Almanac Rugby League – 2020 State of Origin Game 1: Setting Origin alight




It’s the deep shade of maroon colliding with the thick arms of the navy blue. It’s the hearty slaps, the groans, the rising crescendo in crowd noise as a chain of passes threaten to burst through. The names that puncture the last decade – Smith, Thurston, Slater, Gallen, Cronk, Lockyer, all bring back vivid images of strong colours and enthralling Origin games. It was always the Maroons finding that try at the end, of the Blues punching above their weight against a star-studded side.


Now, the tables have turned. Having won the previous two series, New South Wales travelled to Adelaide with an air of confidence surrounding them. They had damaging players all over the field, and had finally equalled out the Queensland/Melbourne Storm imbalance that had led to many heartbreaks over years gone by.


Regardless of previous form, hope rises to an all-time high when the first kick slides off the pristine boots. Roars are built from optimism, cheers brimming with the thought that this year will give supporters a wonderful victory to brag about for another 12 months.


But the Origin clash has taken on a new form in recent years. Instead of being a one-sided display of smoothness (perhaps the smoothest scene in Australian rugby league, an Invincibles of the sport), Origin has turned into a battle of attrition and evenness.


The first 15 minutes of Game One sum it all up. Both sides are made up of players desperate to win the ball by any means possible. Tackles are completed haphazardly; arms encircle necks, knees buckle under shoulders. Yet they all get up and play it on. It doesn’t matter that the skills are awry due to fresh nerves – the beauty of Origin football is in the brutal spirit it is played in. Nothing is more enthralling than a full field of players single-handedly trying to break the other team apart.


Sick of recent losses and looking to finally begin a new era of dominance, Queensland start off well. They win the possession battle and gain lucrative territory. But they lack the polish of their former stars to convert. It’s a period of supreme hope for the Maroons that only serves as a crueller blow when Cook falls on the right side of a freak ricochet and Addo-Carr blitzes through for a second try. For all of Queensland’s hard work, their lack of finishing touch gave the Blues a golden chance to soak it all up and unleash some precise plays. The Blues, buoyed by such a fortunate turn of events, controlled the rest of the first half and cruised into half time with a confidence-boosting lead. Whatever the Maroons could throw at them, they could counter. The shoe was well and truly on the other foot.


But one thing Origin does is lift teams off the canvas. The fabric of the Maroons may have faded into the sunset, but Wayne Bennett ensured the DNA still remained the same. Now it was Munster and Cherry-Evans initiating everything. Instead of trying to delicately work around the Blues, Bennett changed them to running through them. Their intensity and brutality changed everything.


Coming out of half time, the Maroons put multiple goal-line slips and mistakes behind them to start afresh. The next period was absorbing – the Blues trying to find a score to lock Game One, and most likely the series, away, while Queensland sought to bounce back heroically. It took time, but the Maroons’ aggression and pure want gave them strong field position.


In a similar spot before the break, Queensland butchered their early opportunities through clunky errors. It was Kurt Capewell who rectified the error. In his Origin debut, the Queenslander found an inch of space in the Blues defence and surged away. All of this just minutes after standing up against the beast that is Addo-Carr in a one-on-one tackle. After such a late call-up, his ten minutes rivals that of Stuart Dew’s in the 2008 AFL Grand Final. Against all odds, the unlikeliest of players sliced through the overwhelming favourites. In the blink of an eye, Capewell was pressuring opponents into kicking errors and sparking a second try. With Cherry-Evans converting both, Queensland held the lead.


Another arm-wrestle began. New South Wales looked shocked, offended that the Maroons would dare challenge them. Adelaide, usually an AFL city, pricked their ears up and lifted it up a notch. The game was on. This was Origin at its best.


The Blues grew impatient trying to work through Queensland’s fortified defence. Tupou looked to make something out of nothing and ended up losing the ball. Nearest to the fumble was Munster. That means trouble.


Something about Cam Munster is so ragged and likeable. He’s a larrikin, a hard figure who looks like he’d also handle the Sherrin well. But he is extremely good at pouncing on the loose ball and getting to work. All night his kicking was perfect, exacting the right amount of spin to send the Blues’ back row into a frenzy. He deserved recognition on the scoreboard, and managed to shake off diving defenders to extend the lead.


It was a stunning comeback, an unbelievable effort. Just as the praises were being sung, New South Wales found their mo-jo. A last minute try to Addo-Carr was brilliantly set up, the type of luring attacking play that the Blues execute so well. Before the ball went out wide it had a try written all over it.


Instead of smiling and back-patting, the Maroons stiffened up and looked to secure the result. In a frantic finish, the Blues threw everything they had at Queensland. It wasn’t enough. In this topsy-turvy game of Origin, it was desperation and sheer will that won the day. Now, the series is sparked alive again. It’s what makes Origin such a wonderful spectacle to witness. It’s what gives the illusion that, tonight, Origin’s Mt Rushmore of Maroon forefathers would be putting their feet up and reminiscing on clashes gone by.


To read rugby league editor Ian Hauser’s review of this match click HERE.


To return to our Footy Almanac home page click HERE.


Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.


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  1. Lee Harradine says

    What an enjoyable summary, nicely done.

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