Since 1980, New South Wales and Queensland have been at war with competing for the ultimate prizes in rugby league – the State of Origin shield and bragging rights for the next year. So far NSW has managed to win 40 matches and 12 series while Queensland leads with 43 match wins and 13 series wins.
With Arthur Beetson as the Queensland captain in 1980, it’s little wonder why Queensland won the one match series 20-10. From the moment Kerry Boustead scored the first try for Queensland, the game became one of the most coveted sporting events in Australia. With Beetson injured in 1981 and becoming the teams captain, Queensland was overwhelmed by NSW who were holding a magnificent score of 15-0, however with Wally Lewis as captain, the Maroons managed to overcome the Blues in a 22-15 Queensland victory for the match.
1982 was the first year that State of Origin organisers decided to hold a 2 match plus decider series. NSW triumphed in the first game however with an all-star cast in the Queensland team including Mal Meninga, Rod Morris and Wally Lewis, Queensland managed to win the 1982, 1983 and 1984 State of Origin series.
In 1985 Beetson retired from coaching and consequently NSW fired back with a spectacular first series win. With NSW halfback Steve Mortimer in fantastic form, Queensland just couldn’t gather up the strength and determination to win. Even with coaching legend Wayne Bennett coming to the rescue as coach in 1986, Queensland could not win any of the three games despite losing by small margins. 1987 marked a different year when Queensland hit back in games two and three to win the series. This also marked the year that Allan Langer debuted onto the Queensland State of Origin team and the controversial USA exhibition match where New South Wales won. The game sparked debate regarding whether it should count towards the player’s statistics but not the overall series scores.
With the Queensland team heavily relying on Wally Lewis to captain the team, the 1988 series came as a blow to the Maroons as he was forced off the field in game one due to an injury and was banished by referee Mick Stone in game two. However the Blues still couldn’t manage to win a single game despite the efforts of Andrew Ettingshausen and Mark McGaw to secure just one win. Once again in 1989 New South Wales suffered a humiliating series loss, with the Maroons back in top form thanks to the return of Arthur Beetson as coach.
In 1990, New South Wales won their first game since 1987 to finally take home the series’ shield with their heads held high. The 12th annual series marked the end of Wally Lewis’ State of Origin career and the replacement of Arthur Beetson as coach with New Zealander Graham Lowe. Game two was a memorable match with plenty of team against team violence taking place thanks to Blues player Mark Geyer and his volatile playing. After chopping down Queensland hooker Steve Walters and later fullback Paul Hauff, he was in strife with Lewis who provoked the NSW player in front of referee David Manson to get him sent off. It worked the second time round. At the end of the series, Queensland won after a fast-paced and hard hitting third match.
With Wally Lewis gone and becoming coach for 1993 and 1994, Mal Meninga took over as Queensland captain between 1992 and 1994; however the Blues dominated the games with the help of coach Phil Gould at both the Melbourne Cricket Ground and Lang Park. NSW won the series with a game two victory of 14-0 and 27-12 game three victory.
The State of Origin suffered a blow in 1995 with players from the Super League Teams off limits to play for State of Origin. As a result, novice Queensland Coach Paul Vautin ended up with a somewhat “baby” team with the biggest player being the international Dale Shearer. Obviously all the odds were on the Blues, with nine international players, to win however the Maroons defied the odds to win 2-0 in what was one of the most pivotal games in State of Origin history. The next two games saw NSW almost gain victory several times but it wasn’t enough and the underdog Queensland team won the series 3-0.
The following year’s series was not as successful for Queensland despite the return of the Super League players they had lost the previous year. New South Wales entered the series with guns blazing and took home all three games thanks to the superb playing skills of Laurie Daley and Andrew Ettingshausen. The Blues also made history by going through the entire series with an unchanged side. In 1997 the Super League Tri-Series took place, stealing Laurie Daley, Allan Langer, Ricky Stuart, Wendell Sailor, Gorden Tallis, Bradley Clyde and Kevin Walters from playing in the 18th Origin series. Queensland lost the series as well as their coach. Wayne Bennett came to the rescue again in 1998 along with the Super League player Allan Langer to win the series 2-1.
1999 marked a huge year with the State of Origin’s first draw with a 10-10 finish in the final match. New Queensland Coach Mark Murray was delighted with the Maroons able to keep the title and shield for another year however for the Blues it was an uninspiring finish to the series.
The year 2000 saw the emergence of Gorden Tallis as the Queensland captain and the continuation of Brad Fittler’s captaincy of the NSW team. In the first game of the series Tallis was sent off the field for opposing the referee in a game which ended 20-16 in NSW’s favour. The Blues also won the second and third game, in which Blues centre Ryan Girdler played the greatest game in his rugby career. The Maroons were defeated 56-16 and the NSW team broke six Origin records in the second half of the time.
With Wayne Bennett coaching Queensland again in 2001, the Maroons smashed NSW 34-16 in their first game but this reversed in game two with NSW winning 26-8 thanks to Blues captain Brad Fittler and his two tries. Game three marked the retirement of Brad Fittler so it was an emotional game for all Blues supporters. However with Allan Langer returning to play for the Maroons, the Blues could not gain control on the field and lost 40-14 as a disappointing end to Fittler’s amazing Origin career. 2002 was the second drawn series in Origin history however the most memorable moments in the series was when Queensland
New South Wales dominated the 2003 and 2004 State of Origin series with new coach Michael Hagan bringing Brad Fittler out of retirement to help the Blues achieve victory. 2005 marked Queensland’s third consecutive loss with Blues halfback Andrew Johns returning to help in games two and three. The last game held at Suncorp Stadium attracted a total of 52,596 supporters, creating a new record for the grounds. In 2006 Queensland coach Mal Meninga recruited seven new players which resulted in a first game full of mistakes by the young players. However the Maroons did try to make a comeback and lost by one point; 17-16. Meninga and captain Darren Lockyer received a lot of media criticism after the NSW victory and as a result they managed to beat NSW in the second game 30-6 and the third game to take home another series win.
In 2007 Queensland hooker Cameron Smith was awarded the Wally Lewis Medal for player of the series with Queensland winning the series 2-1. In game one, NSW player Brett Stewart scored the only try for NSW. But it is the second game of the series which is long remembered as the first victory for Queensland in the Telstra Stadium. After an 11-game losing streak on the games, the Lockyer led team managed a final game score 6-10. The third match was full of injuries with Dallas Johnson knocked out cold in the first minute of the game, followed by knee injuries to Greg Inglis and Brent Tate. Due to the number of injuries, Queensland prop Steve Price pushed through the entire match, playing the total 80 minutes of game time.
With Queensland on their third consecutive win in 2008, 2009 was a heated match with New South Wales desperate to regain the Origin shield. However with eight new Blues players on the field, Queensland’s outstanding international team smashed them in the first two games. The second match also marked the first time that every team in the NRL had provided a player for the Origin match. Despite losing in the third match, Queensland managed to take home the shield for the fourth year. The final game was watched by a record breaking 3.48 million people.
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