Almanac Rugby League – 2020 State of Origin, Game 1: (Unlikely) History repeats





It’s State of Origin, Game 1, 2001. Queenslanders are nervous.


We’re coming off a 3-0 drubbing the previous year, a series which finished with that infamous 56-16 loss.


Game 1 of 2001 is at Lang Park, the last Origin game at Lang Park before it’s to be demolished for re-development into the spic and modern Suncorp Stadium. Queenslanders come from all over the state to farewell the storied ground, but not expecting much from the Maroons on the night. They’re well-watered, sucking on cans and draining rums. The familiar smell of weed wafts through the Autumn evening across the terraces. The joint is absolutely rocking.


Ten debutants are included in the home team and, as they run out behind skipper Gorden Tallis, Darren Lockyer, who is in the No. 1 jersey, isn’t expecting much from the young side. He spots John Buttigieg, plodding along, up ahead. “Look at the guts on that!” he thinks to himself.


In one of the opening plays of the night, Lockyer fields a kick deep in his own half, in centrefield, looks up and spots Tuqiri who’s lurking to his left. He takes off, runs straight at a Blues defender and links with Tuqiri, a beautifully timed pass which puts the winger away down the left side. He’s quick. The crowd erupts. Lockyer has worked his way in front of the chasers. Tuqiri finds Locky inside. And he sprints 20 metres to the line. Another sensational Lang Park moment.


The Queenslanders settle. First-timers like Petero Civinoceva and Carl Webb play their roles. Webb is a bull. The Blues are rattled. Queensland never look back and, at one point, lead 34-4. Incredible. They control the game and engineer a memorable Origin victory.


Queensland have a new coach this night: Wayne Bennett.




While thinking about Game 1 in Adelaide, in this year’s (2020) State of Origin, my mind was immediately drawn to 2001.


It was the same scenario. Young team of (comparative) no-names. Daly Cherry-Evans with huge responsibility, just as Locky had in 2001. Bennett helping them all believe.


Again, only the most fervent supporter thought the Maroons could win. But they started well. No spectacular try. Just control of possession for the first ten minutes or so, and a willingness to keep the ball alive so the game was, at times, like touch footy. Friend was doing a good job. DCE wanted the ball. The defence was solid.


Then, running with a wind at their backs, the Blues’ Rolls Royces from New South Wales took control. With even a hint of go-forward, the halves ran riot for 20 minutes, giving Tedesco and Trbojovic and Addo-Carr the chance to use their pace and skill. How far New South? They led 10-0.


But Queensland had hung in there, with dogged defence and, after a much-needed half-time rest, returned from the sheds ready to come again. They took the game on. Josh Papalii was magnificent. Bennett used the bench beautifully. Jai Arrow and Lindsay Collins got involved. Now Queensland were on top and the mosquito fleet were causing headaches. DCE, Ben Hunt and Friend all had their influence. As did Cameron Munster. The outside backs suddenly had a bit of space. But could they take their chances? Makeshift centre Kurt Capewell took his. After breaking the line he audaciously chipped (with the outside of his second-rower’s boot, on the fly, if you don’t mind) and AJ Brimson was on the spot to gather and score. Brilliant! And then Dane Gagai, playing in the centres, broke through and, with superb composure, showed the ball, and showed it again, before putting debutant Xavier Coates away (let’s just hope young Xavier has the career Lote had). DCE landed the conversion from the sideline (he read the breeze perfectly). A massive team-lifter.


Queensland in front 12-10!


Game on. The Queensland defence was full of determination and concentration, and sheer physical presence. Papalii took the pig-leather straight back at the Blues who didn’t seem like Rolls Royces anymore.


Enter Munster. A loose ball rolled clear. With tremendous skill, he picked it up on the fly and darted away from Cook. He didn’t have the pace, but he had the sixth sense of the classy (and intelligent) rugby league player, stepping off line just at the right moment to give himself the fraction of a second he needed to get to the try-line. He’s quicker than Kevvy (who ran like a possum on a lino floor) but not much. Another fine conversion from DCE and it was 18-10.


They had a handy buffer.


The Blues came back with another try, but Queensland stood firm in defence.


It was a mighty victory; a victory for leadership, on and off the field.  Bennett. DCE. Papalii. Munster. Gagai. All reputations have been enhanced.




In 2001, Queensland lose the second game in Sydney, 26-8, and there are concerns. Wayne Bennett rings Alfie Langer who is playing in England. “You better come home Alf,” he says.


Alf gets on the plane and, at 35 years of age, pulls on the Maroon jersey for the decider – at QEII Stadium. He plays the whole game, scores a try (while lying on his back) and is celebrated as the champion he is.


Last night, as the Queenslanders sang their famous song ‘Aye, Aye, Yippie’, there was the water boy in his green top, right in the middle of it, Alfie Langer. Ahh, the fraternity of Queensland rugby league.


And the beauty of State of Origin football.



Queensland 18 d New South Wales 14 at the Adelaide Oval.



Here’s the link to the Lockyer-Tuqiri try:



 Read more State of Origin stories HERE


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About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears (appeared?) on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three school-age kids - Theo, Anna, Evie. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst four. His ambition was to lunch for Australia but it clashed with his other ambition - to shoot his age.


  1. Liam Hauser says

    It’s interesting how the passing of time can change one’s view of things. It never ceases to amaze me that there were grave concerns about the future of Origin football after the 2000 series, even though it was NSW’s first series win in 3 years.
    The funny thing is that there wasn’t such a massive turnaround between game 3 of 2000 and game 1 of 2001. In game 3 of 2000, it was too easy to get emotional and irrational after the 56-16 scoreline, yet the fine line between winning and losing was evident (but easy to overlook). Jason Hetherington was just centimetres away from scoring the first try, and then NSW’s first try came from an intercept. That’s a 12-point turnaround. And with NSW leading 20-10, Paul Bowman was held up over the tryline in the shadows of half-time. Take those three incidents into account, and that adds up to a possible 18 points.
    In game 1 of 2001, Lote Tuqiri heroically saved a try when Queensland led 6-0, before the Maroons doubled their lead. And although Carl Webb deserved credit for his famous try, the fact of the matter is that it came off the back of a penalty on the last tackle (a cardinal sin). When Queensland led 16-4, Bryan Fletcher dropped the ball over the tryline before the Maroons scored very soon afterwards. With two near-misses for NSW followed by a Queensland try each time, that’s two 12-point turnarounds.
    The one per centers went NSW’s way in game 3 of 2000, and then went Queensland’s way in game 1 of 2001. Such is the tiny margin between success and failure in Origin football, no matter what the scoreboard says. Every Origin game can take on a course of its own, no matter what preceded it, and fortunes can change very quickly. Even during Queensland’s reign of 11 series wins in 12 years, there were many very tight matches that NSW could’ve won had just a couple of things gone slightly differently. Sometimes it seemed that the Maroon juggernaut rolled on, yet plenty of times it looked like the wheel could turn at any stage.

  2. Go Queensland!

  3. Hi Liam,

    They are interesting observations, and you form an interesting overall picture of the nature of rugby league. I agree those moments are key.

    Given your position, what did you make of Gus Gould’s commentary in this year’s Grand Final?


  4. Liam Hauser says

    Hi John,
    Gus Gould’s commentary from the grand final received a pasting from many viewers for being one-eyed in favour of the Panthers. I concur with these sentiments.
    It’s notable that Manly was the club that many league followers loved to hate for a number of years, before the Broncos had that mantle. Now, I think Melbourne has it the most.
    It’s obvious to me that Gus hates the Storm, and that he really hates the fact that they are such a successful club. Gus is in love with rugby league in NSW, and doesn’t like it at all when Melbourne or a Queensland team is successful.
    His grand final commentary was extremely parochial, to say the least. The Panthers may in fact have done a little better in the first half than the 22-0 scoreline suggested (considering not much luck went their way). But I think it was utterly absurd for him to say “I honestly feel that the Panthers are on top” when they trailed 16-0.
    This brings me to something that I’ve devised, which I think needs to become OFFICIAL. Spread the word. It’s called “Phil Gould-Barnaby Joyce Syndrome”.
    These two men (Gus and Barnaby) epitomise extreme Jekyll and Hyde characteristics. In other words, sometimes they strike the nail square on the head and seem very much on-the-ball, knowledgeable, articulate and accurate. Other times they are outrageous, absolutely deluded, full of rubbish and off-the-planet. Sometimes they are well worth listening to because they make a good point, and other times you just wish they’d shut the hell up because they’re annoying and full of codswallop!

  5. Daryl Schramm says

    I saw the intro and the first half without truly knowing what was going on. They pumped up the Oval in a big way. Thought the first half was uninspiring, maybe because it wasn’t mid season. Got a bit of a surprise when I saw the result next morning.
    Didn’t watch the GF but Ian’s explanation of the G and B syndrome I can follow having been amazed at Barnaby’s intellect on occasions and his stupidity on others.

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