Letter from a New South Welshman: thank you Queensland.

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Darren Lockyer is chaired off in his final Origin appearance by Cameron Smith and Ashley Harrison. Image: ABC.

In 2006 the NSW Blues entered the annual State of Origin series with huge expectations. They had won the previous two series and were on a mission to make it three on the trot. The opening act followed the script perfectly – NSW won a 17-16 nail biter, proving that, whilst the baby Maroons had talent in their stocks, it wasn’t enough to overcome seasoned winners like the Blues.

QLD were victorious in Game 2. But of course they were – said every Tom, Dick and Harry with a sky blue scarf that laced its way out of the closet for two months each year – the NRL need to sell tickets and you’re not interesting anyone with a dead-rubber.

Then came Game 3. The start of a dynasty. Rugby League revolution.

Okay perhaps, I’m being a little overdramatic but you get the point. QLD won and, with the exception of two Games in 2014, have seldom appeared subordinate to NSW since. In the years ensuing that fatal (dramatic, I know), day, the Mighty Maroons have boasted some of the greatest rugby league players to ever lace a boot.

Future immortals Slater, Smith and Thurston, along with all-time greats Inglis, Cronk and Lockyer (I don’t consider Lockyer an immortal, but that’s a discussion for another time), have dazzled and danced their way around several NSW rosters, wrong footing them each at every turn.

In 2018 we have become incredibly skilled at progression and adaptability – byproducts of the efficient culture humans have developed over the last hundred or so years. For that reason, the natural question immediately following Smith’s recent retirement announcement has been – where to from here?

We are less versed, I believe, in the art of reflection; looking back and appreciating what our eyes have been treated to over the past 13 or so years.

Because, as a sporting fan, it’s been just that. An absolute bloody treat. Watching the aforementioned players do things on a rugby league field that had perhaps never before been imagined has been so wonderful and exciting that it’s honestly rarely felt like losing. Sure, I’m a New South Welshman through and through, but their have been many times during the Lockyer and Smith dynasties that I’ve surrendered my pride to the fact that it’s more important to be a footy fan than a Blues fan.

While Slater and Inglis are still (relatively speaking) fit and firing, the other four have all moved on, along with a host of stars that are too numerous to mention here. The Maroons will still be a good chance, heck, they may well be favourites, but it won’t be the same as years gone by.

In 20 years, when I’m parked up with a cold one at ANZ Stadium, watching the Blues get thumped by the sons of Smith and Thurston, I’ll probably turn to my own son or daughter and say “nah, that’s nothing, you should’ve seen their old men.”

Remember having to endure your dad’s lectures on how good St George were in the 1960s? Yeah, it’ll be like that.

 

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