriate a little more when it is so readily on offer.
Just probe a little deeper with someone like Reds skipper Tate McDermott, who will lead Queensland against the Waratahs in the wet at Leichhardt Oval on Friday night.
When he was a kid growing up on the Sunshine Coast, the livewire little halfback loved watching Queensland’s Origin star Billy Slater zigging and zagging.
McDermott never played league but Slater made him want to be a runner and sniper with the ball. Rugby should be forever grateful that he chose such a model not a box-kicking drone.
Watching Queensland beat NSW eight series in a row (2006-13) at Origin time fed something else within the long-haired youngster.
“Growing up, you learnt to hate ‘em. I just don’t like the colour,” McDermott said of facing anything in blue.
“To be in the side that finally knocked them off (32-26 in 2020) to end the bad run (of 11 straight losses) was a game I’ll never forget.
“On their day, the Waratahs can be as dangerous as any team so this is a game that means a lot. Every time.”
Centre Hamish Stewart didn’t think so at the time but the sting of being beaten over and over by Waratahs sides in his first few seasons of Super Rugby has made him hungry to keep the foot on the throat now the Reds have the ascendency with two-in-a-row.
“It always burned in the heart and left a dirty taste in the mouth when we lost to the Waratahs,” said Stewart, who felt only defeat in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
“And there was that sense of arrogance they brought to games.
“Having gone through the losses, I know how much that has made the wins mean. You watch Origin on TV so you grow up with what Queensland-NSW is all about.”
That has been the curious twist of rugby’s interstate rivalry over the past 15 years because Origin references are so frequent.
Perhaps, it started when the lines between the codes became blurred when former Origin stars Wendell Sailor, Mat Rogers and Lote Tuqiri became headliners in rugby’s interstate clashes as well between 2001-09.
Certainly, they brought some rugby league habits to interstate night.
When the Waratahs scrum gave their Queensland counterparts a touch up in one interstate game, Tuqiri dashed off his wing to spray the failing Reds front-row.
His volley just added to a grand tradition of uncompromising physical and verbal jousting in rugby’s “Battle of the Border.”
When Queensland winger Sailor hopped across the border to play for NSW in 2006, he always knew he’d be in for a hot homecoming to Suncorp Stadium when that day arrived.
He just never knew how hot.
The crowd gave it to Wendell. He gave the “up yours” back to the crowd and a “Wendell’s a Wanker” chant rang out.
Sailor was always quick with a line because the Queensland Rugby Union had used the Reds v Wendell thing to promote the game.
“I’ve left the state and they’re still spending their marketing dollars on me,” Sailor quipped to his Waratahs teammates.
Serial stirrer Chris Handy, the former Wallabies prop, had cranked it up pre-match at a big interstate luncheon in Brisbane.
“Queensland is about to be overrun by invaders from Planet Dell . . . fresh from their bonding session at a secret training camp on Brokeback Mountain,” Handy had niggled on stage.
In one interstate game of that period, rival flankers David Croft (Reds) and Phil Waugh (Waratahs) were throwing everything at each other, fists, heavy hits and torpedoing bodies at rucks.
Referee Matt Goddard called them out and told them to cool it. The two flankers pleaded with him to let their personal punch-a-thon continue like a caged fight with different rules to the rest of the match. Wonderful stuff.
Referees are now so tuned to wiping out any hint of foul play that a feisty push-and-shove or handbags at one metre is all that will be allowed tonight.
Either that or another of those bizarre atomic wedgies that Waratahs backrower Jack Dempsey put on Reds lock Angus Blyth in the 2020 game at the SCG.
No Lachie Swinton tonight will reduce the chirp from the Waratahs. He’d be proud of some of the best lines from the past.
Back in 2000, Waratahs hooker Brendan Cannon was pilloried as a pie-thrower at lineout time by his old Brisbane clubmate Toutai Kefu.
“Do those pies come with sauce?” Kefu sledged during the heat of battle.
The Waratahs have sledged nobly at times too.
I’ve always liked the line from chatterbox centre Morgan Turinui from the 2007 night game when the Waratahs were beating an Eddie Jones-coached Queensland side that had been patched up with some faces from clubland.
“You’re better suited to playing at 3pm than at prime time,” Turinui had sledged when waving Reds prop Tama Tuirirangi to the sin-bin.
The Waratahs held an interstate lunch of their own in 2003 where they constantly ridiculed Queensland as the “SML Reds” as in “Stone Motherless Last Reds.”
The Reds had been thrashed 62-20 by the Blues in their previous match and had started that season 0-4 under coach Andrew Slack.
The only problem was the Reds came to life with a 35-23 triumph on game night. Sailor celebrated an 80m gem with the best try for Queensland.
You would have loved a “SML Waratahs” call at a 2021 Queensland luncheon but such niceties are in the past it seems.
That’s the thing about sledging on interstate night. There’s always payback. You may have to wait months or years but your day will come.